Virginia: Valley, Piedmont, Southside & Southwest

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Virginia is as much a state of mind as a set of geographical boundaries. Its western terrain encompasses dramatically beautiful mountaintops and scrubby lowlands, luxuriantly rich terrain, and rocky, almost untillable land. The green forests, rich loam, red clay, and sandy soil attracted waves of immigrants, newcomers almost as varied as the landscape. They came first to explore and trade and then to work, often to overwork, the land. The result in architecture is one of conservatism and rebellion, a region supremely proud of its history and, all too often, neglectful of its preservation.

Virginia's buildings are not just structures of wood, brick, and stone. They are visible responses to the adventure and challenge of the settlement and development of the commonwealth. The buildings are silent but eloquent witnesses to the lives led within and around them.


Today only scant traces of Native Americans hint at the poignant story of the dispossessed people who gave us such beautiful names as Roanoke, Shenandoah, and Powhatan. In the rivers, their stone fish traps (HR25) are among the few visual reminders of the Woodland Indians.

Archaeological remains, along with white people's accounts of Indian life, offer glimpses into the culture of Virginia's earliest inhabitants. One of the most detailed accounts was written by diarist John Fontaine in 1716. He described a Native American town with about 300 inhabitants from a number of Siouan-speaking tribes at Fort Christanna in today's Brunswick County:

The houses join all the one to the other and altogether make a circle. The walls of their houses are large pieces of timber, which are squared and being sharpened at the lower end, they are put above two feet in the ground and about seven feet above the ground. They laid them as close as they could the one to the other, and when these posts are all fixed after this manner then they make a sort of a roof with rafters and cover the house with oak or hickory bark, which they strip off in great flakes, and lay it so closely that no rain can come in. Some of their houses are covered in a circular manner which they do by getting long saplings and stick each end in the ground and cover them with bark, but there is none of the houses in this town so covered.1

Fontaine noted that their houses “had no other light than the door and the light that comes in from the hole in the top of the house, which is to let out the smoke.”2

At one time more than 50,000 Native Americans lived in Virginia on the coast and along rivers and streams.3 European immigration gradually pushed most Native Americans out of Virginia, leaving only a few small groups in isolated areas where they retained their traditions while assimilating with both white and black newcomers. Today, eight tribes are recognized by the commonwealth. The Monacan Ancestral Museum (AH6) at Bear Mountain is one locus of this early history.


In 1713 Lieutenant Governor Alexander Spotswood authorized the construction of Fort Christanna (BR12) as part of his plan to protect Virginia's southern frontier from Indian and French predations and to promote and regulate trade with friendly tribes, especially the lucrative fur trade. Fontaine described the completed fort and trading center in 1716 as “an enclosure of five sides, made only with pallisadoes, and instead of five bastions, there are five houses which defend the one the other—each side is about one hundred yards long.”4 This short-lived fort, built in 1714, was closed in 1718 because of continued hostilities. In 1720 Spotswood had the County of Brunswick formed and offered various enticements to settlers. These included money for building a church, courthouse, prison, pillory and stocks, as well as arms and ammunition to defend themselves, and no payment of public levies for ten years. A clause encouraging the immigration of “Foreign Protestants” seems intended for Scots-Irish, German, and Swiss Protestants of an orderly, Christian, and churchgoing nature.5 Migration into the vast, almost unpopulated wilderness on the southern boundary of the colony was slow even after a long-standing border quarrel with North Carolina was settled. Until 1732 no county government was organized. In 1738 inducements in the form of tax exemptions were offered and naturalization for alien settlers was facilitated. Initially, English settlers, often with a few slaves, came from nearby eastern counties, but by midcentury, Scots-Irish, Swiss, and a few Huguenots and Germans made their way into what became known as Southside.

As the population increased, new counties were created. The years between 1730 and the American Revolution saw the formation of twelve Southside counties as well as the river and harbor town of Petersburg that served as the export center for much of Southside.

To the northwest in upland Virginia, Governor Spotswood led in 1716 a small exploratory force, his “Knights of the Golden Horseshoe,” into the Valley of Virginia. Here, too, he recognized threats from French and Indian territorial claims. When Spotswood returned to Williamsburg, he left a small party of rangers who found a marked trail, the Warrior's Path traveled by the northern Iroquois to hunt and to war against the southern Catawba and the Cherokee. To tighten his alliance with the Iroquois League of Five Nations, in 1722 Spotswood initiated a meeting with them and the governors of New York and Pennsylvania. He addressed the sachems and warriors of the Five Nations: “[Y]ou often say that the covenant chain with Virginia is grown rusty and have urged of late years that some commissioners from that colony should be sent to this place to brighten the same.”6 He proposed allowing the Iroquois to continue traveling on the Warrior's Path if they agreed not to come east of the Blue Ridge or south of the Potomac River. With the presentation of gifts and generous servings of rum and brandy, his terms were agreed upon. After this agreement was reached, the Warrior's Path began its steady transformation into the Great Wagon Road from Philadelphia to Georgia.

Two decades later, the shadow of war between France and England grew darker, and dispossessed Native Americans were increasingly disruptive along Virginia's frontier. Again, the English made plans to draw their Indian allies closer. In 1744, at Lancaster, Pennsylvania, representatives of Virginia and Maryland, with Pennsylvanians brokering, met with the Iroquois, now expanded to the Six Nations. The resulting Treaty of Lancaster so successfully polished away rust on the chain of peace that the Iroquois remained allies during the hostilities with France. In the treaty, the Iroquois kept their right to travel peacefully on the path. In exchange for gifts, they agreed to move farther west and, as interpreted by Virginians, to cede the Ohio Valley and beyond. With this agreement, travel became somewhat safer and the Great Wagon Road led more and more settlers from Pennsylvania into the Valley of Virginia and south through today's Roanoke, Franklin, and Henry counties (approximately today's U.S. 11 and U.S. 220) to North Carolina.

Traffic on the Great Wagon Road was such that by mid-century, William Ingles was officially appointed to ferry travelers across the New River at what is now Radford. The way was nevertheless hard and at times torturous. In the fall of 1753 a company of Moravian Single Brothers from Pennsylvania traveling with a wagon and supplies along the Great Wagon Road to North Carolina found the northern part of their journey relatively smooth. Then they came to Augusta Court House (Staunton): “[A] little village of some twenty houses, surrounded with hills. This whole section is settled by Irish [Scots-Irish] and English. The road forks here,—that to the right goes to Carolina. Immediately beyond Augusti Court House the bad road began, it was up hill and down and we had constantly to push the wagon or hold it back by ropes that we fastened in the rear.”7

In the eighteenth century, German and Swiss Protestants and Scots-Irish immigrated to Pennsylvania with the promise of religious freedom and inexpensive land. Soon the sheer numbers of these immigrants eroded their initial welcome into Pennsylvania. At the same time, because Virginia's governors wanted settlers to edge their frontiers and push forward their territorial ambitions, they gave large land grants to speculators who could then offer cheap land in the Valley of Virginia. The most spectacular tract was Lord Fairfax's five-million-acre Northern Neck Proprietary based near White Post in Clarke County, which included much of the northern Shenandoah Valley. Robert “King” Carter, as an agent for the Fairfax Grant, was able to acquire about fifty thousand acres covering most of today's Clarke County.

South of Fairfax's holdings, German immigrants managed to get hefty parcels of land from the government. The Germans and Swiss, who often banded together in communal groups, tended to take up land in the northern Shenandoah Valley, though the settlement pattern was not uniform. The largely English-speaking settlement of Clarke faced the mainly German-speaking population of neighboring Frederick County, though even in German settlements were some Anglicans, Quakers, and French Huguenots. Scots-Irish generally moved farther south and tended to settle on land held by their countryman William Beverley, who in 1736 was granted one hundred thousand acres in the southern Shenandoah Valley, covering much of Augusta County. Others moved yet farther south into Benjamin Borden's tract of 1739 with its ninety thousand acres in the area of Rockbridge County. So many Scots-Irish came that the southern Valley was known as the Irish Tract.

To the south and west, the James River and Roanoke Grant of one hundred thousand acres opened up more land. Other relatively large grants of land included William Randolph's, John Harmer's, and Walter King's twenty-four thousand acres on the branches of the Roanoke River beginning at Chestnut Knob in Henry County and extending north under the Blue Ridge. In the Piedmont, settlers were arriving in a steady stream by the mid-eighteenth century.

Speculators were also granted great tracts of land in the western part of Virginia. In 1745 the Wood's River Company under Ulster-born Colonel James Patton acquired a grant of one hundred thousand acres on the waters of the Clinch, Holston, and New (earlier called Wood's) rivers. In 1749 another large grant was issued. The Loyal Land Company was authorized to survey and open up eight hundred thousand acres of land to settle families on the “western waters” beyond the Allegheny Mountains. With a small band of men, physician and explorer Thomas Walker of Albemarle County, a leader in the Loyal Land Company, explored the area and the “big gap” (Cumberland Gap) in the mountains leading to the rich Kentucky and Tennessee lands. But settlement of the land that today constitutes the southwestern corner of Virginia was delayed by the impact of the French and Indian War.


By 1752 skirmishes in the Ohio Valley, the territory claimed by Virginia on the basis of her charter of 1609, had increased to alarming proportions. The year 1754 saw the beginning of the bloody French and Indian War. With the defeat of British general Edward Braddock near Fort Duquesne at the forks of the Ohio River, the Indian allies of the French, in large part the Shawnee, attacked the frontier from Pennsylvania to North Carolina. The Draper's Meadow massacre of 1755 in present-day Montgomery County claimed four lives, including that of Colonel James Patton. Five other people were captured, including Mary Draper Ingles, who managed to escape and scrambled through hundreds of miles of wilderness to make her way home.8

The summer of 1756 saw an attack by the Shawnee, led by a French officer, on Fort Vause in present-day Montgomery County. The same year, an act was passed to construct a chain of forts from Maryland to North Carolina and Colonel George Washington was put in charge. Fort Trial in today's Henry County was described by Scotsman John F. D. Smythe, who came upon it in 1774:

[I]t resembled a quadrangular polygon, inclosed with large timber and cuts of trees split in two, about twelve or sixteen feet high above the ground, standing erect, and about three or four feet in the ground and quite close together, with loop-holes cut through about four or five feet from the ground for small arms. There was something like a bastian at each angle, which however could scarcely be said to flank the curtains; and a log-house, musket proof, on each side of the gate. Within the area, nearly in the center, was a common house framed and boarded, filled up to the height of six feet with stones and clay on the inside, as a defense against small arms.9

In his fall 1756 inspection tour along the Great Wagon Road of these quickly constructed forts with their varying configurations, Washington reported that “the bad regulation of the militia, the disorderly proceedings of the garrison, and the unhappy circumstances of the inhabitants . . . so affected with approaching ruin, that the whole back country is in a general motion towards the southern colonies.”10

In March and April 1758, nearly fifty German captives were taken in the Valley, further precipitating the general exodus. A few months later, the Cherokee and other southern tribes, lured to Winchester in the hope that they would aid in the coming attack on Fort Duquesne, became restless with the Europeans' endless preparations and their own privations. These dubious allies streamed back to their southern lands, leaving behind a trail along the Great Wagon Road of robberies and death.

Later in the year Fort Duquesne was captured, ending French expansion into the Ohio Valley but not putting an end to occasional skirmishes with Native Americans. Washington's forts, even if not well organized, provided some protection for the vulnerable settlers, and communities such as Winchester, Harrisonburg, Staunton, Lexington, Fincastle, Big Lick (later Roanoke), and Rocky Mount began building up along the Great Wagon Road. These communities supplied necessities for travelers and residents, and as the eighteenth century progressed, blacksmiths, wagon makers, house-joiners, storekeepers, and tavern owners began lining the road.

Settlement of Southwest Virginia, delayed by the years of conflict with the French and Indians, was further stymied by the terms of the 1763 Treaty of Paris ending the war. By its decree, settlements and grants were forbidden beyond the crest of the Appalachians, raising a great furor among speculators and veterans of the war who had been promised western lands. The lull was designed to give the government time to settle the territorial claims of Native Americans in hopes of avoiding further hostilities. Their claims were addressed in 1768 by the Treaty of Hard Labor with the southern Cherokee and by the Treaty of Fort Stanwix with the northern Iroquois. These treaties essentially ceded to the British all the land in Kentucky and West Virginia.

Hard on the heels of these agreements came the push for a road leading through Southwest Virginia and on to Kentucky and Tennessee. Daniel Boone and his crew were hired to carve just such a road through the Cumberland Gap, Thomas Walker's “big gap.” They started at a crossing of the Great Wagon Road at Fort Chiswell, established in 1760 to protect settlers and, especially, John Chiswell's nearby lead mines. From these mines a road of sorts ran east through central Virginia to Richmond. By 1775 Boone's company had chopped a rough path through the Cumberland Gap to Kentucky. This east-west Wilderness Road, a spur of the Great Wagon Road, passed through Southwest Virginia, providing a major migration route into the area. Tracts were sold to German, Scots-Irish, and British settlers. The towns of Christiansburg, Wytheville, and Abingdon grew up as major stops along the way.

At the conclusion of the French and Indian War, Britain was shouldering an enormous war debt and felt that the colonists should help with this burden, especially since much of it had been incurred defending their territory. Unfortunately, the colonists were also stuck with heavy debts and saw no real end to their Indian troubles. The close of this war was effectively, if not officially, the beginning of the American Revolution. After the American colonists declared their independence in 1776, the western frontier was again on fire. The Cherokee, whom the British convinced to be their ally, hoped to drive the colonists east of the Appalachians. Following fierce struggles in the Ohio and Mississippi valleys by George Rogers Clark and his men, the colonists were able to hold on to their land west of the Appalachians. With the end of the Revolution, Indian raids subsided. As more immigrants began the long trek down the Great Wagon Road, the rough cabins of settlers took the place of the bark cabins, wooden leantos, and tents of explorers, traders, and land agents.


Where settlement occurred it was typically at the subsistence level and buildings were small and rudimentary, using indigenous materials such as wood and fieldstone. Log construction, characteristic of early dwellings and outbuildings in the Valley, Highlands, Piedmont, and Southwest, was less expensive than frame and provided better insulation. These small log buildings often had stone foundations, and in the case of houses, low ceilings and doorways, minimal window openings, and wood or stone chimneys. A dwelling of one rectangular log enclosure could be expanded by adding an adjacent pen with exterior chimneys on each end of the house. Alternately, a saddlebag cabin had two pens warmed by a central chimney, and a dogtrot consisted of two pens under one roof separated by a central breezeway.

The inexpensive and satisfactory nature of these house plans gave them long life. In 1815 Thomas Jefferson sent a letter to a potential overseer for his Poplar Forest plantation (BD26). Jefferson proposed housing him in an existing one-room house with a loft to which he could add “[a]nother room with a passage between [that] can quickly be added of hewn logs as is usual in that country, plaistered, with windows, stone chimney, etc.”11 Few examples survive in their original form, but many dogtrots exist at the core of later buildings or as subsidiary wings or ells. When the breezeway is enclosed and the entire house weatherboarded, dogtrots appear as center-passage houses.

Many early churches, prisons, stores, and courthouses also were log-bodied. In 1778, the Henry County justices ordered:

[T]he Building [of] a Courthouse, Prison Stocks and Pillory to [be contracted to] the lowest Biders. . . . That the said Prison be built twenty feet by Sixteen with double logs 12 Inches Square, a Chimney in the Midle of brick or Stone a fire place in each room, Shingled Roof the joyst to be covered with loggs 12 Inches square, a Window in each Room with Iron Grates & double doors with Substancial locks. Also the Courthouse to be built, twenty four by twenty feet with hewed or sawed Loggs Ten feet pitch with a boarded roof. Planked above and below with a pair of Steps and a Barr and Benches with a Window in each side and a Door in each side.12

In the northern Shenandoah Valley, German and Swiss settlers constructed some remarkably strong houses. Their carefully crafted structures not only provided comfortable living but also afforded protection during Indian troubles. One of the earliest of these two-story structures is the mid-eighteenth-century Fort Egypt (PG12). This massive two-story house with dovetailed log notching, central chimney, vaulted cellar, and hillside siting is characteristic of German vernacular building practices. But German traditions were soon modified by Anglo-American practices, notably in the use of end rather than central chimneys. The longest holdouts against assimilation were decorative interior painting and motifs, which were used in the Valley and beyond well into the mid-nineteenth century.

The Valley's German settlers worked their small farms, producing wheat, corn, and other grains, flax and hemp for fiber, vegetables, and orchards providing apples for cider and brandy. These crops were also grown in the rest of upland Virginia but generally not so successfully. In the rugged and beautiful Highlands, when settlement did occur, it was typically at the subsistence level. Not until the early nineteenth century did some large plantations begin to develop in the region's valleys.

In the Piedmont, some of the land is mountainous and rocky, but its lowlands were suitable for the cultivation of tobacco and, thus, the plantation system. Thomas Jefferson noted that “[i]n Bedford I have two plantations . . . where I cultivate both tobacco and wheat. In point of soil, climate, and a substantial thrift and good neighborhood I think it the finest part of Virginia.”13

Southwest Virginia, with some notable exceptions along the bottomlands of major waterways, is mountainous, and with its poor soils was unsuitable for large-scale plantations like those that developed in the Piedmont. Diversified farming for local consumption was the most common agricultural venture. Some farmers cultivated high-value crops such as hemp or flax and raised livestock that could be driven on the hoof to market. This region's earliest architecturally refined buildings, such as Smithfield (MO18), typically date from the last quarter of the eighteenth century and were usually detailed in a restrained Georgian manner.

Early settlement in the southern frontier of Southside was hardscrabble. The sparse settlement in Southside during the early eighteenth century has left few architectural traces. Most settlers built frame dwellings, some with wall posts or sills set directly into the ground. Many settlers had only one all-purpose room where members of the household worked, dined, socialized, slept, and, in some cases, cooked. These single-room houses, such as the c. 1770 section of Chesterfield County's Perkinson House (CS8), remained a prominent feature of the Virginia landscape for many decades. In Southside, log construction, especially for housing, was utilized far less frequently than in upland Virginia. Well into the nineteenth century, Southside favored houses of frame as the area's building material of choice.


From the mid-eighteenth century, Southside and Piedmont Virginians were intoxicated with feverish hopes of tobacco money. In 1754 Peter Fontaine Jr., surveyor of Halifax County, wrote:

It seems quite necessary to lay most stress on that stinking, and, in itself, useless weed, tobacco, as our staple commodity, which is the reason that all other more useful trades and occupations are neglected, or professed by such as are not above half qualified for them; and every Virginia tradesman must be at least half a planter and of course not to be depended up as a tradesman.14

Today, because of its association with slavery, the word “plantation” has a pejorative meaning. But originally it simply meant putting plants in the ground to grow or, by extension, establishing a colony. In time, it became a word defining a farm that had a primary crop, such as tobacco or cotton, and used slave labor to cultivate it.

Initially, poor transportation, especially in the southern part of Southside, was a major hindrance to economic development. The southern waterways lead into the shallow Albemarle Sound of North Carolina, but tobacco for export had to be conveyed to an inspection station in the Petersburg or Richmond area. On the early roads, which were more like trails, tobacco was hauled in huge hogsheads that were either loaded in wagons or attached to shafts hitched to horses and rolled. Roads were gradually cleared from Martinsville through Halifax Court House and from Lynchburg through Powhatan to Richmond. If instead of these rough paths a planter chose to use the rocky, shallow Appomattox River that led to Petersburg, he could float his hogsheads on dugout canoes, either singly or lashed together in tandem. By 1776 one-third of all North American exported tobacco passed through the bustling town of Petersburg. Slowly the economic position of Tidewater planters deteriorated and those in Southside and the Piedmont improved.

By the end of the eighteenth century, roads that earlier had been little more than paths had developed into a system of rough post-roads. Usually these were also stage routes and the contractor who carried the mail also transported passengers. By 1800, stagecoach services regularly delivered mail to larger villages. Stagecoaches also brought passengers into the scenic Highlands for visits to the spa resorts at the thermal and mineral springs, providing a major source of income for the region.

In 1816 Virginia's Board of Public Works was founded to supervise internal improvements of transportation needs and routes. From 1823 to 1843, the board's principal engineer and surveyor, Claudius Crozet, pushed hard and effectively for improved transportation.15 When only the localities were in charge of roadways, loud complaints were sounded. Although the roads were improved, many of them were still almost impassable in bad weather and consequently turnpikes were financed. Communities grew up at crossroads and along the turnpikes, with taverns, livery stables, repair shops, churches, stores, mills, and distilleries, and turnpikes in the Shenandoah Valley enabled farmers to sell their produce. Rivers were cleared and by midcentury the James River and Kanawha Canal system reached as far as Buchanan in Botetourt County. River port towns such as Cartersville in Cumberland County were centers of activity. Great flat-bottomed barges shuttled back and forth on the James River for a time, but their days were numbered. The canal, which often fell victim to rampaging floodwaters, never made it to the Kanawha River. Its progress was halted at Buchanan by the arrival of railroads pushing past the canal and on into West Virginia.

Transportation was key to enabling entrepreneurs to exploit the region's natural resources—principally lead, iron ore, coal, lumber, limestone, soapstone, and slate. The challenge of transporting these land-locked riches to markets was a principal factor in the establishment of water, rail, and road networks. An early rough-hewn road through central Virginia made it possible for the lead mines in Wythe County to supply essential ammunition for frontiersmen, as well soldiers in the French and Indian War, the Revolution, and the Civil War. But such heavy-weight materials as Buckingham slate in Arvonia, although quarried in the mid-eighteenth century, could not be fully exploited until canal and rail transport were able to deliver it to buyers. And the immense coalfields of Southwest Virginia lay undisturbed until the arrival of railroads.

With improved transportation and the advanced agricultural practices of Virginia's agronomist Edmund Ruffin and inventor Cyrus McCormick, who developed the mechanical reaper, farmers could produce better crops, market them, and amass capital. A system of state banking with local branches was developed after the War of 1812. With these resources, the large plantation run by an extended family using a large workforce of enslaved workers was created. These nearly self-sufficient communities could grow tobacco or other commodities for sale and produce most of their own food and the wool, flax, hemp, and cotton for clothes. And from the profits, they could hire tutors to educate their children. Often, these holdings included a water-powered gristmill and a sawmill, as well as a blacksmith shop. This type of communal life promoted an aristocratic, or at least an autocratic, society as opposed to a democratic one. Samuel Pannill, who owned Green Hill (CP9) in Campbell County, one of the most intact large plantations in Southside, was also head of the Roanoke Navigation Company, which was developed in large part to transport his plantation's produce.


County seats often were the principal urban centers. Typically located at an important crossroad, usually at an existing village site, the county seat included the courthouse and associated government buildings, taverns, doctors, tradesmen, and artisans. As soon as the improved finances of the early nineteenth century produced sufficient revenues, first frame and then stone or brick courthouses replaced log buildings. Courthouses, the embodiment of county pride, are among the finest of the commonwealth's architectural offerings. In the Valley and far Southwest, courthouses generally were built of stone; other areas chose brick. Thomas Jefferson and the builders who learned from him, and subsequently taught others, were major forces in the design of Virginia's brick courthouses. In several Southside county seats, for example Lunenburg (LU1), these builders constructed handsome temple-form courthouses that served as models for Virginia courthouses in future decades. The builders who worked at Jefferson's University of Virginia also constructed a number of two-story arcaded Roman Revival courthouses in such counties as Sussex (SU1) and Page (PG1). And Jefferson's predilection for multipart structures reached as far west as Craig County (CG1) in the Highlands and to Grayson (GY1) in the Southwest. During these decades, Frederick (FR1) and Powhatan (PO1) counties and the town of Petersburg (DW8) were exceptional in that they commissioned out-of-state architects to design their courthouses.

In Southside, where even the wealthy usually built one-and-a-half-story wooden houses, courthouse builders helped popularize brick construction for the more well-to-do. Dabney Cosby moved to Buckingham Court House to build the courthouse (burned 1869) and is no doubt responsible for many of the brick buildings that line the town's center. Although the typical houses in many regions continued to be modest, wealthier families in town and rural settings were building large hall-parlor and center-passage houses of brick, stone, or wood. By 1820 Petersburg had blocks of handsome Federal commercial buildings, generally three stories high with a commercial first floor, storage in the cellar, and well-appointed living quarters on the upper floors. In a letter of 1817 to Benjamin Latrobe, Thomas Jefferson commented on the beautiful brickwork he saw in Lynchburg.16 These fashionable buildings had the Federal style's symmetrical facades, steep roofs, and delicate moldings. The federal-era fascination with geometric forms was exhibited in a number of intricately constructed Virginia houses, but nowhere more successfully than at Jefferson's retreat at Poplar Forest (BD26).

Despite Jefferson's influence, house builders continued to take their details from builders' guides. The most popular ones were by William Pain, Owen Biddle, and Asher Benjamin. Small towns sometimes tended to favor a particular feature, such as parapeted ends or corbeled brick cornices. During the first decades of the nineteenth century, elaborate molded brick cornices often were used in the Valley and the Piedmont. Such cornices are not illustrated in builders' guides but belong to a tradition dating back to the seventeenth century or earlier. Buildings in rural locations were usually quite modest. The gristmill was often an important commercial and social hub, and nowhere more so than in the fertile Shenandoah Valley. Housing for slaves on plantations was varied but frequently consisted of a log or frame two-room structure that accommodated two families sharing one central chimney and each having one room and a loft.

The 1830s to the early 1850s were years of relative prosperity for agrarian Virginia and paralleled the high point of Greek Revival. Builders and patrons were quick to adopt the style, and it was so completely embraced that it remained the preferred mode for new construction for decades. Greek Revival houses, even impressive mansions, are relatively plentiful, but nowhere in Virginia are there the great colonnaded Greek Revival mansions associated with the Deep South. Only Berry Hill (HX22) in Halifax County comes close. Asher Benjamin's books supplied details for Greek Revival buildings constructed by a new generation of master builders and masons. In Roanoke County and the surrounding area, the Deyerle brothers—Joseph, Benjamin, and David—and Joseph's son, James C., were the preeminent builders. Designs by Benjamin and David often had three, instead of the more usual one or two, different brick bonds, and Benjamin, especially, favored corner pilasters on his more important buildings.17 They, like Henry Dillon in Floyd, were only a few of the many builders who drew heavily from these publications.

For churches, the familiar rectangular box was the basis of the simple brick gable-end buildings of the Federal period. During that era, the plain preaching halls of some Protestant denominations featured two front doors; sometimes men used one entrance and women the other. Doors on side elevations or inside vestibules generally led to a gallery, sometimes set aside for slaves. While the designs for most churches were drawn from pattern books, only such prosperous congregations as the Presbyterian ones in Petersburg (DW29) and Lexington (RB8) could call such a noted Philadelphia architect as Thomas U. Walter to create their impressive churches.

In rural areas, small frame or log schools, usually one room, were built with public funding or with private funds to provide education, primarily for white boys. The establishment of Virginia's Literary Fund in 1810 brought increased educational opportunities to the region. The state was still not willing, or perhaps able, to fund higher education but did encourage the establishment of academies and classical schools where Latin and sometimes Greek were taught. At the few coeducational schools, girls usually studied French instead of the classical languages. These schools, and sometimes churches, were allowed to raise money through lotteries. In this way, the New London Academy (BD30) in Bedford County was established for boys. Several schools that were founded in the eighteenth century, notably what is now Washington and Lee University (RB16), expanded early in the nineteenth with new building campaigns. Religious organizations were often leaders in supporting higher education. The Presbyterians, for example, founded Hampden-Sydney College (PE17), the Methodists established Emory and Henry (WS17), and the Lutherans launched Roanoke College (RK3). The national movement to provide higher education for women spurred the Methodists in 1837 to establish Buckingham Female Collegiate Institute (BU9), the first chartered college for women in Virginia, and the Presbyterians founded Augusta Female Seminary (AU18; now Mary Baldwin College).

The progressive aspirations of the era also included humane and well-managed conditions for those in unfortunate conditions. In 1823 Thomas Jefferson prepared the plan for a model jail that was built later in Nelson County (NE2). Here the jailor was housed nearby. But from the first half of the nineteenth century, jailors and their families were frequently housed in the same building, as at Lexington's Old Rockbridge County Jail (RB2).

This era of moral management saw the construction in the 1820s of the Western State Lunatic Asylum in Staunton (AU27), which is one of Virginia's finest Greek Revival buildings. The grandeur and costly craftsmanship of the institution reflect the civic pride taken in providing for the mentally ill. A few blocks away, the Virginia School for the Deaf and the Blind (AU16) rode the same high tide of grand design and careful workmanship. The medicinal springs of Virginia also began to play an increasingly important part in the health of her citizens and an even more influential one as a social and business network. Many of the most frequented springs were in the Highlands, where they became a mainstay of the economy, but small ones served many localities in the other upland sections.

The mid-nineteenth century heralded a period when the region's architecture became influenced by connections to urban style centers and to the sentiments and love of nature, as expressed in the several books by A. J. Downing and Alexander Jackson Davis. The illustrations in their books of picturesque Italianate and Gothic Revival cottages and country houses were carefully copied by some builders, while others used only details. New manufacturing processes and tools helped facilitate construction of these more elaborate buildings. Davis was the architect of Belmead (PO15), one of the nation's most noted Gothic Revival houses, and he also designed the campus of Virginia Military Institute (RB18), the first entirely Gothic Revival campus in America. For a major commission, Davis visited the site, but he also sold mail-order designs, such as that for Sharswood (PI22) in Pittsylvania County. In some areas, such sophisticated architectural modes as the Italian Villa took hold, as is evident at Eureka (MC13) in Mecklenburg County.

Yet, in general, Virginia's standard, plain, rectangular house was still favored by most, though it might acquire a few curlicues that made a nod to the new romantic styles. When Gothic Revival was employed for churches, the decorative details were handled with sufficient restraint to allow the underlying traditional forms to dominate. Not until the 1840s did the scholarly message of the English Ecclesiological Society make its way to America. Their adherence to the medieval English parish church as the model for Episcopal churches was never followed strictly in the South.


For many plantation owners, the mid-nineteenth century was a good time and they were thriving. Tobacco was selling well and the fertile soil in the Shenandoah Valley made it the breadbasket of the region. The Valley also became the garden spot of the Confederacy. But the days of slave-owning plantation life were soon to be over. The Civil War brought economic disaster to Virginia, especially to the Valley and Southside, where many of the fiercest battles were fought. At the war's close, the old economy was wrecked and Virginia's workforce decimated by death and war wounds. Cities like Petersburg and Abingdon were in ruins, and the great barns of the Valley destroyed. Virginia Military Institute was burned and depot towns, bridges, and iron furnaces, the vital links in the Confederate supply system, were particularly hard-hit. Most large plantations were broken up and replaced by smaller farmsteads, often with tenant farmers and sharecroppers. With the abolition of slavery, many younger African American farm workers headed for towns and cities, often making their way to the North or West. To fill the labor shortage, Virginia officials encouraged the immigration of foreign-born laborers.

In towns and urban areas during the turbulent post-Civil War years, businesspeople found a way to rebuild. Some communities were revitalized by attracting workers and entrepreneurs from Northern and Midwestern states. Some bought cheap real estate and developed it. In Chase City, for example, this was accomplished with the help of such architect-builders as Jacob Holt, who also remodeled Shadow Lawn (MC18) for developer George Endly. A more flamboyant notice of postwar business success is the richly decorated house of businessman Joshua Wilton (RH10), who moved from Canada to Harrisonburg shortly after the Civil War.

By 1879, agricultural production was strong enough to warrant the construction of Petersburg's large City Market (DW15) for the sale of produce. In Southside and southern Piedmont, the brisk sale of tobacco helped fuel a revival of the economy and towns such as Farmville and Lynchburg flourished as tobacco processing and distribution centers. The size of their huge brick warehouses bear witness to the many tons of tobacco that passed through them. Tobacco money, especially in Danville, helped finance the “cotton mill fever” of the 1880s. Far Southwest Virginia produced a number of wealthy families who had large tracts of land and acquired commercial, banking, and mining interests that financed their large houses, frequently built on isolated hilltops.

Hard as these times were for many people, they brought with them new freedoms for African Americans and more educational opportunities for both races. The constitution of 1869 provided for a statewide system of universal elementary education, and for the first time, black and white, female and male, were included. Many neighborhood schools, still largely one-room frame or log structures, were erected for the increased number of students. From 1865 to 1870, Freedmen's Bureau agents helped found schools for African Americans, sometimes constructing small frame buildings, sometimes using churches or other existing structures. These modest beginnings often planted seeds for the future. Most important, one of the first state-supported colleges for African Americans in the nation, Virginia Normal and Collegiate Institute (CS7), now Virginia State University (VSU), was chartered in 1882 as a land grant school. These colleges were in large part established by the federal government to promote agricultural development and the mechanical arts. Although it is no longer standing, the size and careful design by Petersburg architect Harrison Waite of Virginia Hall, VSU's first building, was a testament to the strength of Petersburg's William Mahone, a leader in the Readjuster Party. This mixed group of Republicans, blacks, and poor farmers had control of the state government for a few years in the 1880s and managed to adjust downward the state's debt for the canals, roads, and railroads financed in the prewar years and to establish more educational opportunities for Virginia's students, white and black. In the 1880s, the conservative Democrats regained control of the state, which they held until the 1960s when, under the pressure of the civil rights movement, cracks in their organization began to form.

Other educational institutions for minorities had backing from Northern philanthropists. In Powhatan County, two nationally important Catholic schools were established in the late nineteenth century. St. Emma's Industrial and Agricultural Institute (PO15) at Belmead graduated an estimated 10,000 young black men from all over the country. On adjacent property, St. Francis de Sales High School (PO16) served thousands of African American and Indian young women.

The era also heralded educational advances for the white majority. In 1872, the state's first land grant college, the Virginia Agricultural and Mechanical College (MO17; now Virginia Tech), was founded in Blacksburg to teach agricultural, mechanical, and industrial arts. When universal elementary education was decreed, its implementation demanded a raft of new teachers. In response, Virginia expanded Farmville Female Seminary (PE7; now Longwood University) in 1884 to create the first publicly supported training school for white teachers.

By the end of Reconstruction in 1877, most African Americans had withdrawn from churches dominated by whites and had formed their own. Most of these were built of wood and were relatively simple, especially in rural areas. In towns and more affluent neighborhoods, stylish churches were constructed, especially for mainline Protestant white congregations. By the end of the century, the different denominations were showing greater variation in the design of their buildings. While Episcopalians were more likely to adhere to the Gothicism advocated by the Ecclesiological Society, Presbyterian churches tended toward a greater simplicity, but Methodist churches were often rich in decoration.


As railroad lines branched farther west, they tolled a death knell for prosperity in many river port towns. Along with the expanding web of rail lines came land and development companies that usually were owned by backers of the railroad and often were monied Northerners. By the early 1890s, the railroads had sparked the development of several boomtowns. Buena Vista grew following the arrival of the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad, as did the towns of Roanoke and Radford with the Norfolk and Western Railway. Railroads enabled the transportation of coal from the vast fields of western Virginia, weighty slates for roofing, iron building components, and timber from the forests. This generated new regional and industrial centers. Pocahontas in Tazewell County, the first and largest of Southwest Virginia's mining towns, went up almost overnight.

The railroad and development companies laid out blocks of streets for the new towns and often hired prominent architects from other states to design buildings and houses. The employment of such architects from Philadelphia as Frank Miles Day, T. Roney Williamson, and George T. Pearson was largely because many financial backers of the railroads and coal mines were from Pennsylvania. Development companies also built large fashionable hotels designed by nationally known architects, most notably the Hotel Roanoke (RK29) of 1882 by Pearson. These hotels were supplemented by modest lodgings constructed close by the rail lines to serve railroad workers and travelers of more limited means. Small frame passenger and freight depots were built along the lines and more elaborate stations in regional hubs.

Pattern books and magazines helped influence construction methods and architectural styles in the great burst of building and rebuilding that took place in those localities that prospered after the Civil War. Balloon-frame construction replaced the more expensive, traditional heavy timber framing. This cheaper and lighter method of building facilitated the construction of large numbers of houses, including the Queen Anne flights of fancy found all around Virginia.

For commercial structures, the widespread use of cast iron and other metals revolutionized building practices. In the 1850s Ammi B. Young's U.S. Custom House and Post Office (DW30) in Petersburg was probably the first building in this part of Virginia that had iron structural members. It was only after the Civil War that iron fronts and pressed-metal components became popular in the region. Mesker Brothers of St. Louis and George L. Mesker and Company of Evansville, Indiana, were particularly successful in selling their products in Southside and Southwest Virginia. Design books and catalogues, with illustrations, plans, and architectural details, supplemented with advertisements for hardware, balusters, brackets, mantels, and columns, found favor with the public. The availability of these elements as well as the new prosperity in some communities led to late-nineteenth-century commercial buildings with fanciful fronts, such as the former Planters and Merchants Bank (HX11) in the tobacco town of South Boston.


Economic depressions, especially the Panic of 1893, stopped progress cold in some boomtowns, though many, including Roanoke on the Norfolk and Western Railway, remained regional hubs. The wild enthusiasm and speculation of the days before the panic were dashed. If some of the nineteenth-century exuberance was waning, new vigor was introduced with Romanesque Revival, which made an occasional appearance in the region around the 1890s, mostly for churches and jails. The 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago, with its gleaming white architecture modeled on the orderly classicism espoused by the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris, had considerable influence on Virginia's architects. Many of the area's classically designed banks, especially those in small towns, are their community's finest commercial buildings. Even in larger cities, banks were usually the most elaborate and costly buildings in the downtown area.

Despite the dramatic changes in post-Civil War architecture, the courthouses of Virginia remained bastions of conservatism. Until the end of the nineteenth century, most courthouse designs still followed—to one degree or another—in the steps of Thomas Jefferson. From the 1890s some courthouse designers adopted one of the new national stylistic trends. Rockbridge County's (RB1) is Renaissance Revival and the Pulaski courthouse (PU1) is Romanesque Revival. In Staunton, T. J. Collins and Son's bold Augusta County Courthouse (AU1) combined a variety of materials in a Beaux-Arts Classical design, and Charles M. Robinson produced a Classical Revival courthouse (AL1) for Alleghany County. The stage was set for a return to the classical courthouse, a revival that lasted through the 1930s.

Local architects prospered and often left strong marks on their cities. While the courthouses of Collins of Staunton and H. H. Huggins of Roanoke were important milestones in their careers, both designed all types and styles of buildings in their regions, as did Robert C. Burkholder in Lynchburg and Harrison Waite in Petersburg. The prolific and peripatetic Frank P. Milburn, working in a variety of styles, designed several courthouses for newly affluent Southwest Virginia.

In residential design, Virginia's architects had strong competition from George F. Barber, who, from his office in Knoxville, Tennessee, published catalogues and advertisements of his designs. By 1900, he had eight hundred designs that could be ordered or custom-designed for the client. His best-known designs are elaborate Queen Anne confections bristling with ornamentation. A fair number of his bold and imaginative designs made their way into western and southern Virginia, where they are among the largest houses in the community. As new technologies continued to make the production of millwork faster, more exact, and more elaborate, ever more complex houses could be built from mail-order designs, although the pocketbooks of most home owners demanded that their houses remained relatively simple. But the easy availability of published designs along with mass-produced architectural components shipped from outside the state meant that by the end of the nineteenth century, Virginia had joined the mainstream of national culture and lost much of its regional identity. Paradoxically, its early architecture soon became an important element in the emerging Colonial Revival movement.


After Reconstruction and a brief period of Readjuster influence, Virginia began a swing back toward conservative government and the resultant disenfranchisement of African Americans. State government was largely in the hands of old Virginia families and led by Harry F. Byrd, who served as governor from 1926 until 1930 and as U.S. senator from 1933 to 1965. They ran the state with a carefully balanced budget and a minimum of public services. Tobacco, the cash crop of many small farmers, had a firm hold on much of the state's eroding agrarian economy. Virginia seemed more willing to look back to its past than toward its future. This was also evidenced in architectural design.

In the first decades of the twentieth century, architects designed elegant houses for their wealthy clients in a variety of historic styles, from Chateauesque to Tudor, Italian Renaissance, and, especially, Colonial Revival. Even Ralph Adams Cram, the leading Gothic Revivalist of his day, used Georgian Revival for his campus design of 1903 for Sweet Briar College (AH10) out of respect for Virginia's traditional architecture. Builder-architects designing residences sometimes gave nods to Beaux-Arts Classicism by adding classical elements, sometimes applying them to Queen Anne asymmetrical massing. The cubic foursquare house, usually with a one-story porch across the front and dormers in the roof, became common. The Arts and Crafts movement and Craftsman ethic, popularized by the publications of Gustave Stickley, also had impact. Their emphasis on simplicity and natural qualities was considered fitting for the clubhouse of the Oakwood Country Club (BD69) in Lynchburg.

At the conclusion of World War I, traditional Colonial Revival rode the tide of patriotism that swept the country. In the 1920s the practice of veneering brick or stone to balloon framing enabled designers to produce economical interpretations of historic prototypes in brick and stone. Consequently, the gable-roofed two-story brick house with Georgian or, less frequently, Federal trim was able to take a prominent place in Virginia's towns for decades to come, and brick veneers were also a great boost for Tudor Revival. Then, in the 1930s, the restoration of Colonial Williamsburg delighted the public and added steam to the passion for Colonial Revival. The charm of Williamsburg's small frame houses and the elegant restraint of the larger brick and frame ones gave them a central place in Virginia's design options. When the first generation of restorationists painted Williamsburg's frame houses white, they made the preference for white buildings initiated by the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago ever more pervasive in Virginia. Nostalgia for pioneer days also promoted the construction of round-log buildings ranging from architect designed to idiosyncratic vernacular. Because of a strong demand for moderate-priced housing, many houses were built from mail-order parts or plans. Sears, Roebuck and Company was the best-known seller of houses by mail at the time, one example of which is in Schuyler (NE7).

The state's many workers at textile mills, woodworking plants, and mines invariably lived in frame houses, sometimes erected by their company. Most, like those at the Dan River Mills' Schoolfield plant (PI65.3) in Danville or the Trammel Mining Camp (DI6) in Dickenson County, were designed by builders and were very plain with perhaps a porch. More carefully crafted is the PWA-funded housing (CP12) designed by Stanhope S. Johnson and Raymond O. Brannan in the railroad town of Altavista in Campbell County.

In the first decades of the twentieth century, a home missionary spirit in the mainline churches led to the establishment of numerous churches and schools in remote mountain areas. Ferrum College (FN18) in Franklin County, established in 1913 by the Methodists, was originally a primary and secondary school for the education of mountain children. The Buffalo Mountain Mission School (CA7) that opened in 1923 in Carroll County was one of fifteen home mission schools organized by the Presbyterian Synod between 1890 and 1930. And missionary fathers established St. Patrick's Roman Catholic Church (SC3) in 1947 in Scott County.

Responding to the lack of public educational opportunities for black children, churches often established schools. In rural Virginia, 381 schools for African Americans were built using grants from the Rosenwald Fund established in 1912 by Julius Rosenwald, president of Sears, Roebuck and Company. These grants were matched by the state government and donations from the black population, primarily from church congregations. After desegregation most of Virginia's Rosenwald schools were demolished or severely altered, but Salem School (1923; CT16) in Charlotte County survives and is now used as a community center.

In 1906 the state mandated a publicly supported system of secondary education designed to meet the needs of increasing industrialization. And in the two decades before World War II, a reform movement in state government led to increased spending for public education. Charles M. Robinson, who was the state's leading architect of school buildings in the early twentieth century, designed the Charlotte Agricultural High School (CT10) and the first Amelia County High School (AA7). These and other schools fed a continuing need for educators, which led to the founding in 1908 of the State Normal and Industrial School for Women in Harrisonburg (RH17; now James Madison University) and one in Radford (MO26; now Radford University) in 1910. Increased interest in military education during World War I led to the construction of the barracks at Fishburne Military School (AU41) in Waynesboro and the expansion of Augusta Military Academy (AU34) in Fort Defiance.

Until the mid-twentieth century, most communities in the region had, at best, small lending libraries maintained by civic associations. A major exception is the Beaux-Arts Classical Handley Library (FR7) in Winchester endowed by a judge from Pennsylvania. It remains the most splendid and elegant library in the area. On a smaller scale, between 1937 and 1942, diplomat and ambassador David K. E. Bruce of Staunton Hill (CT18) funded eleven libraries in rural Virginia, mostly in Southside and western Piedmont. Typical of their era, spaces were segregated and each had three reading rooms—one for white children, one for white adults, and one for African Americans.

Population density and technological advances brought tall buildings to a few of the larger communities. High-rise buildings became increasingly common in the prosperous years of the 1920s. Lynchburg's Allied Arts Building (BD31) and Roanoke's Norfolk and Western General Offices, North Building (RK31) brought the glamor of Art Deco. The state, which regulated the sale of alcohol after Prohibition, conveyed a modern image with its Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) stores. Construction of these one-story buildings began in 1934. They are easily identifiable by their plate-glass windows, curved glass-block entrances, and stylized pilasters, design features that continued into the postWorld War II era. Virginia's only female African American architect of the early twentieth century, Amaza Lee Meredith, designed for herself one of the state's first Moderne houses (CS7.1) on the Virginia State University campus.

The Great Depression caused a decline in private construction, but federal support under the auspices of the Works Progress Administration (WPA) and the Public Works Administration (PWA) along with the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) saw the construction of civic buildings and schools, and such recreational facilities as parks, Skyline Drive (Shenandoah National Park), and the Blue Ridge Parkway. The PWA-funded murals that ornament Virginia's small-town post offices count as some of the state's best public art. Large consolidated high schools built in the late 1930s provided more advanced studies than smaller neighborhood schools. These impressive red brick Colonial Revival schools set the standard for the many consolidated high schools built in the post-World War II period.


After World War II, Virginia experienced monumental changes. Population growth and the pent-up energies of the construction industry exploded into an expansion of cities and suburbs, and the conservatives' tight hold of the state's government was loosening.

The 1950s saw an earthquake in public education. The universally inferior conditions of schools for African Americans caused the black students of Farmville's Robert Russa Moton High School to go on strike in 1951. This, in turn, led to Prince Edward County's inclusion in the Supreme Court's Brown v. Board of Educationdecision of 1954 that outlawed the state's “separate but equal” schools for blacks and whites. The ruling gave rise to the state's Massive Resistance program that cut off funds to schools that might attempt racial integration. By the end of the decade, this plan was ruled unconstitutional and public schools were desegregated in the 1960s, but not before Prince Edward closed its public schools for five years. Soon voting rights were expanded and the chaos of democratic politics became the norm in Virginia. The 1960s also saw the establishment of the Virginia community college system, organized to provide workforce training and higher education at an affordable cost.

Many developments of small houses sprang up as a quick fix for the housing shortage after the war and were soon followed by more expansive neighborhoods catering to every pocketbook. The preference for Colonial Revival continued well into the second half of the twentieth century, especially in wealthier neighborhoods. Modern styles in domestic architecture, never really popular in conservative Virginia, were transformed into ranch houses and split-level houses that sit on the large lots of suburbia. A few modernized versions of the Prairie Style, such as architect Charles A. Pearson's house (MO34) in Radford, were built. However, the public was ready to entertain some modern ideas, modern at least for Virginia. In Front Royal, the Moderne Royal Dairy (WR10) was one of numerous ice cream restaurants run by dairies.

Modern designs found a modest place in the region's scholastic architecture. Hollins University's Dana Science Building (see RK54) with its broad and bold sculptural forms is a significant example. Some of the area's most imaginative school buildings are in otherwise conservative Southside, notably Lunenburg County's Victoria Elementary School (LU6) and Greensville County's cheerful Elementary School (GV13) with its complex plan that brings architectural excitement. Taking a different design approach, the Amelia County Elementary School (AA8) is the architecture of nostalgic memory. Its sprawling sections are meant as reflections of the area's civic, residential, and agricultural structures. In Franklin County, the Len Gereau Center for Applied Technology and Career Exploration (FN10) is designed to convey a corporate image.

While most postwar churches are Classical Revival, though often a stripped-down version, there are a few modernist exceptions. The Houston Memorial Chapel (see BD63) at Randolph College in Lynchburg is a spiraling brick coil. As the century progressed, ever less conventional evangelical churches appeared, notably Faith Fellowship Church (FN12) in Franklin County with its two gleaming domes of Teflon-coated vinyl. But nothing is further from the conventional Virginian's idea of a church than the lotus-shaped building of Yogaville's Light of Truth Universal Shrine (LOTUS; BU15) in rural Buckingham County.

Although few courthouses were built in this part of Virginia in the mid-twentieth century, an increase in governmental activity late in the century led to several new buildings. Some followed national stylistic trends, including the Brutalist courthouse for Montgomery County (MO1), while those built in Chesterfield (CS1) and Dinwiddie (DW1) counties are Postmodern. But Virginia's preference for tradition held sway in Henry (HR1) and Brunswick (BR1) counties with a reinterpretation of classical forms, as in Danville's courts building (PI26).

In the early twentieth century, streetcar lines had facilitated suburban development, especially in Colonial Heights and the area around Roanoke. But at the same time they conveyed people back downtown for commercial and civic transactions. The era of streetcar service, though, ended around World War II, and with automobiles increasingly common, commercial centers began to locate to the outskirts of towns and, eventually, to the gigantic enclosed malls of the late twentieth century. Thus the second half of the century saw the deterioration of many downtowns. As well as commercial strip developments and large malls drawing people and business from downtowns, white flight from cities after racial integration also hammered them. At the same time, black business districts like Holbrook in Danville lost their customers. In the final decades of the twentieth century, interstate highways 66 and 81 brought their changes to Virginia. Increasingly, people could live at a greater distance from their place of work, and northwest Virginia, for example, now came within commuting distance of Washington, D.C.

Fortunately, in this later part of the twentieth century, cities and towns began to realize the importance of reviving their cores. As malls draw shoppers, downtowns are reshaping themselves as service, educational, and cultural centers and with small shops and restaurants. Outdoor events, sometimes in especially designed plazas or farmers' markets, were sponsored to revitalize towns and cities. Museums focusing on local or regional history opened in renovated historic buildings and new centers for art and culture were built, notably the Taubman Museum of Art (RK26) in Roanoke and the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley (FR12) in Winchester. Change and renewal move along apace.


The region's earliest historic preservation efforts focused on individual properties associated with persons famous in Virginia or national history. The Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities (now Preservation Virginia) was an early leader in preservation. During the Great Depression, architects, historians, and artists working for the WPA spread a wide net by documenting hundreds of older buildings all over Virginia, thereby forming the basis of a historical inventory that today continues to prove its usefulness to researchers. The photographs, drawings, and documentation by the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS), the Historic American Engineering Record (HAER), and the Historic American Landscapes Survey (HALS) provide further invaluable records. By the late 1960s, the establishment of the Virginia Landmarks Commission (now the Department of Historic Resources) began an architectural survey program that has gradually spread across the state. The department is also responsible for, among other things, registering the commonwealth's sites on the Virginia Landmarks Register and the National Register of Historic Places.

Downtowns, assisted by the Virginia Main Street Program, historical societies, and preservation organizations, are capitalizing on their histories and architecture to attract tourists. Entire town and city neighborhoods have been rehabilitated by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and state block grants. The invaluable federal and state tax credits for renovating historic buildings have made commercial developers some of the state's leading preservationists. Many local governments are realizing that the unique historic and architectural qualities of specific places are economic and community assets like no others.


John Fontaine, The Journal of John Fontaine: an Irish Huguenot Son in Spain and Virginia, 1710–1719,edited with an introduction by Edward Porter Alexander (Williamsburg, Va.: The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, distributed by the University Press of Virginia, 1972), 96.

Ibid., 97.

Keith Egloff and Deborah Woodward, First People: The Early Indians of Virginia (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1992), 5.

Fontaine, The Journal of John Fontaine,91.

William Waller Hening, The Statutes at Large: Being a Collection of All the Laws of Virginia (Richmond: Franklin Press, 1820), 4:77–79.

Parke Rouse Jr., The Great Wagon Road (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1973), 15, citing H. R. McIlwaine, ed., Executive Journals of the Council of Colonial Virginia,4 vols. (Richmond: Virginia State Library, 1925–1930), 1:552–53.

Newton D. Mereness, ed., Travels in the American Colonies (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1916), 338.

An account of her story is in Joseph A. Waddell, Annals of Augusta County, Virginia, from 1726 to 1871 (1886; reprint, Bridgewater, Va.: C. J. Carrier, 1958), 111–15.

Col. C. B. Bryant, ed., Ancient History Concerning Henry County and Its Early Settlers (Martinsville, Va.: Martinsville Standard, 1902), n.p.

John C. Fitzpatrick, ed., The Writings of George Washington from the Original Manuscript Sources, 1745–1799 (Washington, D.C.: United States Government Printing Office, 1931–1944), 1:492–97.

Quoted in S. Allen Chambers Jr., Poplar Forest and Thomas Jefferson (Forest, Va.: The Corporation for Jefferson's Poplar Forest, 1993), 88.

Henry County Order Book II, 1778–1782,8.

Chambers, Poplar Forest,88.

James Fontaine, Memoirs of a Huguenot Family (New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1907), 364.

Robert F. Hunter and Edwin L. Dooley Jr., Claudius Crozet: French Engineer in America, 1790–1864 (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1989).

Quoted in S. Allen Chambers Jr., Lynchburg: An Architectural History (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1981), 45.

Michael J. Pulice, Nineteenth-Century Brick Architecture in the Roanoke Valley and Beyond: Discovering the True Legacies of the Deyerle Builders (Roanoke and Lynchburg: Historical Society of Western Virginia and Blackwell Press, 2011).

Writing Credits

Anne Carter Lee