Virginia is for History Lovers

Ships docked at Historic Jamestown Settlement, founded 1607

One of the United States’ original Thirteen Colonies, the Commonwealth of Virginia is rich in culture and heritage both old and new.  The Middle Atlantic state is often referred to as the “Old Dominion,” an apt nickname speaking to its influential legacy in the national narrative.  Over 400 years since the establishment of the renowned Jamestown Colony, Virginia is indeed a genealogist’s paradise, with some of the oldest records capturing the lives of the nation’s first citizens preserved both tangibly and intangibly.  Churches and courthouses, barns and bridges dot the landscape–visible, tangible reminders of Virginia’s long social, economic, and religious history.  Yet where these structures no longer stand, there are other signs – literally – indicating prior existence and significance.

Traveling along scenic state routes and winding country roads, visitors cannot ignore the hundreds of black-lettered, silver-painted historical highway markers.  These informational plaques installed by the Virginia Department of Historic Resources serve to commemorate important people, places, events, and institutions in local, state, and national history.  First erected in 1927 and now numbering over 2,200, they offer contextual evidence and a glimpse into Virginia’s distant and more recent past.

Virginia's historical markers are maintained by the Department of Historic Resources

Virginia’s Middle Peninsula features 90 historical highway markers scattered throughout its six counties.   The majority of markers are grouped into specialty themed tours emphasizing a certain element of the Middle Peninsula’s history, for example, American Revolution, Native Americans, Civil War, Homes, and People.  The tours allow history lovers to engage with the local history according to individual interests: by following Francis Bacon’s path as he prepared his rebellion; by admiring former residences of early-18th century Virginians; by recognizing the historical contributions of native cultures and peoples; and more.  Whether in search of a specific plaque or just passing through on the way to sunny Virginia Beach, visitors are able to engage with history on a personalized basis and any way they desire

AiP Volunteers at the 1930 Edge Hill Service Station, Gloucester, Virginia

Between May 20-28, 2011, Adventures in Preservation will partner with archaeologists from the Fairfield Foundation to restore a building from Gloucester’s history and part of our shared heritage, the 1930 Edge Hill Service Station.  Preservation work on this iconic landmark, one of the original Texaco gas stations built in Virginia and a remnant of America’s early automobile age, will remind history lovers that elements of recent 20th century past are fast deteriorating as well.  The upcoming project, Glazing at the Gas Station, will allow volunteers to experience historic preservation first-hand as they help to restore the windows’ original appearance with clean, environmentally friendly materials. Caring for historical sites through hands-on participation and exhibiting a commitment to Gloucester’s community heritage in the form of sustainable historic preservation is at the heart of our mission.

Rosewell Ruins, former home of the Page family and testament to 18th century colonial architecture

When not assisting trained professionals with this important preservation work, volunteers will have an opportunity to experience the area’s rich, diverse architectural and archaeological heritage.  Throughout the week group field trips are scheduled to visit Gloucester’s Downtown Historic District, of which the gas station is a part; the Fairfield Plantation Archaeological Site; Werowocomoco, the home of Pocahontas; and the Rosewell Ruins.  In addition, AiP volunteers will be treated to a behind-the-scenes tour of Colonial Williamsburg, where Staff Archaeologist Meredith Poole will explain ongoing archaeological and curatorial work at the site.  The tour will mark the end of this AiP project but for many will inspire a lifelong appreciation of the Old Dominion’s remarkable heritage.

Interns Make the World Go Round

We’re pleased to welcome two new interns to Adventures in Preservation. MacKensie Cornelius and Nicholas Merkelson are both world travelers whose adventures have fed their keen interest in cultural heritage and global heritage issues and inspired them to do more to help preserve the world’s architectural heritage.

MacKensie has a professional background in archaeology and education, and has participated in archaeological digs all over the East Coast of the US and most recently, in Mongolia. For the past several years she has been traveling and living all over Asia while teaching English at universities and language centers. She is looking forward to returning to the US in 2011 to pursue a career in historic preservation. She is a strong believer in the power of volunteers and communities coming together to make a difference. Her own experiences have shown that voluntourism is “a great way to increase public awareness about not just problems, but real solutions and to erase the voice in each of us that says ‘What can one person do?’” As she says, “For volunteer participants, these working vacations are a way to connect with the place they are exploring in a meaningful way. Everyone wins!”

Nicholas recently completed a master’s degree with Distinction Honors at the Institute of Archaeology, University College London, where he focused on cultural resource management vis-à-vis conservation, education, and interpretation. A veteran of archaeological excavations in Kenya and Spain, Nicholas is also the founder and moderator of Culture in Peril, a widely acclaimed blog devoted to the discussion and interpretation of important ongoing cultural heritage issues. His primary interests are public access to and the public relations aspects of cultural resource management.

Nicholas will be the face of AiP at events and speaking engagements in the New York City area and beyond. Be sure to catch him as he shares his, and our, passion for preservation.