Department of Historic Resources
For Immediate Release
May 30, 2019
Department of Historic Resources;
RICHMOND – The Virginia Department of Historic Resources (DHR) announces that Governor Ralph Northam has issued a proclamation declaring May Historic Preservation Month. The proclamation highlights DHR efforts to document fast-disappearing coastal archeological sites in the face of sea level rise, as well as broaden visibility of African Americans, women, Virginia Indians, and other minority groups in Virginia’s history through the state and federal historic registers and highway marker programs.
The proclamation is also the first official announcement of DHR’s forthcoming publication A Guide to Virginia’s African American Historical Markers. DHR anticipates the book will be available in August to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the first documented arrival in 1619 of Africans to Virginia and British North America.
The proclamation cites a legacy of preservation in Virginia, where the Virginia Historical Society, today’s Museum of Virginia History and Culture, was founded in 1831, and the first national preservation effort arose with formation of the Mount Vernon Ladies Association in the 1850s. In 1889, the Association to Preserve Virginia Antiquities (today’s Preservation Virginia) became one of the earliest private statewide preservation organizations in the nation. In the 1920s, Virginia also saw the earliest state historical highway marker program in the U.S.
In 1966, Virginia also established an innovative program to preserve historic sites with creation of the Virginia Outdoors Plan, which authorized the Virginia Board of Historic Resources to accept easement donations on historic sites listed in the Virginia Landmarks Register. The innovative program allowed the sites to remain in private ownership, while protecting them in perpetuity.
For the past decade, the Commonwealth has consistently ranked among the top tier states for the number of individual sites and historic districts it lists on the National Register of Historic Places.
Today heritage tourists in Virginia spend more than $7.7 billion annually, according to a 2017 study conducted by Virginia Commonwealth University. That yearly spending, plus more than $430 million spent by heritage tourism sites for operational expenditures, ripple throughout the state’s economy, giving an additional boost of $6.5 billion to the economy and generating $1.3 billion in taxes, according to VCU’s analysis.
Virginia’s early state historic rehabilitation tax credit (RTC) program, managed by DHR, also contributes significantly to the Commonwealth’s economy. A 2018 study, also conducted by VCU’s L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs, revealed that between 1997, the year the program began, and 2017, the $1.2 billion in tax credits the program issued to proponents of RTC projects stimulated $4.5 billion in private investment. Although the $1.2 billion in tax credits represents revenue not immediately realized by the Commonwealth, much of the $4.5 billion of private investment may not have otherwise occurred, according to that study.
The Governor also recognizes the role of archaeology in documenting the state’s underground historic resources, including through unique Threatened Sites funding and a training program to certify avocational archaeologists.
Read the full proclamation:
By virtue of the authority vested by the Constitution of Virginia
in the Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia, there is hereby officially recognized:
NATIONAL HISTORIC PRESERVATION MONTH 2019
WHEREAS, Virginians are justly proud of the Commonwealth’s rich, diverse history and a prehistory that extends into the past roughly 16,000 years (or more); and
WHEREAS, that legacy gave rise to one of the earliest state historical societies in 1831; the first national preservation movement in the 1850s; one of the earliest statewide private preservation organizations in 1889; the nation’s first historical highway marker program in 1927; and
WHEREAS that legacy also propelled creation of the Virginia Historic Landmarks Commission in 1966, predecessor of today’s Department of Historic Resources (DHR), and the Commonwealth’s innovative Preservation Easements and the Virginia Landmarks Register (VLR) that same year; and
WHEREAS, since 1966 property owners, local groups, and jurisdictions have partnered with DHR or its predecessor agencies to list more than 3,100 individual sites and nearly 600 districts on the VLR and the National Register of Historic (NRHP), with an emphasis in recent decades on listing sites associated with the history of Virginia Indians, African Americans, women, and other minorities, thereby highlighting the significant contributions these populations have made to the tapestry of the Commonwealth’s and the nation’s history; and
WHEREAS, since 1966, Virginia property owners have donated to the Commonwealth more than 600 easements, preserving more than 40,000 acres in Virginia affiliated with historic houses, buildings, archaeological sites, and battlefields, while keeping these lands in private ownership; and
WHEREAS, interest in the Commonwealth’s archaeology has resulted in its unique Threatened Sites program and an innovative certification program to train avocational archaeologists; annual and semi-annual fields schools co-sponsored by DHR, the Archeological Society of Virginia, and Council of Virginia Archaeologists, that attract dozens and dozens of volunteers annually—all initiatives that facilitate, in a race against time, investigations along Virginia’s extensive shorelines where sea level rise is obliterating prehistoric and Contact- and Colonial-era archaeology; and
WHEREAS, scholars, historians, archaeologists, and others routinely use DHR’s Archeological Collections of more than six million artifacts, and the DHR Conservation Lab to research Virginia history and prehistory; and
WHEREAS, heritage tourism adds more than $7.5 billion annually to Virginia’s economy, and tax credit rehabilitations of Virginia’s historic buildings has leveraged more than $4.5 billion in private investment, resulting in tens of thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in rehabilitation and post-rehabilitation spending rippling across the state’s economy; and
WHEREAS, it is important to celebrate all of Virginia’s history, especially in 2019, the 400th anniversary of the first representative legislative assembly in the New World, and, significantly, the arrival of the first recorded Africans to English North America, which DHR is commemorating with publication of A Guidebook to Virginia’s African American Historical Markers that reproduces the texts of more than 300 signs; now
THEREFORE, I, Ralph S. Northam, do hereby recognize May 2019, as NATIONAL HISTORIC PRESERVATION MONTH in our COMMONWEALTH OF VIRGINIA, and I call this observance to the attention of all our citizens.
Updated June 21, 2019