Within the next two months, Nelson County could have another site added to the National Register of Historic Places.
The Virginia Board of Historic Resources voted at a quarterly meeting at Sweet Briar College to approve the Norwood-Wingina Rural Historic District nomination as well as eight other sites in Virginia, according to a news release from the Department of Historic Resources. This designation allows the nomination to move forward for consideration on the National Register of Historic Places.
Steve Carter, Nelson County administrator, said it has been years since the process began for this area of Nelson County and he is excited to have the dream become a reality.
"We are just thrilled with this designation," Carter said. "It's just a nice thing for a very historic area of the county. We are very happy."
Mike Pulice, from the Western Region Preservation Office in the Department of Historic Resources, said the next step is to make any last minute changes to the documents before sending them to the National Park Service for nomination to the National Register of Historic Places. Pulice said more than likely when a site is added to the state register, it's added to the national one as well.
"It fosters recognition, appreciation,and awareness of a place that has historical significance. It also gives us excellent body of data, historical background and descriptive data because of the nomination requirements," Pulice said.
For Nelson County, this designation adds to the list of now 21 sites that have official historical significance in the county, according to Pulice. Pulice said these nominations are important to the locality for a number of reasons, including the archived data kept due to the nomination requirements.
Pulice said the nomination process requires significant mapping, a lot of descriptive data, collection of photos, and historical research that he feels areas wouldn't have otherwise. Pulice also said property owners can now apply for historic rehabilitation tax credit improvements to the building or property in question if they so choose.
Reverend James Rose said he believes this designation is long overdue. The Rev. Rose was born in the Wingina area and moved to New York when he was 12. In 1997, he came back to the Norwood-Wingina area where he has been an active part of the Nelson County community ever since.
"It's a benefit to the community. The area here has a lot of history," Rose said.
Rose said he has had discussions with not only people from the Nelson County Historical Society about this nomination, but also people involved in the anti-Atlantic Coast Pipeline, LLC movement as well, hoping a historical designation would deter the pipeline from being built through the area.
"There is a rich history in this area. I'm glad they did it," Rose said.
In Nelson County, the new designation encompasses around 3,450 acres along the James River. This land, originally occupied by the Monacans and their ancestors, was eventually taken over by Anglo colonizers around 1725 and enslaved African Americans who came to the area with them. According to the news release, plantations began cropping up and eventually a tobacco warehouse and a town, now known as Norwood, were established at the confluence of the James and Tye rivers.
"Navigational improvements along those rivers during the 1800s, most notably the James River and Kanawha Canal, prompted later development of Wingina," the news release said.
At a public meeting in Nelson County on May 16 to discuss the nomination, Marc Wagner, architectural historian in the Eastern Region preservation office in the Department of Historical Resources, told residents who attended that 140 buildings in the area were a contributing factor to the nomination as well as the rural significance of the area.
"Why do you do these national register nominations if there is nothing that’s going to impose restrictions or protect properties? Well, you do it to celebrate the rich history and natural beauty of the area,” Wagner said at the meeting.
Wagner helped residents interested in obtaining this status kick-start the process back in 2012, and now seven years later, they have finally seen their hope of landmark status become a reality.
Along with Nelson, King and Queen, Clarke, Westmoreland, Wise and the Isle of Wight counties as well as the cities of Roanoke and Suffolk also had sites added to the register on June 20, according to the news release.
Other nominations approved on June 20 include the house of a former chief of the Rappahannock Indian Tribe, a early Cold War missile defense installation, a mountainous southwest area where coal mining put the area on the map starting in 1890, and a former American Viscose Company plant, which originated in 1917 and a courthouse complex.
"Listing a property in the state or national registers is honorary and sets no restrictions on what a property owner may do with his or her property. The designation is first and foremost an invitation to learn about and experience authentic and significant places in Virginia’s history," the release said.