In 1752, the House of Burgesses carved Halifax County out of a portion of Southside's promising wilderness that had been part of western Lunenburg County. They named it for George Montagu Dunk, second Earl of Halifax. The economy of the county was established around tobacco and the nurturing of this fickle plant. Most of Halifax's early buildings were log, but today log tobacco barns are almost the only visible reminders of this building practice and they, too, are quietly moldering away.
As in the rest of Southside, frame construction remains popular. However, early in the nineteenth century, prosperous planters began to build large residences, and River Road (VA 659), which more or less follows the Dan River from South Boston into Pittsylania County, became the thoroughfare on which plantation culture announced its dominance. Here plantation building reached a zenith when James Bruce constructed Berry Hill (HX22). Although rural dwellings associated with tobacco culture dominate the list of significant architectural sites in Halifax, the county also has good examples of other building types. Halifax, the county seat, has a number of fine brick buildings that testify to the intentions and aspirations of its residents. Master builder and brick mason Dabney Cosby and his son, Dabney Cosby Jr., constructed the courthouse (HX1). Although the senior Cosby moved to North Carolina in 1839, his talented son made his home here and erected several important houses. The town of South Boston thrived as a tobacco center during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and its downtown is still a compact district with excellent examples of early commercial architecture.
While agricultural production is declining in Halifax County, farmers still grow bright-leaf tobacco, raise livestock, and cultivate corn, soybeans, wheat, and other small grains. The once-robust textile industry has suffered, as has all of manufacturing. Still, the county has a vigorous economic development program that is making some progress.
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