South Hill historic district approved

The South Hill Commercial Historic District in Mecklenburg County was among 21 sites across the state that were recognized through listing in the Virginia Landmarks Register (VLR) last week by the Virginia Department of Historic Resources.
According to a press release, the district “reflects South Hill’s emergence by 1891 as a rail town on the Atlantic & Danville Railroad. Financiers and engineers in 1889 laid out the 56-acre town in a circular plan centered on the railroad’s depot. In 1901, South Hill incorporated as a town and emerged as an important shipping and manufacturing center in a region rich in tobacco and lumber resources.
“The South Hill Commercial Historic District reveals its origins in the turn-of-the-century tobacco and railroad economy through its tobacco warehouses and commercial buildings situated along W. Danville Street and Mecklenburg Avenue. The district also features several churches, the 1932 South Hill High School, and residences built by prominent citizens of the town. The district’s architecture ranges from high Victorian and Colonial Revival styles to typical vernacular forms that range in date from the early to mid-20th century.”
Also in Southside Virginia, four rural properties in Halifax County are now part of the Virginia Landmarks Register:
Located on a well-traveled Halifax County route that became Highway 58, Bloomsburg (Watkins House) is a finely detailed Greek Revival plantation house, among the first generation of such houses in Halifax County. It was built for merchant-planter Alexander Watkins in the late 1830s and/or 1840s. The compact two-story frame house features marble mantels, superb examples of decorative plaster cornices and ceiling medallions, and a stair with foliated ornament. Watkins operated a Bloomsburg Store on his property, which, family tradition holds, did considerable business with immigrants heading westward. The store no longer stands, but surviving buildings on the property include a mid-19th century two-room brick kitchen and a brick carriage house, and other historic domestic and agricultural outbuildings.
Brandon-on-the-Dan represents over two centuries of architectural development. Construction began circa 1810-1825 with a small house of dovetail-notched log construction that may have later served briefly as a tavern. In the 1850s, George and Tabitha Brandon built a two-story Greek Revival frame house next to the log dwelling. The antebellum house features spirited vernacular mantels and stair details, and other ornament produced in the workshop of free African American cabinetmaker Thomas Day of Milton, North Carolina. In 1913, Danville architect James Woodson Hopper designed Craftsman-style features for the house including a new porch and fireplace mantels. The property also contains an extensive African American cemetery dating to the 19th century.
Among Halifax County’s oldest-surviving houses, Cedar Grove dates to the late 1770s, as indicated by aspects of the one story house, which may have been built for William Smith. Early features include hewn and mill-sawn framing members, wrought nails, and tarred fish-scale wooden shingles. Merchant James Warren acquired the property in the early 1800s, and by the 1830s it became the home of his daughter Sarah and her husband, planter and later mill owner Jacob Blane Sr. Federal-style remodeling dates to this period, followed by the addition of Greek and Gothic Revival architectural elements at mid-century. Jacob Blane built an office with Gothic Revival-style features that survives today in front of the house. Other historic structures on the property include log and frame farm buildings, an early smokehouse, and a cemetery. Cedar Grove remained in the Blane and inter-related families until 1945.
Built around 1861, Halifax County’s Glenwood blends the county’s leading antebellum architectural styles: Greek Revival, Gothic Revival, and Italianate. The two-story frame house was constructed in front of an earlier planked circa-1800 log house which became a rear wing. The exterior of the main house exhibits Italianate and Gothic Revival influences, and the interior features a stair with Gothic Revival details and Greek Revival mantels and door and window trim. Architect John Evans Johnson may have contributed to the design of the house, which was built for tobacconist James Anderson Glenn II. In 1912 the property was purchased by the Bass family, the current owners. The property also contains historic outbuildings constructed during the first half of the 20th century.
The Virginia Department of Historic Resources will forward the documentation for all 21 sites listed on the VLR to the National Park Service for nomination to the National Register of Historic Places.
Complete nomination forms and photographs for each of these sites can be accessed on the DHR website at
Listing a property in the state or national registers is honorific 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.
Designating a property to the state or national registers — either individually or as a contributing building in a historic district — provides an owner the opportunity to pursue historic rehabilitation tax credit improvements to the building. Tax credit projects must comply with the Secretary of Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation. The tax credit program is voluntary and not a requirement when owners work on their listed properties.
Virginia is a national leader among states in listing historic sites and districts in the National Register of Historic Places. The state is also a national leader for the number of federal tax credit rehabilitation projects proposed and completed each year.
Together the register and tax credit rehabilitation programs play significant roles in promoting Virginia’s heritage and the preservation of the Commonwealth’s historic places and in spurring economic revitalization and tourism in many towns and communities.