COMMUNITY EFFORTS

Rural Historic Districts In Virginia: 
Supporting Community Pr
The Role of Rural Historic Districts in Preserving Community Assets
Listing an area as a rural historic   district on the National Register   of Historic Places and the Virginia Landmarks Register is an honorary designation that has real benefits in bringing communities together to protect their unique cultural, historic and natural assets.  It provides limited protection from certain federal actions for buildings or landscapes in the district, as well as the possibility of tax credits for major building renovations.  Although designation requires research and documentation of the area and structures, which is time consuming and may be costly if an architectural historian is employed, the end result is broader community appreciation for the area.
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of place will be preserved over time as change occurs.
The PEC has worked for 32 years in Virginia’s northern Piedmont, from Albemarle to Loudoun, to protect and preserve its historic and scenic beauty, much of it an agricultural landscape little changed from 200 years ago. Landowners have placed nearly 190,000 acres under permanent conservation easements in the nine county region that PEC serves, most of it by donation to the state’s Virginia Outdoors Foundation. Nevertheless, development pressures have increased in the region, with large residential and commercial projects obliterating significant segments of this historic landscape. It is therefore increasingly important to raise the awareness of residents and decision makers to the rich and irreplaceable historic, cultural and natural resources in their communities so that they will take actions to preserve them.
In the PEC region, there are at least seven state designated rural historic districts. The Goose Creek District in western Loudoun County was the district of its kind.  It was designated in 1977, followed by Catoctin in 1988.  The contiguous Madison-Barbour District in Orange County (1987) and the Southwest Mountains District in Albemarle County (1991) are the two largest in the Commonwealth.  Jointly comprising over 62,000 acres, they encompass the landscape from James Madison’s Montpelier to Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello.  As an illustration of one positive effect of historic districts, more than 10,000 acres, or one third, of the Madison-Barbour District are now protected by permanent conservation easements.  Approximately one third of the Southwest Mountains District is similarly protected.  
Clarke County has two rural historic districts: the Greenway District was designated in 1993, followed by the Long Marsh Run District in 1996.  The most recent addition is the Crooked Run Valley District in Fauquier County, designated in March 2004.  Two more proposed historic istricts are in progress in Albemarle:  the Covesville
Ms. deGive is the director of planning services for the Piedmont Environmental Council.
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Mr. Miller is the president of the Piedmont Environmental Council.
Historic districts can stimulate communities to think about their future and the long term protection of their resources. Over the years, the Piedmont Environmental Council (PEC) has worked with communities in creating several rural historic districts, providing services ranging from on the ground documentation to technical support to public advocacy.  This article will describe a case study of the creation of one Rural Historic District, and give several examples of locally recognized districts that embody creative initiatives.  They all have the same goal: to educate residents, decision makers and visitors to the special qualities of a community so that its sense
PHOTOS/ PEC