The Highway Marker Program identifies and documents Virginia’s significant historical persons, events, and places. Our focus is on educating the public and providing accurate historical information, rather than on honoring, memorializing, or commemorating individuals or events. These markers, placed along state highways and roads, serve as a valuable resource for residents and visitors alike, providing a deeper understanding of the state’s rich history and cultural heritage.
With their texts of black lettering against a silver background and their distinctive shape, Virginia’s state historical highway markers are hard to miss along the commonwealth’s roadways. There are now more than 2,500 of them erected in Virginia to highlight people, places, or events of regional, statewide, or national significance.
Virginia’s historical marker program is the oldest such program in the nation, beginning in 1927 when a handful of markers were erected along U.S. 1 between Richmond and Mount Vernon. Originally the Conservation and Economic Development Commission was tasked with creating historical markers. In 1949, the Virginia Department of Highways was assigned the responsibility for installing and maintaining new markers, and in 1950 the Virginia State Library took over researching and approving new makers.
In 1966, management of the highway markers was transferred to the newly created Virginia Landmarks Commission, the predecessor agency of the Department of Historic Resources. Today VDOT retains primary responsibility for installing new markers and maintaining existing ones. In this capacity, VDOT is a vital partner with DHR in managing the marker program.
See the links above for detailed information about various aspects of the marker program including how to sponsor a new marker or search our database for the location and text of a marker.
If you wish to sponsor a new highway marker, please read about the ApplicationProcess, where a PDF of the application for a new marker also is available.
If you wish to report a missing or damaged marker, please contact Jennifer R. Loux. When doing so, if at all possible, it is helpful to provide the name of the marker, the location, and when you first noticed the marker was missing or damaged.
If you have questions or need additional information, contact Jennifer R. Loux (804) 482-6089.
Please note: Removal of historical highway markers, which are property of the commonwealth, must be approved in advance by the Virginia Board of Historic Resources. Unauthorized removal or causing damage to historical highway markers is a Class 6 felony per the Code of Virginia § 18.2-137.
The formal process begins with submission to this department of an application packet. For more detailed information, see Application Process.
To qualify for a state historical marker, the topic must be about a person, place, event or institution that has statewide or national significance. To see whether a potential topic would be eligible for the marker program, see information about marker criteria by opening the marker application at the top of Marker Application process page.
There are several sources for lists of Virginia historical highway markers. If you follow the link External Database Search, it will take you to a page offering three options for searching Virginia’s highway markers online. Also, A Guidebook to Virginia’s Historical Markers, compiled by Scott Arnold and published in 2007, is available from most bookstores or directly from the University of Virginia Press.
To report a marker that is missing or damaged, please contact Jennifer Loux at 804-482-6089. Please, if possible, provide the title of the marker, the location, and when you noticed the marker was missing or damaged.
These represent the unique code assigned to each marker to identify it. When the marker program was created in the late 1920s, the letter on the sign usually referenced a specific road (for instance, the letter “E” was assigned to markers installed along U.S. Route 1) and the number differentiated each sign within a letter grouping. Today the department assigns an alpha-numeric code based on what letter is most prominently affixed on current signs in the region where a new marker is to be erected. The number given is the next available one. Please note, however, in a few cases during the history of the program, the same alpha-numeric code was mistakenly assigned to different signs.
There are more than 2,500 roadside markers that carry approved historical inscriptions, highlighting sites, individuals, buildings, and events of statewide or national interest.
Virginia historical highway markers are in most cases approximately 42-by-40 inches. The markers are painted silver and currently cast in aluminum with black lettering for the text, which appears on both sides of the sign. The signs also include each marker’s unique topic title and assigned alpha-numeric identification code; the Seal of the Commonwealth within an upside down equilateral triangle positioned at the top of the sign; and the following signature line along the bottom: “Department of Historic Resources, [and the year in which the marker was created].” Alternative signature lines on Virginia markers include the names of other agencies that once managed the program, specifically, the Department of Conservation and Historic Resources; the Virginia Historic Landmarks Commission; the Virginia State Library; and the Conservation & Development Commission.
Markers with the Z letter followed by a number at the top of the sign represent markers that are placed at a county or state line. Unlike other markers, each side of a Z marker has different texts–one side of the marker provides information on the jurisdiction a traveler is entering, while the other side gives information about the jurisdiction one is leaving. The 1948 edition of State Historical Markers of Virginia has a list of these signs and their locations. DHR hopes to be able to provide the public an updated list online of these marker locations in the future.
Historical societies or organizations, fraternal organizations, colleges and universities, local governments, private organizations, or individuals able to fund the marker can propose a new marker by submitting an application packet to DHR. Ultimately, a new marker must be presented to the Virginia Board of Historic Resources, the body authorized to approve all historical markers. Markers currently cost $3,000. In localities where VDOT does not maintain the roadways, there is an additional $400 charge for the post on which the marker is installed. In some jurisdictions, there may be additional costs associated with installation. For more information about nominating a new marker, see Application Process.
Historic resources listed on the Virginia Landmarks Register or the National Register of Historic Places may qualify for a historical marker only if the level of significance is regional, state or national. That is, listing on either the state or national register does not automatically qualify a site or building for a marker.
A house of worship may qualify for a state historical marker if it: (1) was founded in the colonial period, (2) was founded by African Americans in the Emancipation/Reconstruction era, (3) was the first of a denomination in a locality, or (4) presents significant architectural qualities. Most other houses of worship would more appropriately be noted on a local marker. Cemeteries should be listed on the state or national historic registers or be the final resting place of someone significant in state or national history.