Virginia: Other Historic Sites Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

A list of important historic sites in Virginia.

Bacon’s Castle

Location: Bacon’s Castle, Surry County

Relevant issues: Colonial America, military history

Statement of significance: Built probably in the 1660’s, this structure is among the earliest Virginia cross-plan houses, distinguished by its curvilinear gables and two-end chimney units of three stacks each. In 1676, it was used as a fortress by rebel troops during Bacon’s Rebellion (1676-1677), the first instance of violent resistance to British colonial exploitation in America. Led by Nathaniel Bacon (1647-1676), a young nobleman, rebels seized and fortified this house.

Ball’s Bluff Battlefield and National Cemetery

Location: Leesburg vicinity, Loudoun County

Relevant issues: Civil War, military history

Statement of significance: In October, 1861, to quiet his critics, Major General George B. McClellan ordered Union troops stationed along the Potomac between Edwards Ferry and Harpers Ferry to make “a slight demonstration” and draw out the Confederate force based in Leesburg. The resultant Union defeat here on October 21, 1861, led to the creation of the Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War, the first major exercise of congressional authority to oversee and investigate operations of the federal executive branch.

Banneker SW-9 Intermediate Boundary Stone

Location: 18th and Van Buren Streets, Arlington, Arlington County

Relevant issues: African American history, colonial America, science and technology

Statement of significance: This boundary stone commemorates the accomplishments of Benjamin Banneker (1731-1806), farmer, mathematician, inventor, astronomer, writer, surveyor, scientist, and humanitarian. Perhaps the most famous black man in colonial America, Banneker helped survey the District of Columbia.

Camp Hoover

Location: Graves Mill, Madison County

Relevant issues: Political history

Statement of significance: Secluded among the hemlocks at the base of Fork Mountain is what remains of the retreat developed between 1929 and 1932 as a “Summer White House” for President Herbert Hoover. Three of the thirteen original buildings are still extant, as are trails, stone bridges, man-made trout pools, a stone fountain, and a massive outdoor stone fireplace. Originally built on a parcel owned by Hoover and his wife Lou Henry Hoover, the camp is now within the boundaries of Shenandoah National Park, and, as requested by Hoover, it is administered and equipped as a summer weekend retreat for the president of the United States.

Cedar Creek Battlefield and Belle Grove

Location: Middletown, Frederick County

Relevant issues: Civil War, military history

Statement of significance: General Philip Sheridan defeated Confederate General Jubal T. Early here, climaxing the struggle for the Shenandoah Valley. Belle Grove, a one-and-a-half-story stone house built by James Madison’s brother-in-law in 1790, served as Sheridan’s headquarters.

Drew House

Location: Arlington, Arlington County

Relevant issues: African American history, health and medicine

Statement of significance: From 1920 to 1939, this two-story clapboard structure was the residence of Charles Richard Drew (1904-1950), the noted black physician and teacher, who is best remembered for his pioneer work in discovering the means to preserve blood plasma. Drew had the distinction of being the first African American to receive the Doctor of Science in Medicine degree.

Drydock No. 1

Location: Portsmouth, Portsmouth County

Relevant issues: Civil War, naval history

Statement of significance: The shipyard, established in 1767, is the oldest in the country; the drydock was constructed from 1827 to 1834. During the Civil War, the Union frigate USS Merrimack was rebuilt by the Confederates in this drydock, becoming the ironclad CSS Virginia.

Five Forks Battlefield

Location: Petersburg, Dinwiddie County

Relevant issues: Civil War, military history

Statement of significance: This battle ensured success for Ulysses S. Grant in his campaign to force Robert E. Lee from the Richmond-Petersburg defenses.

Ford House

Location: Alexandria, Alexandria County

Relevant issues: Political history

Statement of significance: From 1955 to 1974, this was the home of Gerald R. Ford, Jr., the thirty-eighth president of the United States. These years constitute the major part of Ford’s long congressional career, as well as his service as vice president and the first ten days after his assumption of the presidency following President Richard Nixon’s resignation.

Fort Monroe

Location: Hampton, Hampton County

Relevant issues: Civil War, military history

Statement of significance: Constructed between 1819 and 1834, Fort Monroe was one of the country’s major military posts from the time of its establishment; Robert E. Lee, then a lieutenant, played a prominent role in the final stages of its construction. During the Civil War, the fort was a staging area for Union land and naval expeditions. On March 9, 1862, thousands of spectators stood on the ramparts of Fort Monroe to watch the momentous battle between USS Monitor and CSS Virginia, the first battle in history between ironclad vessels. From May, 1865, to May, 1867, the fort was the site for the imprisonment of Confederate president Jefferson Davis.

Fort Myer Historic District

Location: Arlington, Arlington County

Relevant issues: Aviation history, military history

Statement of significance: Dating from the late nineteenth century, Fort Myer was the site of the earliest experiments in military aviation conducted by the Wright Brothers in 1908. Since 1909, Quarters 1 (1899) on “Generals Row” has been the home of the Chiefs of Staff of the U.S. Army.

Franklin and Armfield Office

Location: Alexandria, Alexandria County

Relevant issues: African American history, business and industry

Statement of significance: Between 1828 and 1836, Isaac Franklin, in partnership with John Armfield, created the largest-scale slave trading operation in the antebellum South. They established their headquarters in Alexandria (then a part of the District of Columbia), adjacent to an area with a surplus of slaves available at low prices. This building served as the firm’s Alexandria office, where Franklin purchased slaves who were then transported New Orleans and Natchez, where Armfield handled sales. At its peak, their firm had agents in almost every important Southern city, owned a fleet of sailing ships, and trafficked in thousands of slaves annually. In the process, both partners became enormously wealthy. After Franklin and Armfield sold the building, the house continued as a center for slave trading until 1861; during the Civil War, it housed captured Confederate soldiers.

Gadsby’s Tavern

Location: Alexandria, Alexandria County

Relevant issues: Colonial America

Statement of significance: Comprising two adjoining tavern buildings, the smaller of which dates from 1752, this is one of the best-known eighteenth century inns in the country. George Washington recruited men here in 1754 for the French and Indian War, and the first celebration of the federal Constitution took place here on June 28, 1788.

General George C. Marshall House

Location: Leesburg, Loudoun County

Relevant issues: Military history, World War II

Statement of significance: General George Catlett Marshall, Jr. (1880-1959), who lived here eighteen years from 1941 until his death, called this house Dodona Manor, after the Greek oracle of the whispering oak leaves on the Hill of Dodona. During these years, Marshall rose from being an Army officer held in professional respect, but without celebrity, to one of the most important and respected figures of the twentieth century. Winston Churchill, recalling the years of World War II, said that the only individual on whom all the leaders conferred unqualified praise and admiration was General Marshall.

Glass House

Location: Lynchburg, Lynchburg County

Relevant issues: Business and industry, political history

Statement of significance: From 1907 to 1923, this was the residence of Carter Glass (1858-1946), one of the most influential shapers of U.S. financial policy in the first half of the twentieth century. Glass served in the U.S. House of Representatives (1902-1918), as secretary of the Treasury (1918-1920), and as U.S. senator (1920-1946). He authored the Glass-Owen Act (1913), which established the Federal Reserve System.

Greenway Court

Location: White Post, Clarke County

Relevant issues: Colonial America

Statement of significance: From 1751 to 1781, this was the estate of Thomas Lord Fairfax (1693-1781), the only English peer residing in the colonies and the proprietor of a five million-acre land grant in Virginia. Fairfax employed George Washington as a surveyor.

Gunston Hall

Location: Lorton, Fairfax County

Relevant issues: Political history

Web site: visit.gunstonhall.org/gunstonhall/wel come

Statement of significance: Notable for its interior carved details and formal gardens, Gunston Hall was built (1755-1758) for George Mason (1725-1792), a leading Revolutionary figure, author of the Virginia Declaration of Rights (1776), and member of the Constitutional Convention whose refusal to sign the document without a Bill of Rights was vindicated by events.

Hampton Institute

Location: Hampton, Hampton County

Relevant issues: African American history, education

Statement of significance: Founded by the American Missionary Association to train selected young black men and women to “teach and lead their people, first by example,” Hampton Normal and Industrial Institute opened in April, 1868, with two teachers and fifteen students; today, it is a fully accredited liberal arts college with an international faculty and student body. The institute served as a model for numerous African American industrial schools subsequently founded to aid the freedmen; Booker T. Washington, founder of Tuskegee Institute, was himself a graduate of this school.

Hanover County Courthouse

Location: Hanover Court House, Hanover County

Relevant issues: Colonial America, legal history

Statement of significance: This Georgian courthouse has been used continuously since its completion around 1735. It was here that, in 1763, Patrick Henry argued and won “The Parson’s Cause,” a case involving religious liberty in the colony.

Jackson’s Headquarters

Location: Winchester, Winchester County

Relevant issues: Civil War, military history

Statement of significance: In the months preceding his famous Shenandoah Valley campaign (March-June, 1862), Confederate major general Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson (1824-1863) used this Gothic Revival house as his headquarters. Jackson’s rapid maneuvering in the valley kept valuable federal forces from joining the well-conceived Peninsular assault on Richmond by the Army of the Potomac and contributed to the failure of Union major general George B. McClellan’s strategy.

Lee Chapel, Washington and Lee University

Location: Lexington, Lexington County

Relevant issues: Education, military history

Statement of significance: Built in 1867 under his supervision, this Victorian Gothic brick building commemorates the years Robert E. Lee (1807-1870) served as president (1865-1870) of the college, then known as Washington College. Lee is buried in a chapel vault.

Lightship No. 101 “Portsmouth”

Location: Portsmouth, Portsmouth County

Relevant issues: Naval history

Statement of significance: Now known as Portsmouth, Lightship No. 101 is one of a small number of preserved American lightships. Essential partners with lighthouses as aids to navigation along the coast of the United States, American lightships date to the 1820’s. Built as one of two vessels from the same plan, No. 101 served at least five stations in the middle Atlantic states guiding coastal, intercoastal, and international vessels into Chesapeake and Delaware Bays and within Nantucket Bay.

Lunar Landing Research Facility

Location: Hampton, Hampton County

Relevant issues: Aviation history, science and technology

Statement of significance: Constructed in 1965, this facility was used to prepare U.S. astronauts to land on the moon. It employed a mock Lunar Excursion Module (LEM) attached to a fixed facility. The experience gained showed that astronauts could master skills needed to land the LEM on the moon.

McCormick Farm and Workshop

Location: Steele’s Tavern, Rockbridge County

Relevant issues: Science and technology

Statement of significance: Cyrus McCormick (1809-1884), inventor, manufacturer, and philanthropist, lived and worked here. McCormick’s invention of the mechanical reaper in 1834 helped revolutionize agriculture. Both his workshop and his farmhouse have been preserved.

Marlbourne

Location: Richmond, Hanover County

Relevant issues: Civil War, science and technology

Statement of significance: This was the property of Edmund Ruffin (1794-1865), who used his plantation as a laboratory for agricultural experiments in an effort to improve on the soil-depleting agricultural practices of the antebellum South. An ardent secessionist, he fired the first shot against Fort Sumter from Morris Island in Charleston, South Carolina, in 1861. After the collapse of the Confederacy, he took his own life at Marlbourne.

Marshall House

Location: Richmond, Richmond County

Relevant issues: Legal history

Web site: www.apva.org/apva/marshall.html

Statement of significance: From 1790 until his death, this was the property of John Marshall (1755-1835). After brief service as secretary of state (1800-1801), Marshall became the fourth chief justice of the United States, in which office he remained until his death.

Mitchell House

Location: Middleburg, Loudoun County

Relevant issues: Aviation history, military history

Statement of significance: From 1926 until his death, this was the residence of General William “Billy” Mitchell (1879-1936), the dominant figure in American military aviation between the world wars. Mitchell foresaw the strategic value of air power; his advocacy of his ideas led to his 1925 court-martial.

Monroe Law Office

Location: Fredericksburg, Fredericksburg County

Relevant issues: Legal history, political history

Statement of significance: James Monroe (1758-1831), who would be the fifth president of the United States (1817-1825), used this structure as a law office from 1786 to 1789, after studying law with Thomas Jefferson.

Montpelier

Location: Orange, Orange County

Relevant issues: Political history

Statement of significance: For seventy-six years, this was the residence of James Madison (1751-1836), fourth president of the United States (1809-1817). Madison was dubbed the “Father of the Constitution” for his preeminent role at the Constitutional Convention. He is buried here with his wife Dolley.

Moton House

Location: Capahosic, Gloucester County

Relevant issues: African American history, education, social reform

Statement of significance: From 1935 until his death, this two-and-a-half-story Georgian Revival structure was the residence of Robert Russa Moton (1867-1940), influential African American educator. Moton began his career in education at Hampton Institute, from which he had graduated in 1890. In 1915, he was chosen to succeed Booker T. Washington as the principal of Tuskegee Institute; during the next twenty years, Moton guided the school’s transition from a vocational and agricultural school to a fully accredited collegiate and professional institution. He received the Harmon Award in Race Relations in 1930 and the Spingarn Medal in 1932.

NS Savannah

Location: Newport News, York County

Relevant issues: Naval history, science and technology

Statement of significance: Designed and constructed in the late 1950’s as the first nuclear merchant ship, this combination cargo-passenger vessel was developed as part of President Dwight Eisenhower’s Atoms for Peace initiative. Even though the market for such vessels never materialized, the design, construction, and operation of a new type of pressurized water reactor, utilizing low-enriched uranium, represented a major technological success. NS Savannah was also a success in accomplishing its unique public relations role as a floating exhibit on the peaceful use of nuclear energy. It sailed a half million miles around the world and was visited by a half million people. This exposure, unprecedented for a nuclear facility, is credited with easing anxieties over nuclear energy.

Oak Hill

Location: Leesburg, Loudoun County

Relevant issues: Political history

Statement of significance: From 1808 to 1830, Oak Hill, a two-story brick house, was a residence of James Monroe (1758-1831), fifth president of the United States (1817-1825). He built the mansion here in 1820. He first outlined the Monroe Doctrine in a letter written here.

Pentagon

Location: Arlington, Arlington County

Relevant issues: Military history

Statement of significance: Completed in 1943, the Pentagon is associated with events and people that have shaped America’s geopolitical role in the post-World War II period. In the decades since its construction, the Pentagon has become an internationally recognized symbol for the emergence of the United States as a military “superpower” and is closely linked to the nation’s national defense establishment.

Pittsylvania County Courthouse

Location: Chatham, Pittsylvania County

Relevant issues: African American history, legal history

Statement of significance: Here, in 1878, Judge J. D. Coles excluded black citizens from serving as grand and petit jurors in Pittsylvania County. Arrested and charged with a violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1875, Judge Coles filed a petition with the United States Supreme Court, asking that he be released and that all charges be dropped. The Supreme Court held that his action had been a clear violation of the law and denied his petition for release. The Supreme Court’s ruling in Ex Parte Virginia (1878) demonstrated that as a result of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, the federal government had a qualified but potentially effective power to protect the rights of all American citizens and represents one of the few victories for African Americans in the federal courts in the generation after 1865.

Pocahontas Exhibition Coal Mine

Location: Pocahontas, Tazewell County

Relevant issues: Business and industry

Statement of significance: Located in the low hills of northeastern Tazewell County, this mine was opened in Spring, 1882, to exploit the extraordinarily thick seam of very high quality semibituminous coal. To get the coal to market, a branch line of the Norfolk and Western Railroad was built to the new town of Pocahontas and the mine; soon after this development, numerous other mines were operating in what came to be known as the Pocahontas-Flat Top coalfield. The quality of the coal, the relative ease of accessibility to the thick seam, and the development of a coke industry combined to make coal from this region highly sought after for the manufacture of steel and for steam generation.

Randolph Cottage

Location: Glen Allen, Henrico County

Relevant issues: African American history, education

Statement of significance: This structure commemorates Virginia E. Randolph (1874-1958), a notable African American teacher who, because of her exemplary work at Henrico County’s Mountain Road School, in 1908 was asked to become the country’s first Jeanes Supervising Industrial Worker, or instructor, under the sponsorship of the Negro Rural School Fund. Her task was to improve vocational training in elementary and secondary schools throughout the county; her success in that role made her the model for thousands of others in a program that was instituted throughout the South.

Reynolds Homestead

Location: Critz, Patrick County

Relevant issues: Business and industry

Statement of significance: From 1850 to 1874, this property was the home of Richard Joshua Reynolds (1850-1918), whose company was responsible for both Prince Albert Smoking Tobacco (1907) and “Camels” (1913) cigarettes. With the Camels brand, the R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company conquered a market and transformed an industry.

Ripshin Farm

Location: Trout Dale, Grayson County

Relevant issues: Literary history

Statement of significance: From 1927 until his death, this rustic stone-and-log structure was the summer home of author Sherwood Anderson (1876-1941), who is generally credited with reintroducing subjectivity into American literature through his frankly self-revealing works.

Rising Sun Tavern

Location: Fredericksburg, Fredericksburg County

Relevant issues: Revolutionary War

Web site: www.apva.org/apva/rising.html

Statement of significance: Built in 1760 by Charles Washington, the youngest brother of George Washington, the tavern was a meeting place for Southern leaders on their way to the Continental Congress in Philadelphia. It was also the scene of a Peace Ball celebrating the victory at Yorktown in 1781.

Sayler’s Creek Battlefield

Location: Farmville, Amelia County

Relevant issues: Civil War

Statement of significance: After the April 2-3, 1865, evacuation of Richmond and Petersburg and the flight of the Confederate government, General Robert E. Lee attempted to move his Army of Northern Virginia to North Carolina, where he hoped to join forces with General Joseph E. Johnston. A logistical mix-up caused a one-day delay at Amelia Courthouse, during which time Union forces moved to his front and cut off his line of retreat. The three distinct battles fought on April 6, 1865, in the valley of Sayler’s Creek form the last major engagement between the armies commanded by Lee and Ulysses S. Grant and led to the surrender at Appomattox Courthouse.

Scotchtown

Location: Ashland, Hanover County

Relevant issues: Colonial America, political history, Revolutionary War

Web site: www.apva.org/apva/scotchtwn.html

Statement of significance: From 1771 to 1777, this large one-and-a-half-story frame house was the residence of Patrick Henry (1736-1799), the Revolutionary leader and fiery orator. During these years, Henry made his most-famous speeches and served in the Continental Congress and in his first term as governor of Virginia.

Semple House

Location: Williamsburg, Williamsburg County

Relevant issues: Political history

Statement of significance: Constructed about 1770, this structure is believed to have been designed by Thomas Jefferson. It is an example of a Roman country house style adapted for a frame townhouse. John Tyler (1790-1862), tenth president of the United States (1841-1845), resided here while attending grammar school and the College of William and Mary (1802-1807); he was related to the Semples.

Spence’s Point

Location: Westmoreland, Westmoreland County

Relevant issues: Literary history

Statement of significance: For much of his life, this property was associated with John Dos Passos (1896-1970), acclaimed as one of the major and most influential of modern American writers. His early works, based on his experiences in World War I, stripped war and military life of the romanticism with which they were traditionally viewed; in the U.S.A. trilogy (1930-1936), Dos Passos invented a new form of storytelling in which social history itself became the dynamic drive of the work, instead of merely its framework.

University of Virginia Historic District

Location: Charlottesville, Charlottesville County

Relevant issues: Art and architecture, education

Statement of significance: The district includes Thomas Jefferson’s original “academical village” (constructed 1817-1827) with its classrooms and quarters, as well as the Rotunda–the focal point of Jefferson’s design–and several buildings added by Stanford White. Jefferson’s brilliant arrangement of the University buildings in the European neoclassical tradition of the period produced a collegiate complex that is among the most beautiful in the world.

Virginia Military Institute Historic District

Location: Lexington, Lexington County

Relevant issues: Education, military history

Statement of significance: The first state-supported military college, VMI was formally organized in 1839. Often called the “West Point of the South,” the institute has provided leaders for the Confederate Army, including “Stonewall” Jackson, and for the two world wars, including George S. Marshall.

Waterford Historic District

Location: Waterford, Loudoun County

Relevant issues: Colonial America, European settlement

Statement of significance: The oldest settlement in Loudoun County, Waterford was established by Pennsylvania Quakers about 1730. By 1840, Waterford had about three hundred settlers, housed in Georgian brick-and-frame row houses. It is a rare example of a little-altered early Anglo-American village with an almost pristine setting.

Wilson Birthplace

Location: Staunton, Staunton County

Relevant issues: Political history

Statement of significance: Woodrow Wilson (1856-1924), educator, author, and the twenty-eighth president of the United States (1913-1921), was born in this two-story Greek revival brick house late in 1856. The structure was then the parsonage of Staunton’s First Presbyterian Church, where Wilson’s father was serving as pastor. The next year, the family left for Augusta, Georgia, where the Reverend Wilson had accepted a new pulpit.

Woodlawn

Location: Richmond Highway, Alexandria, Fairfax County

Relevant issues: Art and architecture, cultural history

Statement of significance: Woodlawn was built between 1800 and 1805 for Major Lawrence Lewis and his wife Eleanor (Nelly) Parke Custis, on land that George Washington, his uncle and her stepgrandfather, willed them. The brick house, designed by Dr. William Thornton, architect of the U.S. Capitol, integrates Georgian and Federal features in its design. Woodlawn is also a pivotal monument in the evolution of historic preservation in America. In 1948, a group was formed specifically to save it and soon served as a prime example of the purposes for which the National Trust for Historic Preservation was created. In 1951, the trust accepted Woodlawn as its flagship property. The mansion is open to the public.

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