Virginia's Most Endangered Places

A recent article in the Washington Post by Joe Heim explores Virginia's most endangered places, which include black cemeteries, a legislative office complex, and a former slave dwelling. The article features the Daughters of Zion Cemetery, subject to a preservation battle here in Charlottesville, Virginia. Read an excerpt below to learn more:

The cemetery was historic but suffered from neglect. Tombstones had fallen over. Vandals had destroyed markers. Weeds ran wild. Edwina St. Rose was saddened by what she saw happening to the Daughters of Zion Cemetery in Charlottesville. She has relatives buried there, and it hurt to see their final resting place falling apart. So for the past few years, the Charlottesville native and a few of her friends have spent their free time trying to restore the African American cemetery, which was founded in 1873. The city of Charlottesville contributed $80,000 to help with the refurbishing. And now St. Rose and her friends are getting some extra attention for their effort.

Preservation Virginia, a nonprofit group formed in 1889 to protect the state’s historic landmarks and heritage, announced Tuesday that African American cemeteries across Virginia, a schoolhouse built for the children of freed slaves and the General Assembly’s office building complex in Richmond are among the commonwealth’s most endangered historic places.

Also on the list, which the organization releases each year to highlight sites that it believes are threatened by neglect, development or misuse, are a former slave dwelling, natural and historic resources endangered by utility infrastructure projects, and a neighborhood that would be irrevocably altered by development of a 150-year-old tract of land in Richmond. “We want to highlight awareness that historic preservation of these places is vital to Virginia’s economy and sense of identity,” said Elizabeth Kostelny, Preservation Virginia’s chief executive. “We want to raise awareness of some of these threats, and we really want to offer solutions.”

The Daughters of Zion Cemetery is typical of many African American burial grounds across the state. Upkeep is expensive, and maintenance of the properties fell off as churches closed and communities dissolved. St. Rose says about 300 people are buried at the cemetery, but only about 150 markers remain. Her group, the Preservers of the Daughters of Zion Cemetery, has been working with landscape architects and monument preservers to salvage and restore the property. “It’s very rewarding to do this,” St. Rose says. “It’s very satisfying to know that I’m part of a project that’s going to help tell the story of African American history. And I hope that we can get more help to do that.”

To read the full article, click here.