Virginia has some of the richest and most diverse historic resources in the nation, ranging from 16,000 year-old Native American sites to properties associated with the exploration of space.
Why is This Important?
Historic resources are vital assets that support economic development, community revitalization, education, and civic pride. In the last decade, more than $1.5 billion has been invested for certified rehabilitation projects in over 1,200 historic buildings, revitalizing Virginia's cities and towns and supporting 10,769 jobs. Reusing historic infrastructure saves energy invested in the original structure, reduces waste in our landfills, and also reduces traffic congestion and costs for local governments.
Families and corporations alike are drawn to the beauty and quality of life found in communities that are rich in history and architectural character. Historic attractions are one of the principal reasons that visitors come to Virginia, and these visitors typically stay longer and spend more, contributing to Virginia's $17.5 billion tourism industry. Historic sites teach young people the lessons of history and geography and connect them to both past and future.
How is Virginia Doing?
Virginia leads the nation not only in richness of historic assets, but also in putting these assets to work for communities. In 2006, Virginia's total number of historic districts (30) was almost five times the national average (6.3) and exceeded North Carolina (12), Maryland (6), and Tennessee (11). Similarly, Virginia's listings of historic resources (96) for 2006 were nearly four times the national average (25.4). Arkansas had the most listings at 104, North Carolina had 45, Maryland had 20, and Tennessee had 39.
National Historic Landmarks are objects and sites designated by the Secretary of the Interior to be significant to American history and culture. As of March 2012, Virginia had 121 designated National Historic Landmarks, placing it fifth among the states. In comparison, Maryland had 71, North Carolina had 38, and Tennessee had 29. New York led the states with 266 National Historic Landmarks.
Virginia also excels in completing projects that rehabilitate historic buildings to meet 21st century needs and for placing historic resources under protective easements. From 2000-2009, the number of projects reinvesting in historic infrastructure more than tripled, while the number of property owners and local communities seeking to register historic properties and districts more than doubled -- earning the Commonwealth a second-place rank in the nation for these measures. During the same time frame, properties protected through preservation easements increased by roughly 80 percent. Since 2009, however, the number of historic rehabilitation projects has dropped by nearly 25 percent, while private dollars invested in same has also declined.
What Influences Historic Resources?
Citizens care about the landmarks that define and anchor their communities. It is their appreciation and understanding of how to make the most of these resources that have the greatest influence over whether Virginia's historic resources are preserved and used -- or lost forever.
The pressures on historic resources continue to grow with the increase of suburban development. Rapid development into rural areas threatens historic battlefields, cemeteries, archaeological sites, and agricultural buildings and landscapes.
A growing number of localities use comprehensive plans, local historic district zoning, and property tax abatements to shape development of historic areas. State and federal rehabilitation tax credits encourage sensitive reuse of buildings in the urban core, while conservation tax credits encourage long-term protection.
Historic resources are also influenced by the actions of federal agencies that own property in Virginia or that fund, license, or permit actions actions that are covered by federal historic preservation law -- and that can affect the state's historic landscape.
What is the State's Role?
Virginia's approach to historic preservation has traditionally been one of partnership between the public and private sectors. By far the largest number of historic resources are owned and controlled by private individuals, families, corporations, or non-profit organizations. The state's role in this partnership is two-fold:
- to provide information, education, guidance, and incentives to encourage and support private sector stewardship
- to provide leadership by example in the care of historic properties owned by agencies of the Commonwealth
State rankings are ordered so that #1 is understood to be the best.
Data Definitions and Sources
Go to the Department of Historic Resources (DHR) for more information on Virginia's historic assets and on the state and federal programs administered by DHR, including Virginia Historic Landmarks, preservation tools, and incentives programs.
Information on the National Register of Historic Places can be found at www.cr.nps.gov/nr/.
The complete listing of the National Historic Landmarks Program can be found at www.nps.gov/nhl/designations/listsofNHLs.htm.
See the Data Sources and Updates Calendar for a detailed list of the data resources used for indicator measures on Virginia Performs.