Department of Historic Resources
For Immediate Release
June 19, 2017

Randy Jones
Department of Historic Resources
540.578-3031 (cell)


--New listings cover historic sites in the counties of Accomack, Bath, Buckingham, Halifax (4), Loudoun, Mathews, Mecklenburg, Montgomery, Orange, Pittsylvania, and Rockbridge; and the cities of Bristol, Charlottesville, Lynchburg, Richmond (2), Staunton, and Virginia Beach--

—VLR listings will be forwarded for nomination to the National Register of Historic Places—

RICHMOND – From Saxis Island on the upper Eastern Shore to the City of Bristol in southwestern Virginia, the history and architecture of 21 sites across the state were recognized through listing in the Virginia Landmarks Register (VLR) last week by the Virginia Department of Historic Resources. The new additions to the state landmarks register include a regionally popular city park established in Staunton for African Americans during the era of segregation, a building at Lynchburg College where co-educational instruction had an early start in Virginia, and farms in Halifax and Pittsylvania counties as well as a South Boston historic district in Mecklenburg County that reveal aspects of the settlement and agricultural history of the Commonwealth’s Southside region.

The 353-acre Saxis Island Historic District encompasses the Town of Saxis and adjacent areas of a narrow Accomack County peninsula that juts into the Chesapeake Bay. Isolated from the mainland by tidal marsh and bounded by water to its north, south, and west, the peninsular district has been called an “island” since European settlers and speculators claimed land there beginning in 1661.

In the mid-1800s Saxis Island residents started transitioning away from small-scale agriculture to livelihoods in a growing seafood economy. The shallow waters around Saxis Island coupled with a primitive system of land transportation on the Eastern Shore offered the area’s watermen only limited access to large urban markets of Baltimore, Philadelphia, and New York. That changed with the arrival in 1866 of the Pennsylvania Railroad to nearby Crisfield, Maryland, which spurred local growth of commercial oystering. After the construction in 1903 of an unconnected wharf 650 yards offshore at the edge of the shipping channel, the seafood industry in Saxis Island boomed until the second half of the 20th century, when it started to diminish. Today oysters and softshell crab from the Chesapeake Bay, Pocomoke Sound, and other Bay tributaries, still remain an important local economic resource.

The Saxis Island district consists of historic houses, stores and other commercial buildings, as well as a post office, former school, and church. The oldest existing building dates to 1870. Eighteen recorded family cemeteries are visible as clusters of above-ground concrete burial vaults in the yards of many dwellings, in addition to a church graveyard.

 Near the Tennessee border in the City of Bristol, the Piedmont Avenue Boundary Increase enlarges the previously-listed Bristol Commercial Historic District by adding two blocks of Piedmont Avenue north of State Street. Bristol arose as a railroad town, but Piedmont Avenue marks the arrival of the automobile era to the city and reflects the surge in popularity of the auto and auto-centric lifestyle from 1930 through the 1950s.

The boundary increase incorporates ten buildings including a former Streamline Moderne-style Greyhound Bus Station (1938), an Art Deco-influenced Bristol Masonic Temple (1931), a Neo-Classical-style U.S. Post Office (1933) of brick and limestone construction, and a Moderne-inspired Firestone tire and auto service building (1936). The district also boasts two early 1930s single-story Commercial-style buildings that housed various shops and hardware and department stores.

In the southern Shenandoah Valley, Montgomery Hall Park in Staunton was also approved for listing in the VLR. Founded in 1946 as a recreational facility for African Americans during the Jim Crow era of racial segregation in Virginia, Montgomery Hall Park was operated largely independent of the city by a committee of community representatives. With 150 acres and numerous amenities including a swimming pool, the park attracted seasonal visitors—more than 18,000 some years—from African American communities around Virginia, where few recreational facilities existed for blacks. Locally, along with the nearby Booker T. Washington School and various churches, Montgomery Hall Park was an important focal point of Staunton and Augusta County’s black community. In 1969, Montgomery Hall Park was integrated.

The park is also significant for its namesake, Montgomery Hall, a residence constructed in 1822 for John Howe Peyton, a prominent local, state, and national leader in the United States’ early Republic period. Peyton’s social and political circles included Presidents Thomas Jefferson and James Madison and statesman Henry Clay, all of whom stayed at Montgomery Hall. In 1907, the renowned Staunton-based architectural firm of T. J. Collins and his son, Sam, transformed the classically-inspired Montgomery Hall into a Colonial Revival-style house, making it one of the area’s largest and most impressive country houses of the era.

Lynchburg College’s Hopwood Hall, constructed in 1909, was the first purposely built academic hall at the college, one of the oldest in Virginia founded as a co-educational institution. The building is named for Lynchburg College founders Dr. Josephus Hopwood and wife Sarah La Rue Hopwood, who believed that educational opportunities should be made available to all persons regardless of sex, race, age, or material resources. Within Hopwood Hall, for more than a century, men and women have engaged in a variety of academic activities from painting to physics, from the study of literature to the mastering of foreign languages, both ancient and modern.

 Among the most architecturally sophisticated buildings in Lynchburg, Hopwood Hall also represents an important example of early 20th-century Beaux Arts Classicism in central Virginia. The building’s architect, Edward Graham Frye, who established an office in Lynchburg around 1892, designed Lynchburg’s Jones Memorial Library as well, also in the Beaux Arts style.

 In Southside Virginia, four rural properties in Halifax County are now part of the Virginia Landmarks Register:

 Also listed in the VLR in Southside during the June 15 joint quarterly meeting of the Virginia Board of Historic Resources and the State Review Board were—

The other VLR listings approved by the department’s boards include the following, listed alphabetically by jurisdiction:

The Virginia Department of Historic Resources will forward the documentation for all 21 sites listed on the VLR to the National Park Service for nomination to the National Register of Historic Places.

Complete nomination forms and photographs for each of these sites can be accessed on the DHR website at The new VLRs will be forwarded to the National Park Service for nomination to the National Register of Historic Places.

 Listing a property in the state or national registers is honorific and sets no restrictions on what a property owner may do with his or her property. The designation is, first and foremost, an invitation to learn about and experience authentic and significant places in Virginia’s history.

Designating a property to the state or national registers—either individually or as a contributing building in a historic district—provides an owner the opportunity to pursue historic rehabilitation tax credit improvements to the building. Tax credit projects must comply with the Secretary of Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation. The tax credit program is voluntary and not a requirement when owners work on their listed properties.

 Virginia is a national leader among states in listing historic sites and districts in the National Register of Historic Places. The state is also a national leader for the number of federal tax credit rehabilitation projects proposed and completed each year.

Together the register and tax credit rehabilitation programs play significant roles in promoting Virginia’s heritage and the preservation of the Commonwealth’s historic places and in spurring economic revitalization and tourism in many towns and communities. ###