State Adds Nine Historic Sites to the Virginia Landmarks Register

Published March 18, 2021

Four buildings nominated to VLR and NRHP in March 2021.—VLR listings are in the counties of Amherst, Arlington, Bath, Henry, Patrick, and Shenandoah; and the cites of Norfolk, Richmond, and Virginia Beach—

Among nine places listed in March on the Virginia Landmarks Register are a 1960s motel in Virginia Beach that signaled a new era of family vacationing, a Pentecostal church in Richmond where a nationally-acclaimed preacher began his career, a 1950s school built when the Southside region experienced unprecedented prosperity, and a high-style “French country house” in the Allegheny Mountains.
The commonwealth’s Board of Historic Resources approved the Virginia Landmarks Register (VLR) listings during its March 18 quarterly public meeting that the Department of Historic Resources hosted and convened virtually. The VLR is the commonwealth’s official list of places of historic, architectural, archaeological, and cultural significance. During the 1950s and 1960s, oceanfront tourism in Virginia Beach and in the nation boomed, and the family road-trip vacation achieved iconic status. The resort motel/hotel, a new building form arising largely in Florida and California, came of age during these decades, attracting vacationers seeking short-term accommodations. Jefferson Manor Motel Apartments, completed in 1963, recalls this pivotal era in Virginia Beach, when resort accommodations moved away from ocean-side, shingled frame cottages to concrete-and-steel constructions. Jefferson Manor was one of the architect-designed, Modernist style, family-owned resort motels of concrete construction built along the city’s Pacific Avenue during the post-World War II period. The two-story motel, locally built and designed, offered guests units with private balconies, and kitchenettes where families could prepare their own meals and dine informally. The short-lived era for these locally operated hotels and motels faded after the arrival to the city, beginning around 1970, of corporate chain hotels. Today, the Jefferson Manor property retains its historic integrity of location, setting, design, materials, and workmanship. (See the nomination and more.) St. Johns United Holy Church of America, built in two phases between 1931 and 1932 in Richmond’s Fairfield neighborhood, is associated with one of the oldest African American Pentecostal churches in the United States, the United Holy Church of America, Inc., founded in 1886 in Method, NC. The current Colonial Revival-style brick building features a sanctuary composed of rough textured plaster walls and a ceiling clad in decorative pressed metal square coffers. St. Johns United Holy Church is important as well for its affiliation with the Reverend Dr. James Forbes Jr., minister there from 1965 to 1973. Forbes established a national reputation during a post-Richmond career marked by academic and professional achievements. His prodigious energy and charismatic preaching style led Ebony magazine to name him one of America’s “greatest Black preachers” in 1985 and 1993, and in 1996, Newsweek recognized Forbes as one of the 12 “most effective preachers” in the English-speaking world. (See the nomination and more.) In Southside Virginia, Henry County completed construction of John Redd Smith School in 1952, when the region experienced unprecedented economic prosperity. With the return of young men from World War II, the already substantial furniture and textile industry of Martinsville and Henry County grew along with the birth rate and population. John Redd Smith School was one of at least five new public schools the county erected between 1950 and 1952 to educate a surging student population. One of the first elementary schools in the region built in the mid-20th century Modern style, John Redd Smith School remains among the best preserved. The school building embodies progressive ideas and theories regarding education in post-WWII America, as revealed in its practical, economical, and mass-produced design solutions. Its construction was paid for with local bonds and taxes, and an area architect designed the school. Named for Henry County native and leader John Redd Smith, the building is a community touchstone, recalling a distinct era of regional prosperity and over six decades of education and civic life for county residents. (See the nomination and more.) In Bath County’s Allegheny Mountains, the French country–style house Reveille, a one-and-a-half story, stucco-clad brick and stone dwelling, stands above the village of Hot Springs and adjacent to the resort Homestead Hotel property. Reveille, now known as Quarry Hill, is a masterwork designed in 1928 by architect Carl Max Lindner Sr. to serve as a second home for Judge William Clark and his wife, Marjory Blair Clark. Reveille offered the Clarks, who resided in Princeton, NJ, a summer residence with an advantageous location for entertaining and socializing with Homestead guests and other visitors to the Warm Springs Valley. Lindner, well known for his many Tudor and Georgian revival–style designs of Richmond apartments and houses, likely executed with Reveille his only French Renaissance or French country style residence. Typical of his work in other styles, Reveille exhibits Lindner’s attention to architectural details that make the house an outstanding work of revival-style design. Complementing Reveille’s architecture are the refined but modest formal gardens and terraces surrounding the house that landscape architect Charles Freeman Gillette designed. Marjory Clark likely chose Reveille’s architectural style. Her family home, Blairsden (1898), is an elaborate 38-room French Chateau–style mansion in New Jersey that her father, wealthy investment banker C. Ledyard Blair, commissioned from the prominent Beaux Arts architectural firm of Carrère and Hastings. Although a modest reflection of the larger New Jersey home, the authentic French inspiration found at Reveille, as well as many of the decorative features of the interior, are attributable to Marjory Clark’s influence and refined tastes. The Clarks ownership of Reveille ended in 1944. (See the nomination and more.) The Virginia Board of Historic Resources also approved five other VLR listings during its quarterly meeting on March 18:
  • Constructed in four phases between 1882 and 1955, the Amherst Baptist Church building is no longer owned by a church nor is it used for religious purposes. Nonetheless, it remains a landmark in the Town of Amherst, easily identified by its tall entry tower, and locally important for its vernacular synthesis of architectural styles. The 1882 main block, embellished with many Italianate details, was enhanced in 1908 with the Romanesque Revival entry tower. In 1925, a Gothic Revival-style south addition, and a 1955 rear addition expanded the building. The property’s more modestly designed parsonage and garage, both dating to 1949, retain the Colonial Revival style. During Amherst Baptist’s decades as an active church, the nearby Amherst High School and community groups also used the church as an auditorium. (See the nomination and more.)
  • Located on one of the Seven Bends of the Shenandoah River in Shenandoah County, the present-day Burner-Gearing Farm property has been in continuous agricultural use since the mid-1700s. Jonas Burner (1781-1852) acquired the property in the early 1800s, and the Gearing family owned it during the 20th century. The farm’s primary historic resource is the 1925 Gearing Barn, a structure of pole-construction employing logs for its principal posts. The pole-construction method for building barns anticipates its more general use in Shenandoah County later in the mid-20th century. The Gearing Barn has a ground barn rather than bank barn form; the latter style is more typical of the county’s historic barns. The property also contains the Burner Cemetery. (See the nomination and more.)
  • In 1906, the Cruser Place Company envisioned a subdivision arising on marshland the City of Norfolk annexed in 1902. The company’s plans required extensive private-public infrastructure improvements and significant infill to take advantage of prime waterfront real estate. That subdivision evolved from a streetcar suburb to become the Cruser Place Historic District, a tightly bound residential and commercial neighborhood. In 1973, the neighborhood’s boundaries were redrawn after Norfolk Redevelopment and Housing Authority established its Conservation District program for the Colonial Place–Riverview area. The redrawn boundaries put Cruser Place at the center of the larger Colonial Place–Riverview community. (See the nomination and more.)
  • Established in 1792 as Taylorsville, the Piedmont Town of Stuart is the seat of Patrick County. Stuart’s first wave of economic development centered on the Patrick County Courthouse, as embodied in the previously listed Stuart Uptown Historic District. The Stuart Downtown Historic District, located south and downhill from the uptown district, represents a second wave of commercial and industrial development in Stuart, spurred by the arrival of the Danville & Western Railway in 1884. The 8.24-acre downtown district lies adjacent to the former railroad and the Mayo River. Although the railroad tracks, turntable, and depot no longer exist, 16 contributing commercial and industrial buildings, constructed between the late 1800s and the 1960s, create a cohesive historic district. (See the nomination and more.)
  • In Arlington County, Windsor Apartments, constructed in 1944, consists of four red brick buildings that exemplify the multi-family garden apartment complexes that arose between 1934 and 1954 in Arlington as a response to the critical need for moderately priced housing for a growing population in the greater Washington D.C. area. Similar to other garden apartments in Arlington, Windsor Apartments incorporated the standards of forward-thinking planners and housing reformers in the Federal Housing Authority who promoted the benefits of modern, efficient interior floor plans that allow sufficient natural lighting and ventilation. The Windsor Apartment buildings were sited within a courtyard setting, enhanced by landscaped green space, parking areas, and pedestrian walkways. (See the nomination and more.)
The Department of Historic Resources will forward the documentation for these newly listed VLR sites to the National Park Service for nomination to the National Register of Historic Places. Listing a property in the state or national registers is honorary and sets no restrictions on what property owners may do with their property. The designation is 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. Virginia is a national leader among states in listing historic sites and districts on the National Register of Historic Places. The state is also a national leader for the number of federal tax credit rehabilitation projects proposed or completed each year.
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