--New listings cover historic sites in the counties of Essex, Franklin, Henrico, New Kent (3), Shenandoah; and the cities of Lynchburg and Richmond (2)--
—VLR listings will be forwarded for nomination to the National Register of Historic Places—
RICHMOND – One of the oldest surviving frontier-era buildings on Virginia’s southern Piedmont, as well as 18th-century plantation houses in the Tidewater region, and three distinct modern 20th-century buildings in the Richmond area are among the ten places added to the Virginia Landmarks Register (VLR) by the Department of Historic Resources today.
Constructed of hewn and sawed timbers and erected on Virginia’s western frontier in present-day Franklin County at the end of the colonial period, the Snow Creek Anglican Church replaced a prior chapel building at the site. The second Snow Creek church was one of a half-dozen churches and chapels ordered to be built in 1769 by the vestry of the newly established Camden Parish, which was located on the fringe of white settlement in the southern Piedmont on the eastern foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
In 1770 Anglican vestrymen paid two men 7,520 pounds of tobacco (approximately $50 today) for constructing the 32-by-24 foot structure. The Anglican Church vestry’s specifications for the building required it have two doors and five windows, a clapboard roof, plank floor, pulpit and reading desk, small communion table, and benches to seat the congregation. After the American Revolution led to the disestablishment of the Anglican Church, when most its rural parishes such as Camden ceased to function, Snow Creek church’s original congregation likely soon disintegrated.
By the late 1780s the Baptists probably began using the building for worship. In 1824 a Primitive Baptist congregation occupied the church and continued to use it until the congregation died out by around 2000. Today the former Snow Creek Anglican Church is one of the oldest known buildings surviving in western Virginia. The property also includes a cemetery dating to around 1753, when the first Anglican chapel was built on the site.
Cumberland Plantation in Tidewater Virginia’s New Kent County was settled by Englishman Richard Littlepage in the late 1600s along the Pamunkey River. By the mid-1700s, Cumberland Plantation emerged as a trading post and port. After a ferryboat began operating there during the years before the Revolutionary War, it became an important river crossing on a primary overland route between the Middle Peninsula and Williamsburg. British and American armies passed through during the Revolutionary War, and in 1862 during the Civil War Union General George B. McClellan’s army encamped on the 1500-acre plantation.
Today, Cumberland’s main house is believed to retain pre-Revolutionary War elements composed of colonial-era building fabric, a rarity among historic Tidewater residences. The house reflects two major building campaigns. The first exemplifies its original construction, as an 18th-century central-hall plan, Georgian- and Federal-style house, built for the Littlepage family. The second campaign came in the late 1930s when Harvard-trained architect Harden de Valsen Pratt redesigned the house as an elegant Colonial Revival and Neoclassical Revival residence. Although much of the original building material has been removed or encased within the circa-1938 renovations that work has acquired historical significance. De Valsen Pratt gained notoriety as a restoration architect, earning commissions to remodel other historic houses now listed on VLR and National Register of Historic Places including Criss Cross and St. Peter’s Church.
Also located in New Kent County is Cedar Lane, among a small number of surviving late-1700s frame dwellings in the county. Cedar Lane began as a modest plantation house built for William Poindexter or his daughter Ann and her husband, Thomas Howle, members of some of the area’s earliest-settling European families. Successive Poindexter and Apperson families expanded the house into a fashionable central two-story residence, flanked by one-room wings with Federal and Greek Revival style elements. The house’s evolving form and features embody the area’s early national and antebellum periods and reflect the success of an upper-middle class family of slave-owning farmers through the mid-1800s.
Three buildings in Richmond added to the VLR are excellent examples of 20th-century international and modern architectural designs.
The circular Higgins Doctors Office Building in Richmond was designed by Deigert & Yerkes Architects, a leading firm in Washington, DC for mid-20th-century Modern architecture. When completed in 1954, the Higgins building represented a remarkably progressive design and a rare example in Richmond of a Frank Lloyd Wright–inspired structure. Its form, flat roof, and use of patterned concrete block—recalling Wright’s same use of blocks for buildings in California during his “Mayan Revival” period—and vertical wood facing signaled a striking departure from the architecture of adjacent buildings in Richmond’s near west end. The building also incorporated well-proportioned radiating landscape features that integrated the structure into its site.
More than a decade later, another circular building arose in the Richmond area, the Markel Building, a well-known, unusual office building in Henrico County clad in sheets of crimpled aluminum. Rising three cantilevered stories above an open ground-level oval parking deck, the building was commissioned by brothers Lewis and Irvin Markel of the Markel Insurance Corporation. They hired controversial architect Haigh Jamgochian to design the building, completed in 1966, because they sought a unique, eye-catching structure and had been impressed by Jamgochian’s unbuilt but widely-published design for an apartment building. Ultimately, only two of Jamgochian’s designs were ever constructed: the Markel Building and the “Moon House,” completed in 1968 and demolished in 2005. Today, the Markel Building still retains much of its material integrity, although original interior doors have been replaced.
Rockfalls, a dwelling in Richmond built during 1936-37, is an early example in Virginia of the International Style in residential architecture. It is based on a “Model Home” plan, intended for middle and upper-middle class house buyers, published in 1936 in the then-popular magazine Collier’s and designed by Edward Durell Stone, an early American master of the International Style. Collier’s Model Home was the first time a mass-market publication endorsed modern architecture in the U.S.
Following the Collier’s model, Rockfalls featured a service area with a maid’s room at the front of the residence rather than in the rear or attic, to allow service staff quick access to all parts of the house. A two-car garage, prominently placed at the front of the house, reflects the impact of the automobile on suburban development in the U.S. Typical of the International Style, Rockfalls’ masonry construction and design employs straight lines and simple curved shapes, emphasizing a horizontal plane through its window openings, railed balconies, and flat roof.
The 5.9-acre wooded setting of Rockfalls includes an abandoned granite quarry and a natural stream, an original entrance road with a stone bridge, a granite stone wall, and a perimeter fence with fluted steel columns topped by ball finials. The house became one of only a limited number of International Style buildings ever constructed in the in the Richmond area and was owned in the 1970s by Haigh Jamgochian, who designed the landmark Markel Building.
Four additional places were approved for listing on the Virginia Landmarks Register by DHR’s Board of Historic Resources during its quarterly meeting on December 15:
The documentation for these new VLR sites will be forwarded to the National Park Service for their 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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