A moment to celebrate for Shockoe Hill

Hooray! This morning, the state review board and the board of the Virginia Department of Historic Resources at their quarterly meeting both unanimously approved our nomination of the “Shockoe Hill Burying Ground Historic District,” for listing on the Virginia landmarks register. This step moves the nomination forward to the National Park Service for listing on the National Register of Historic Places, a formal determination for which will be announced within a month or so.

This is such a joyful moment for our team — coauthors Lenora McQueen, Dan Mouer, Steve Thompson, and myself, as well as our close allies Ana Edwards, Ellen Chapman, and so many more. We are also celebrating with two DHR staff members who contributed enormously to helping us smooth out all the details in the nomination, Marc Wagner and Lena Sweeten McDonald.

The chair of the Board of Historic Resources, Tucker Lemon, declared during the meeting that ours was the best nomination his board had ever received! And DHR staff told us that they had received more letters of support for this nomination than for any other nomination they had received in memory. Those who sent in letters of support included Senators Tim Kaine and Mark Warner, Representative Donald McEachin, state delegate Jeff Bourne and other state senators and delegates, Mayor Levar Stoney, and Richmond city councilwoman Ellen Robertson and other members of city council.

None of this would have been possible without the tireless dedication, research, and advocacy by Lenora McQueen, a member of the descendant community of the Shockoe Hill African Burying Ground. Our historic district restores that burying ground to its rightful place alongside the previously listed Shockoe Hill Cemetery, Hebrew Cemetery, and Almshouse within the district.

You can see the full nomination here (including its many visual aids, photographs, and maps).

State and national register listing is largely symbolic – it does not grant firm protection against ongoing threats to now-recognized properties like the Shockoe Hill African Burying Ground. Nevertheless, it is a helpful tool and a highly visible recognition of the important history of this property that had not been acknowledged before.

It was so wonderful for me to be present for the vote this morning, and to celebrate alongside the other nominations that were likewise unanimously approved and worthy of recognition — which for our region included the Byrne Street USO Club in Petersburg, the Chatsworth School in Henrico County, and Timberneck in Gloucester County.

Onward to the National Register.

 

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