Preservation Virginia identifies Commonwealth’s most endangered historic places

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A sacred Monacan Indian Nation site in Fluvanna County, a historic church more than a century old in Danville and a 300-mile network of rural roadways in Loudoun County are among Virginia’s Most Endangered Historic Places for 2020 unveiled this week by Preservation Virginia.

Each May — National Historic Preservation Month— since 2005, the nonprofit releases a list of historic places across the state that face imminent or sustained threats to their integrity to encourage individual citizens, organizations, and local and state government to continue advocating for these places’ protection and preservation.

Virginia’s Most Endangered Historic Places list for 2020 includes, in no particular order:

  • Rassawek, the historic capital and sacred site of the Monacan Indian Nation, located at the confluence of the Rivanna River and James River in Fluvanna County.
  • Alexandria Elks Lodge #48, a community hub for African American Elks and residents in the Parker Gray Historic District for over 115 years.
  • James Street Holiness Church, founded in 1891 in north Danville by African American preacher Bettie Thompson.
  • Pine Grove School Community, a rural African American community of businesses, churches, cemeteries and homes of students who attended the Pine Grove Rosenwald School in Cumberland County.
  • Western Loudoun County’s Rural Road Network, a living museum of 300 miles of gravel roadways that traverse the Loudoun Valley.
  • Historic Metal Truss Bridges statewide. In 1975, Virginia had approximately 620 metal truss bridges; only about five percent remain today.
  • Halifax Roller Mill, a three-story, flour and feed mill built in 1915 to use electric power rather than water in the Town of Halifax.

“We understand we are living through quickly evolving times during this pandemic. Life has changed, and our mission to protect and reuse historic places has become more challenging,” said Preservation Virginia CEO Elizabeth S. Kostelny. “While we continue to see historic places of all types remaining resilient across the state, our list highlights longstanding issues that need to be addressed and cannot be forgotten during times of crisis.”

For example, Kostelny said four of the seven historic places cited this year are connected to underrepresented communities. One is Rassawek, the historic capital of the Monacan Indian Nation.

“Our capital city was a contemporary of Jamestown, but much larger and more complex, and it lasted as a community far longer,” said Tribal Chief Kenneth Branham. “It is for us a sacred place of great cultural significance, and it is for all Americans a place of historical importance.”

Now threatened by a water intake station, this sacred site is in peril.

Two of this year’s listings are transportation-related, reflecting the rate at which Virginia is losing bridges and roads important to its historic landscape, with significant efforts needed to foster these places before they are lost.

With museums temporarily closed and future funding opportunities potentially in doubt, preservationists are now approaching their work in new and creative ways, says Kostelny.

“Over the next few years, as we adapt to the challenges of living in a post-pandemic world, Preservation Virginia will help to counter the specific threats identified in this year’s Virginia’s Most Endangered Historic Places list. In addition, we will demonstrate how—using proven tools of historic preservation as well as innovative new models and collaborations—Virginia’s historic places help recharge our spirits and restore local communities.

“Now more than ever, we can look to our past for renewal and strength.”


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