—VLR listings in the counties of Albemarle (2), Caroline (2), Culpeper, Cumberland, Henrico, Highland, Pulaski, Spotsylvania, Southampton, and Sussex; and the cites of Danville, Franklin, Norfolk, and Petersburg—
—DHR forwards VLR listings for nomination to the National Register of Historic Places—
—Sites associated with the history of African Americans, colonial era, Civil War, education, railroads, and 20th-century architecture, industry and civic planning—
Among 16 places the Department of Historic Resources added to the Virginia Landmarks Register this quarter are courthouse village buildings in Southampton and Caroline counties associated with racial events in 1831 and 1958 of national consequence.
Other Virginia Landmark Register (VLR) listings the Board of Historic Resources approved during its December 12 quarterly meeting include three Civil War-affiliated sites in Culpeper, Henrico, and Highland counties. And architectural listings that capture outstanding examples of Gothic Revival, Queen Anne, International Style, and Modern architecture, and an unusual antebellum log cabin.
The Nat Turner rebellion, a signal event leading up to the Civil War, is indelibly associated with the village of Jerusalem, now Courtland, and Southampton County.
Encompassing the county seat, Courtland Historic District began as a cluster of courthouse buildings in 1752 along the north side of the Nottoway River. The General Assembly established the town in 1791 and Jerusalem grew slowly as a minor market center, bypassed by important transportation corridors arising during the early 1800s.
In August 1831, the village and county drew national attention when slave-preacher Nat Turner led enslaved laborers in an armed uprising that resulted in the murder of more than 50 whites at plantations. Alarmed planters and their families sought refuge in Jerusalem (Courtland), and the state militia quickly suppressed the rebellion, making a village tavern a gathering place and command center. Public interest next shifted to the historic district’s court complex, where the state tried 50 rebellion participants and ultimately executed Turner and many more associates.
Turner’s rebellion catalyzed Virginia and other Southern states to enact laws to prevent similar revolts by restricting the movement and education of blacks across the South, and by closely monitoring African American religious congregations, among other repercussions.
Fifty-plus years after Turner, in 1888 the Atlantic and Danville Railroad extended its tracks through Jerusalem, which shed its name and incorporated as Courtland. Rail connections to major regional hubs led to business activity and enterprises involved in processing, warehousing, and distributing peanuts, the county’s primary crop since the late 1800s. Today Courtland Historic District’s courthouse and churches exhibit academic Greek, Gothic, and Romanesque revival styles. Residential architecture includes Federal, Italianate, Gothic Revival, Folk, Queen Anne, and popular housing styles representing the sweep of 20th century design.
Caroline County’s Old Jail, built in 1900 in Bowling Green, is closely associated with the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in the case of Loving v. Virginia, which overturned state anti-miscegenation laws, a decision that changed American society.
On July 17, 1958, a county sheriff imprisoned Richard and Mildred Loving, a married, racially mixed couple, after arresting them early that morning. Charged with violating Virginia’s Racial Integrity Act of 1924, Richard Loving, who was white, spent one night in Old Jail, and Mildred, a woman of color, four days and nights in a cramped female cell housed on the jail’s second floor. After the Lovings pled guilty to charges of unlawful cohabitation, the court sentenced them to one-year prison terms, which it suspended after the Lovings agreed to leave the state.
In 1964, the ACLU took up the Lovings’ defense and initiated appellate proceedings. After higher Virginia courts upheld the convictions, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear Loving v. Virginia. In June 1967, the court found that anti-miscegenation laws violated the Equal Protection and Due Process clauses of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Its ruling rendered laws banning interracial marriage in Virginia and 15 other states unconstitutional and unenforceable.
Old Jail, a Colonial Revival, two story, hipped-roof building, closed as a jailhouse in 1968 when the Caroline Historical Society converted it to office and museum space. The conversion removed the steel-bar cells from the ground floor, which a St. Louis, Missouri, company, designed and prefabricated along with the jail’s other steel components, as well as the building’s plan. Today, Old Jail stands at the edge of the courthouse square as a reminder of a once common jailhouse building form—and one county family’s impact on Civil Rights’ history in the United States.
In Culpeper County, Rose Hill, dating to the mid-1850s, is an architecturally important Greek Revival-style I-house. It is also significant as the location where Union Brigadier General H. Judson Kilpatrick and Colonel Ulric Dahlgren met and planned a complicated cavalry raid on Richmond—the Kilpatrick–Dahlgren Raid, which President Lincoln approved. Its goal was to free Union prisoners held in the city under inhumane conditions.
The raid failed disastrously, and after Confederates killed Dahlgren, who led one wing of the cavalry force, they found papers on his body, allegedly in his handwriting, that revealed a plan for the raiders to capture and kill Confederate president Jefferson Davis and his cabinet, and set Richmond ablaze.
When Richmond newspapers began publishing on March 5, 1864, these clear violations of the rules of war, the ensuing outrage and controversy shook the United States government as well as the army high command. Military leaders from Major General George G. Meade to Kilpatrick denied issuing such orders. Northern and Southern newspapers debated the authenticity of the documents, which the Confederate government used to launch several failed plots to kidnap Lincoln in retaliation.
Built in 1820 as a two-story farmhouse known as High Meadow, the Dabbs House in Henrico County has had a multi-use history—most notably during the Civil War and Union Gen. George B. McClellan’s Peninsula Campaign in 1862 to capture the Confederate capital of Richmond. That is when Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee headquartered at Dabbs House and assumed command of the Confederate Army after it passed from Gen. Joseph Johnston. Confederate President Jefferson Davis and cavalry commander Gen. J.E.B. Stuart visited Lee at the house, where a counsel of war also met to discuss the fate of Richmond, at a meeting that culminated in the Seven Days Battle (June 25–July 1) and the ultimate defeat of McClellan.
After the war, in 1883 Henrico County purchased the Dabbs property for an almshouse for county paupers and inmates, closing it 1924. In 1941, the county converted the house to offices and a police station. During the Cold War, in 1965 the county installed behind Dabbs House an underground emergency operating center—the first of its kind in Virginia built by a local government—that could be accessed from a rear addition to the house. Since 2005, the building has functioned as a museum and visitor center. Architectural features of the building’s 1820s–1860s section, the ca. 1883 addition, and the 1941 and 1952 wings by noted area architect Edward F. Sinnott Sr., all still exhibit their period design and craftsmanship.
In Highland County, the 1856, Greek Revival-style McDowell Presbyterian Church, situated at the eastern entrance of the village of McDowell along with its manse and cemetery, is associated with the Battle of McDowell in 1862, the only formal engagement fought in Highland County during the Civil War. Around the time of the battle, which resulted in casualties, the church served as a hospital and headquarters for both Union and Confederate forces.
The history of the church dates back to 1822 when the first church edifice was built on the site and the cemetery was established. The manse, constructed in 1879, and the church stand as tangible evidence of the growth and settlement patterns of the region and its role as a community center. The church is one of three antebellum brick buildings in McDowell and the only known existing antebellum brick church in Highland County.
Elsewhere in Virginia, new VLRs include the following:
In the City of Franklin, the Charles Street Gym, constructed in 1935-36, became an integral part of the city’s public education. More information . . .
Mount Gideon in Caroline County dates to around 1778 and exhibits distinct Colonial, Federal, and Colonial Revival details, reflecting three building campaigns betokening an evolved house. The property also includes a circa-1840 granary, one of only a half-dozen pre-Civil War farm buildings in the county. More information . .
Norfolk Fire Department Station No. 12 was constructed in 1923 as an American Foursquare house with Craftsman features. The station served its community until 2018 and has been restored to its 1923 appearance. More information . . .
Pine Grove School is one of six schools for African American students in Cumberland County built with funding and plans from the Julius Rosenwald Foundation. Constructed in 1917 and deviating in small ways from other two-teacher Rosenwald schools, Pine Grove closed in 1964 when the county desegregated its schools. More information . . .
The University of Virginia’s Campbell Hall, completed in 1970, illustrates Modern Movement design principles tempered by a regional interpretation, respectful of the campus’s outstanding historic architecture designed by Thomas Jefferson. Prominent architects Pietro Belluschi and Kenneth DeMay designed Campbell. More information . . .
The Christ and Grace Episcopal Church in Petersburg is a locally important example of Gothic Revival architecture. The church arose in two sections through two separate building campaigns, in 1925 and 1953. More information . . .
The Purnell Fleetwood House is a prominent landmark in the town of Waverly in Sussex County, important for its Queen Anne architecture and its namesake, the “father” of Waverly.
More information . . .
The Gardner House in Albemarle County, built in 1851, overlooking a hollow in the Blue Ridge Mountains, is a rare, finely crafted survivor. Constructed with three floors of living space, it is an unusual antebellum log cabin form. More information . . .
The Sylvania Plant Historic District is a 40-acre industrial campus in Spotsylvania County just south of Fredericksburg that features an intact collection of industrial and commercial buildings, warehouses, and other historic resources. Dating to 1929, it stood as a major employer in the area during the Great Depression of the 1930s. More information . . .
The Doctors Building in Danville consists of a three-story, brick-veneer building completed in 1957, followed in 1960 by a split-level, annex building. The International Style complex reflects its era’s abrupt architectural, medical, and social changes. More information . . .
Draper Historic District in Pulaski County encompasses 40 acres of a village that coalesced in the Draper Valley into a railroad depot community in the late 1800s, on Norfolk and Western Railroad’s Cripple Creek Extension, which is today a recreational trail. More information . . .
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.
Originally posted: December 17, 2019
Updated: December 23, 2020