Department of Historic Resources
For Immediate Release
June 22, 2016

Contact: Randy Jones
Department of Historic Resources
(540) 578-3031 /


-New listings cover historic sites in the counties of Amherst, Fairfax, Frederick, Goochland, Loudoun, Madison, Nelson, and Southampton; and the cities of Lexington, Manassas, Norfolk, and Richmond (3)-

-Also approved: An expanded downtown Tazewell Historic District-

-14 of the VLR listings will be forwarded for nomination to the National Register of Historic Places-

RICHMOND - A water tower in Manassas, a mill complex that operated into the 1960s in Amherst County, tobacco warehouses in Richmond affiliated with the mass marketing of cigarette brands, and a military railroad at the heart of Fort Belvoir's development in Fairfax County are among the 14 historic sites recently listed on the Virginia Landmarks Register by the commonwealth's Department of Historic Resources (DHR).

With its construction in 1914, the 147-foot tall Manassas Water Tower signaled the community's pivot from a small rural town to a modern city with a planned infrastructure. It arose during an era when elevated steel water tanks, first developed beginning in the 1890s, emerged as common landmarks in communities throughout the U.S. As a central component of its first municipal waterworks, the Manassas tower's 75,000-gallon capacity supported community-wide fire protection in a pressurized system, while offering residents clean, abundant water.

The oldest surviving public water tower in Northern Virginia today, the Manassas tower conforms to a then-popular design distinguished by a conical roof, a riveted steel tank with a rounded bottom, set atop four lattice-channel posts with diagonal tie rods. The Manassas tower is the first water tower to be individually listed during the Virginia Landmarks Register's 50 years.

For more than 150 years, the Brightwells Mill Complex contributed to the production and commercial processing of grains in Amherst County, serving as a companion to other mills nearby. The focal point of surrounding farms during the early to mid-20th century, Brightwells was one of a few operating mills available to farmers in Amherst and adjoining counties. By the 1960s, it also was one of the last water-powered mills in the county.

William Burford built the original mill prior to 1826 and a surviving circa-1826 log house that was later incorporated into the existing miller's house. The mill operated through the 19th century under successive owners who enlarged the complex. In 1942 a storm caused a flood that breached the mill's 19th-century earthen-and-log dam and washed the mill and other buildings away, leaving behind only the mill stones and wheel. Soon thereafter, materials from the earlier mill were salvaged to rebuild a saw mill. Lumber was milled onsite and a new grain mill built. Then-owner Harmon Brightwell constructed new buildings on the property and remodeled and expanded the miller's house. The mill ceased processing grains for human consumption in 1965.

A post-Civil War surge in the nationwide popularity of cigarettes and other tobacco products energized Richmond's tobacco industry, beginning in 1874, with the construction of storage and manufacturing facilities. The industry flourished into the mid-20th century as a result of mass marketing, enhanced production, and the branding of smoking blends. In the early 20th century, many tobacco companies transitioned away from vertically designed, all-in-one storage and production buildings to horizontally arranged facilities, consisting of separate buildings sprawled across large properties. Two of these companies, the American Tobacco Company and, decades later, the Blair Tobacco Storage Warehouse, established complexes on the capital city's Southside.

The American Tobacco Company South Richmond Complex Historic District is the first and earliest example of the horizontal approach to tobacco storage and production. The district began in 1911 with construction of American Tobacco Company's first warehouses. The company, the first to open a laboratory to study tobacco's commercial uses, relocated its research department from New York City to South Richmond in 1929, and ten years later opened a new state-of-the-art research facility where advances took place in tobacco cultivation and processing, as well as research into the health ramifications of tobacco. Warehouses in the historic district also reveal how the destructive tobacco beetle forced companies in the mid-20th century to convert interiors from an "open" to a "closed" design, which allowed for routine fumigation to fight the beetles.

American Tobacco Company closed its historic district complex, along with the rest of the South Richmond Complex, in the 1980s.

Among a dozen or so companies that followed the American Tobacco Company's horizontal model after 1911 was the Blair Tobacco Storage Warehouse. The company began construction in today's Blair Tobacco Storage Warehouse Historic District in 1939. Unlike earlier Richmond tobacco warehouses, the Blair complex resulted from independently-owned storage facilities that relied on trucking to distribute product. Directly tied to a subsidiary trucking enterprise, the Blair Transit Company, the Blair Tobacco Storage Warehouse stockpiled large quantities of tobacco varieties that middlemen sold to cigarette manufacturers who had to produce a consistent blend for their respective cigarette brands. The storage and delivery capacity of these new warehouses such as Blair made possible the mass production of brand cigarettes. In 1965, the company built its last warehouse in the historic district that conformed in pattern and footprint to its previous warehouses.

The Fort Belvoir Military Railroad Historic Corridor in Fairfax County consists of a four-mile trunk line road bed and five-and-a-half miles of sidings, including rail yards, and the associated buildings, sites, and structures of the Fort Belvoir Military Railroad. The railroad is integral to the story of Belvoir's development, especially the planning and growth of Camp A. A. Humphreys, the original name of the base, established in January 1918, after the U.S. entered World War I in 1917.

WWI challenged the U.S. Army to mobilize over two million soldiers rapidly and train engineers in the use of new technologies of warfare-planes, tanks, machine guns, U-boats, and poison gas, among others. By summer 1917, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers arranged for all its officers and troops to be trained at one central facility-Camp Humphreys, which eventually, served 30,000 engineer soldiers.

At a time when trains were the most reliable and timely overland transportation, the military railroad offered essential access to Camp Humphreys, located on a peninsula in the Potomac River then-served only by steamboats from Washington D.C. The camp's location gave it proximity to the Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac Railroad lines located at Accotink, as well as the Washington-Virginia Electric Railway Terminal at Mount Vernon. Officials hoped that constructing short rail spurs would improve and ease access between D.C. and Fort Belvoir, so-renamed in the 1930s. The railroad thus became a vital centerpiece at Belvoir during its early days, and it continued to serve an expanding installation throughout the 20th century, illustrating the importance of a light military railroad to an installation.

Elsewhere in Virginia, the following additional sites were approved for listing in the Virginia Landmarks Register by DHR's Board of Historic Resources during its quarterly meeting on June 16:

During its quarterly meeting, the Board of Historic Resources also approved an expansion of the Tazewell Historic District, located in the heart of the Town of Tazewell. Listed in 2001, the original 67-acre historic district boundaries encompass two long downtown blocks of Main Street with a larger residential area to the north. The new boundary increase incorporates 11 additional buildings, mostly located along the north side of West Main Street, in the district. The area of expansion is contiguous to the original historic district and includes buildings that relate to the historic functions and architectural character of downtown Tazewell. The buildings, constructed between 1900 and 1950, were purpose-built for commercial, residential, and religious uses and reflect the downtown's growth and the era's popular styles. The Commercial architectural style, predominant in the downtown area, is represented in two former auto dealership buildings within the expansion area.

Complete nomination forms and photographs for each of these sites can be accessed on the DHR website at With the exception of the Fort Belvoir Military Railroad Historic Corridor, these 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.