5 New State Historical Highway Markers Approved

Published April 25, 2023

Virginia Department of Historic Resources
(dhr.virginia.gov)
For Immediate Release
April 25, 2023

Contact:
Ivy Tan
Department of Historic Resources
Marketing & Communications Manager
ivy.tan@dhr.virginia.gov
804-482-6445

—Markers cover topics in the cities of Lexington, Portsmouth, Virginia Beach, and Roanoke; and the county of Mecklenburg—

 —Text of each marker reproduced below—

PLEASE NOTE: DHR creates markers not to “honor” their subjects but rather to educate and inform the public about a person, place, or event of regional, state, or national importance. In this regard, erected markers are not memorials.

RICHMOND – Among the five new historical markers coming to roadsides in Virginia are signs that will highlight businesses in the City of Lexington that welcomed Black travelers during the period of racial segregation in the 20th century; a school founded by four sisters to teach young women in Mecklenburg County academic subjects as well as the arts; and the commonwealth’s first community college to open under the Virginia Community College System, established in 1966.

The Virginia Board of Historic Resources approved the markers on March 16, 2023, during its quarterly meeting hosted by the Department of Historic Resources (DHR).

A forthcoming marker in the City of Lexington will recall businesses that appeared in the Negro Motorist Green Book, a guide for Black travelers published from 1936 to 1966 that featured lodgings, restaurants, and other public accommodations across the country that welcomed African Americans during the segregation era. The Green Book listed several stops in Lexington including the Franklin Tourist Home, the Rose Inn, Washington Café, and the J. M. Wood Tourist Home.

The history of education in Virginia grounds three of the newly approved markers:

  • In Mecklenburg County, the Sunnyside School educated young women in algebra, chemistry, Latin, religion, and proper etiquette during its years of operation from ca. 1870 to 1908. The Carrington sisters Agnes, Emily, Isabella, and Mildred established the school in their residence after the end of the Civil War, when the demand for education among those who did not previously have access grew. The sisters, who were well-liked by the community and were longtime supporters of Clarksville Presbyterian Church, welcomed day students as well as boarders at their school.
  • Opened by 1921, the Key Road School in the City of Portsmouth served African American children in grades 1 through 7 for close to half a century. Funding for the school, which moved into a new building at the current location ca. 1926-27, came from the Black community, Norfolk County, and the Rosenwald Fund. Founded as the result of a partnership between the philanthropist Julius Rosenwald and educator Booker T. Washington, the Rosenwald Fund contributed to the construction of approximately 5,000 schools for African American children across the South. In Virginia alone, the Rosenwald Fund helped build more than 600 schools and 18 teacher’s homes and vocational buildings. The Key Road School closed in 1965, and seven years later the Olympian Sports Club, an organization that supports young athletes in the region, made its headquarters in the former school’s building.
  • Between 1956 and 1959, the state government of Virginia adopted the policy of Massive Resistance against the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1954 decision in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas mandating desegregation in the nation’s public schools. Business leaders around the commonwealth who opposed Massive Resistance for the damage it had done to education and the economy formed the Virginia Industrialization Group in 1958. Members of the group were influential in founding what became the Virginia Community College System in 1966, and Virginia Western Community College in the City of Roanoke became the first community college to open under this new system.

The state’s colonial period features prominently in one forthcoming marker:

  • In the 17th century, Francis Yeardley, a member of the Colony of Virginia’s House of Burgesses, sponsored an expedition to the northeastern section of present-day North Carolina known as the Albemarle region, or “Carolana.” The party returned to Virginia with several Native Americans including a chief, possibly Kiscutanewh of the Weapemeoc (Yeopim), who stayed for a week at Yeardley’s residence in what is today Virginia Beach. Yeardley agreed to build an English house in the Albemarle region for the chief and to foster, educate, and baptize the chief’s son. In ca. 1655, Yeardley ordered for a house to be built on a tract of Carolana land, which he purchased from the chief, for Nathaniel Batts, North Carolina’s first documented English resident.

Following the Board of Historic Resources’ approval of the markers, it can take upwards of eight months or more before a new marker is ready for installation. The marker’s sponsor covers the required $2,880 manufacturing expenses for a new sign.

Virginia’s historical highway marker program began in 1927 with installation of the first markers along U.S. Route 1. It is considered the oldest such program in the nation. Currently there are more than 2,600 state markers, mostly maintained by the Virginia Department of Transportation, except in those localities outside of VDOT’s authority.

Full Text of Markers:
(VDOT must approve the proposed locations for each sign or public works in jurisdictions outside VDOT’s authority.)

Sunnyside School, ca. 1870-1908
Educational opportunities for White women in Virginia expanded during the 19th century as female institutes taught academic subjects as well as the arts. Some women supported themselves by opening schools. After the Civil War, when demand for education was high, sisters Agnes, Emily, Isabella, and Mildred Carrington established the Sunnyside School for young women here at their residence. Day students and boarders from Virginia and beyond studied subjects including algebra, chemistry, Latin, deportment, and religion. The sisters, highly regarded in the community, were longtime supporters of Clarksville Presbyterian Church. Sunnyside School closed in 1908 after more than 35 years of operation.
Sponsor: Sunnyside Sisters Bed & Breakfast
Locality: Mecklenburg County
Proposed Location: 104 Shiney Rock Road, Clarksville

Key Road School
Key Road School, which had opened by 1921 and served African American children in grades 1-7, moved into a new building here ca. 1926-27. Financial contributions for the two-teacher school came from the Black community, Norfolk County, and the Rosenwald Fund. This fund, which emerged from a partnership between philanthropist Julius Rosenwald and educator Booker T. Washington, helped construct about 5,000 schools for African Americans across the South. The City of Portsmouth annexed this area in 1948, and the school closed in 1965. In 1972 the Olympian Sports Club moved its headquarters here. This organization, established in 1955, has supported young athletes in the region.
Sponsor: African American Historical Society of Portsmouth
Locality: Portsmouth
Proposed Location: 3235 Portsmouth Blvd.

Lexington and the Green Book
The Negro Motorist Green Book, published from 1936 to 1966, was a guide to lodgings, restaurants, and other public accommodations that welcomed Black travelers during the segregation era, when many roadside businesses refused to admit Black people or served them on an unequal basis. Listed in the guide for many years was the elegant Franklin Tourist Home, operated by Zack and Arleana Franklin just east of here at 9 Tucker St. Chauffeurs whose wealthy employers were staying at one of the town’s hotels were frequent guests. Other Lexington businesses that appeared in the Green Book were the Rose Inn and Washington Café on N. Main St. and the J. M. Wood Tourist Home on Massie St.
Sponsor: The Historic Lexington Foundation
Locality: Lexington
Proposed Location: 106 E. Washington St.

Colonizing “Carolana”
Virginia Burgess Francis Yeardley sponsored an expedition to the Albemarle region of present-day North Carolina in 1653. This party returned with several Native Americans including a chief, possibly Kiscutanewh of the Weapemeoc (Yeopim), who lodged for a week at Yeardley’s residence near here. Yeardley agreed to build an English house in the Albemarle for the chief and to foster, educate, and baptize his son. Yeardley also purchased a large tract of land in “Carolana” from the chief and had a house built ca. 1655 near Albemarle Sound for fur trader Nathaniel Batts, North Carolina’s first documented permanent English resident. Other settlers began arriving in the region soon thereafter.
Sponsor: Jorja K. Jean
Locality: Virginia Beach
Proposed Location: 4300 Shore Drive

Virginia Western Community College
From 1956 to 1959 Virginia mandated Massive Resistance against the U.S. Supreme Court’s Brown decision desegregating public education. In 1958, business leaders from around the state created the Virginia Industrialization Group to oppose Massive Resistance and reverse the damage it had done to education and the economy. Their efforts helped establish a system of technical colleges in 1964 that evolved into the Virginia Community College System in 1966. Roanoke Technical Institute, a branch of Virginia Tech, was combined with the University of Virginia’s Roanoke Center to form what became Virginia Western Community College. This was the first community college to open under the new system.
Sponsor: Nelson Harris
Locality: City of Roanoke
Proposed Location: 3000 block of Colonial Ave. SW

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