The 2020 hurricane season has arrived. With the landfall of Hurricane/Tropical Storm Isaias, DHR reminds the public that we have a webpage of useful information for storm preparation and recovery. Stay safe!
DHR has a new published report in its Archaeological Research Report Series — The Nansemond Ghost Fleet: Archaeological Investigations of a Vessel Abandonment Area in Suffolk, Virginia (Report No. 24). This report results from an archaeological investigation funded by a 2019 Threatened Sites grant.
The Nansemond Ghost Fleet is a cluster of maritime resources in the Nansemond River and along its banks near downtown Suffolk. The site contains historic watercraft of various natures, foreshore components from industrial enterprises along the river, and a sheet midden of historic artifacts pertaining to the inhabitation and industrial background of Suffolk and historic Nansemond County. Vessel types archaeologists investigated include a planked double-ended craft, a likely crab scrape, a log-bottomed vessel, at least one bugeye, a possible buyboat, a scow schooner, barges, a small powered pleasure craft, and a number of unidentified watercraft. This assemblage is unique for the diversity of watercraft types and levels of preservation.
The next public meeting of the Commission for Historical Statues in the U.S. Capitol will convene remotely on August 7, 2020, starting at 9:30 a.m. For more information about the commission, and how to register to attend or speak during the meeting, visit this webpage.
As of July 1, localities may legally remove monuments.
DHR offers these guidelines to support the removal of monuments in a manner adhering to best preservation practices, one that will also allow for input from local officials and citizenry about the ultimate fate of each monument.
Additionally, Preservation Virginia convened an “interracial working group of Virginia preservation practitioners and scholars with varied backgrounds” to create a checklist of best practices to guide localities who are considering removal of war monuments and memorials.
—Markers cover topics in the counties of Campbell, Clarke, Dinwiddie, Fairfax, Fauquier (3), Greene, Hanover, King George, Louisa, Middlesex, Montgomery, New Kent (2), Nottoway, Orange, Prince Edward, Rockbridge, Rockingham, Scott, Shenandoah, and Smyth; and the cities of Danville, Harrisonburg, Lynchburg (2), Norfolk, Petersburg, Richmond (3), Roanoke (2), and Suffolk—
—Each marker’s complete text is reproduced toward the end of this post—
In June, the Virginia Board of Historic Resources approved 35 new historical markers covering a variety of topics. Twenty of the forthcoming markers highlight people, places, or events tied to African American civil rights, education, health, or Civil War and Reconstruction-era history, a grouping that Governor Ralph Northam announced in recognition of Juneteenth.
You may have read our recent post about scanning artifacts to document their condition and provide access to these objects for researchers, educators, and the public. DHR has employed a variety of techniques over the past several months to document larger objects as well, including a series of shipwrecks in Suffolk and the Robert E. Lee Monument in Richmond.
Our first foray into 3-D imaging of larger objects was conducted in Suffolk in the Fall of 2019. Supported by DHR’s Threatened Sites fund, archaeologists from the Longwood University Institute of Archaeology (IoA) and the St. Augustine Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program (LAMP) surveyed and documented 13 vessels submerged in the Nansemond River.
COVID-19 UPDATE: DHR is in Phase III of operations, as per Governor Northam’s guidance, under the Covid-19 pandemic. A major change to note is that our Archives will allow walk-ins only if there is an open appointment available. Meanwhile, guidance is literally changing daily, at times hourly, so DHR thanks the public (and our staff) for your patience as we continue our operations during this unprecedented time.
Please see our current Phase III Guidelines for staff and visitors. Many staff will work remotely during our hours of operation. Staff can be reached by email using this format: first name.last email@example.com. You can also check the staff directory for a phone number to leave a message.
DHR also requires visitors conducting business at DHR to answer questions on this Covid Prevention Questionnaire. Its purpose is to protect visitors, our staff, and to prevent the further spread of Covid-19.
—The American Battlefield Trust donated the easement on Rock Tract, affiliated with the Sept. 29, 1864 Civil War battle involving United States Colored Troops —
The American Battlefield Trust has conveyed to the Commonwealth of Virginia a preservation easement that protects 33.814 acres of land in Henrico County affiliated with the 1864 Civil War battle of New Market Heights (Chaffin’s Farm) and the actions of United States Colored Troops, the official name given to the Army’s African American soldiers.
The specific acreage now under easement, known as the Rock Tract, is significant for its association with African American military heritage and the contributions made by the USCT during the Civil War. Authorized by the U.S. government in 1862, the formation of the USCT played an important role in the victory of the Union Army at the end of the Civil War. In 1865, the U.S. government recognized the sacrifices of the USCT at New Market Heights by awarding Medals of Honor to 14 black soldiers for their individual acts of heroism during the battle. Read full text »
—New VLRs in the counties of Bath, Greene, Hanover, Madison, Page, Pittsylvania, Rockbridge, and Rockingham; and the cites of Lynchburg, Newport News, Norfolk, Roanoke, and Williamsburg—
A water-powered gristmill in the Blue Ridge Mountains, four places connected to African American history, and two barns are among 13 sites added to the Virginia Landmarks Register in June.
The VLR listings were approved during a quarterly meeting of the Virginia Board of Historic Resources. In a historic first, the Department of Historic Resources conducted the board’s public meeting remotely and online due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
2020 VBPF Grant Program Manual (pdf)
Revised June 11)
DHR is now accepting applications from organizations that seek to protect battlefield lands with the support of grants from the Virginia Battlefield Preservation Fund, which the agency administers.
The grants can be applied to protecting acreage affiliated with battles during the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, and the Civil War by either fee simple land purchases or protective easement purchases. DHR urges qualified organizations to apply for the grants. The deadline for applications is close of business on August 10.
In response to Governor Northam’s directive to remove the statue of Robert E. Lee on Richmond’s Monument Avenue, many individuals have contacted DHR to ask whether the monument’s designation on the Virginia Landmarks Register and the National Register of Historic Places may prevent or impede its removal.
The question touches on an important aspect of listing properties on the registers, a designation that many people wrongly assume automatically “protects” a property. In fact, designation of a historic site or district to the state and national registers is honorific. Register listing results in no special protection or requirements on what a property owner may do with a property. This is a key attribute of the historic registers, one set in place to protect the property rights of owners of listed historic properties. (Local codes that do place specified protections on historic registered properties, however, may overlay state and federal historic districts.)
Ask an Archaeologist:
The son of Sarah and James Reilly in Powhatan found the points shown in the photo at the top of this post and the family asked what DHR could tell them about the items. Sarah writes:
When we started building our house, we used a trencher to install a silt fence around the lower perimeter of the clearing, digging about 8 inches down in the process. We found three quartz points (Figures 1-a, -b, -c, and -d) in the debris dug out from the trench.
The fourth point, the gray one (Figure 1-d) was found on the surface after the clearing was made [and not] associated with the silt fence trench. . . . We know this entire area was plowed in the past.
Sarah also provided the general long and lat coordinates for the location. She also submitted two photos (below) of an intriguing rock they found.
The Department of Historic Resources has released a new book that features the texts and locations of more than 300 state historical markers highlighting people, places, and events important to African American and Virginia history, ranging from the colonial era through the civil rights movement.
Compiled by program staff at DHR, A Guidebook to Virginia’s African American Historical Markers sells for $12.95 and is available through local bookstores and online book retailers. It is also available from the University of Virginia Press (www.upress.virginia.edu), the book’s distributor.
DHR now has two newsletters: a DHR Quarterly Newsletter, and a newsletter for Register Program Updates. We invite you to subscribe to our newsletters. Once you have signed, you will receive an email asking you to confirm your subscription. Any questions or problems, please contact Randy Jones at DHR. We look forward to hearing from you and keeping you up to date with DHR’s register programs and other preservation news and Virginia history.