The greater Shenandoah Valley region is recognized worldwide for the striking beauty and richness of its cultural heritage.
The most well-known historic structures and sites are located in the many towns and cities of the Great Valley: the old Taylor Hotel and Handley Library in Winchester, the Thomas Harrison House in Harrisonburg, Augusta County Courthouse and Woodrow Wilson’s birthplace in Staunton, and Lee Chapel and the Virginia Military Institute in Lexington, for example, or scenic roadways such as Route 11 and Route 340.
Many cultural resources in the region are located, however, in rural settings: farms that define the Valley landscape; archaeological sites that hide beneath fields and forests; and battlefields that have local, regional, and national meaning.
The greater Shenandoah Valley region has nearly 300 historic sites on the National Register of Historic Places and 11 National Historic Landmarks. The region also includes 45 nationally registered historic districts that focus on historic buildings or themes; 24 properties protected by historic easements; and a number of localities, particularly in the northern or Lower Valley, that have excellent architectural surveys.
Valley communities have long recognized the unique opportunities and benefits afforded by their distinguished cultural heritage. Some have capitalized successfully on the dollars from heritage tourism. Yet most localities do not yet have strong protections in place for their cultural resources.
Many sites eligible for historic designation have not been nominated. Some localities do not have high-quality surveys of their architectural sites and resources. Local historic preservation ordinances remain rare and have varying depth and breadth. Relatively few properties are permanently protected through historic easements. Some sites fall into disrepair due to neglect, abandonment, or poorly designed development projects. Old cemeteries, once-proud homes and barns, and even historic sites like Willa Cather’s birthplace (Gore, VA) are now like endangered species scattered throughout the Valley, awaiting much-needed funding and stewardship.
The Valley Conservation Council recommends a number of actions for individuals concerned about protecting the Valley’s cultural heritage.
Join VCC. Cultural heritage is one of our three mission components.
Also find information in our publications State of the Valley Report and Better Models for Development book.
People will not look forward to posterity who never look back to their ancestors. –Edmund Burke