--New listings cover historic sites in the counties of Accomack, Amherst, Botetourt (2), Essex, Frederick, Orange, and Wythe; and the cities of Hampton, Richmond, and Suffolk --
—VLR listings will be forwarded for nomination to the National Register of Historic Places—
RICHMOND – Historic sites affiliated with milling, mining and other commerce in southwest Virginia and the peanut economy in Suffolk, along with the first public lending-library in Amherst County, and a former headquarters of the Virginia Commission for the Blind are some of the places added recently to the Virginia Landmarks Register by the Department of Historic Resources.
In Wythe County the Reed Creek Mill dates to around 1902 when it was known as Stone Mill, a that replaced a prior Barrett’s Foundry and Mill built on the site in 1858. About a mile south of the Wythe County Courthouse, the 4.8-acre mill property includes a 350-foot-long mill dam, head race, tail race, and a circa 1950 storage warehouse. The rectangular-shaped, timber-frame, three-story gristmill rests on a coursed limestone and poured concrete foundation with lower frame side wings. Galvanized corrugated metal siding clads the building.
For more than 100 years, the mill was central to the Reed Creek community’s economy, producing flour and buckwheat, and retailing cattle feed and farming supplies. In its early years, Reed Creek Mill also generated electricity for Wytheville’s streetlights until 1911, when Appalachian Power Company took over that role. By 1975, the mill had ceased producing flour for human consumption but milled livestock feed until 2004. The current owner purchased the property in 2012 and rehabilitated the structures.
Construction of the James River and Kanawha Canal provided an impetus for a hydraulic cement industry in antebellum Botetourt County. The 1840s appear to have been years of growth in the region’s lime industry, a part of its economy today. The county’s Reynolds Property represents that early industrial history.
Named for one-time owner and mid-19th century lime-maker Greenville Reynolds, the roughly 150-acre property features a whitewashed stone house dating to around 1800; a long-abandoned limestone quarry complex including a mound that may be a limekiln ruin; a barn; and miscellaneous domestic and agricultural outbuildings. The house’s interior, originally a hall-parlor plan, has mud-plastered and whitewashed stone walls, exposed ceiling beams, a wooden floor, and two fireplaces. The Reynolds Property includes the remains of a stone springhouse foundation and a cemetery of uninscribed fieldstone grave markers that oral tradition suggests was a slave burial ground. Quarrying ceased on the property in 1936.
Also in Botetourt County is Blue Ridge Hall. It sits on a nine-acre parcel,
at the intersection of a regional turnpike and the Great Road, the main
north-south artery of the Valley of Virginia. Built in 1836, Blue Ridge Hall was
an antebellum-era ordinary and stagecoach stop known as the Blue Ridge Hotel, a
Federal-style, twostory, central-passage frame dwelling. The house, retaining
preserved mantels and other Federal-style architectural details, was built for
politician George W. Wilson. Afterward it was owned by Congressman Nathaniel H.
Claiborne and, from 1849 to 1890, by businessman and farmer Samuel Obenshain.
Around 1940 a rear wing was constructed on Blue Ridge Hall and a Colonial
Revival-style front porch with square wood
columns added in the late 1950s.
Established in 1898, the Suffolk Peanut Company represents the early history of the peanut industry that once dominated southeast Virginia. The company had the first successful peanut operation in the region. Today’s complex is likely the largest and most historically intact peanut processing plant in Virginia. Many of the site’s buildings date to within a few years of the Suffolk Peanut Company’s founding. Its warehouses and processing buildings represent a full range of functions historically associated with peanut processing and distribution.
A two-pronged railroad spur and long loading dock abutting a historic Norfolk & Western railroad line exemplify the interdependence of the peanut industry and rail transportation in the late-19th and 20th centuries. The earliest structure in the complex, Warehouse #3, was built in 1903. In 1968, the facility was sold to Goldkist Inc., which ended the property’s link to the historically important Suffolk Peanut Company.
The first dedicated rural public lending-library building in Amherst County
and possibly in Virginia, the Elon Village Library was constructed in 1917.
Community volunteers, using donated materials, built it as a project of the Elon
Civic Betterment League. Prominently situated in the community and constructed
in a simple style, the one-story, 16-by-30 foot frame building, is a local
landmark, unchanged since 1924, when a rear ell was added
for a kitchen.
The library operated daily from 1918 to 1965, and functioned also as a community meeting house, classroom, and polling place. It closed only after the county established a branch public library in nearby Madison Heights and established a library within a new 1960s school building on a parcel adjacent to the Elon Village Library. Today the library opens only for special occasions and is used for storage. It still retains lighting fixtures and school benches that were there when it first opened in 1918.
The Virginia Commission for the Blind building in Richmond is important for its close association with Lucian Louis Watts, whose career sought to improve the lives of Virginia’s blind citizens. Watts was a “leader in demonstrating the ability of a state agency to deliver a wide range of services to blind adults and children,” according to historian Frances A. Koestler. He helped establish state and national organizations that remain active to this day, in particular, the Virginia Association of Workers for the Blind (now Virginia Industries for the Blind), the Virginia Commission for the Blind (now the Virginia Department for the Blind and Vision Impaired), and the American Foundation for the Blind.
Completed in 1940 when it opened, the Virginia Commission for the Blind building was designed in the popular Colonial Revival style by J. Binford Walford, a Virginia architect who designed institutional buildings at a number of universities in the state. Until 1980, the Virginia Commission for the Blind building housed the principal administrative offices for statewide services for the blind. Additionally, it provided vocational training, an ophthalmological clinic, and a regional Braille and “talking machine books” library. Construction in 1958 of an addition to the building gave it its current form.
Elsewhere in Virginia, additional sites were approved for listing on the Virginia Landmarks Register by DHR’s Board of Historic Resources during its quarterly meeting on September 15:
Complete nomination forms and photographs for each of these sites can be accessed on the DHR website at http://www.dhr.virginia.gov/registers/boardPage.html. The sites 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 the preservation of the Commonwealth’s historic places and in spurring economic revitalization and tourism in many towns and communities.
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