The Ben Venue Rural Historic District is now an official designation. In December, the Virginia Department of Historic Resources (DHR) added the Rappahannock site, along with ten other historic sites around the state, to the Virginia Landmarks Register. The 11 sites will also be added to the National Register of Historic Places, administered by the National Park Service.
Running along Ben Venue Road (Route 729) between the late-18th-century villages of Gaines Crossroads (now known as Ben Venue) and Flint Hill, the new district features farmsteads and residences of historic buildings and supporting structures dating from the mid-18th century through the mid-20th century.
The new district joins four other historic districts in the county — the villages of Flint Hill and Sperryville, Laurel Mills, and the town of Washington — with Ben Venue being the only rural district.
The road to completing the nomination took many years, explained Jennifer Hallock of Arcadia Preservation at an informational meeting in Flint Hill last August. “The process for adding the Ben Venue district began in the early 2000s when DHR contracted with a private consulting firm to conduct a county-wide survey that included several areas for possible designation as rural historic districts, including F. T. Valley Road, Yancey Road and Woodville, in addition to Ben Venue Road.”
By 2008, Ben Venue Road had been formally nominated, “but the process was put on hold when the economy tanked,” said Hallock. “Then [in November 2013], county residents Hal Hunter and Alexia Morrison — who had served as ambassadors to build support in the county — were able to raise funds to continue the process.” A full survey of the proposed district began that December.
The process was again temporarily halted after last August’s meeting when questions arose about the accuracy of the maps used to identify property owners along and adjacent to the proposed district. The county’s tax maps were then adjusted and new notification letters were sent to property owners and adjacent properties.
Representatives from DHR convened a second informational meeting in November in Little Washington. And the nomination went forward to be officially considered by the State Review Board and the Board of Historic Resources for recommendation to the National Register of Historic Places and for inclusion in the Virginia Landmarks Register.
Hunter was inspired by the county’s comprehensive plan to support the nomination for the historic district. “The 2004 plan supports ‘the establishment of rural historic districts to protect recognized properties of historic value that are located outside village and town settings that include historic buildings and the extensive surrounding historic landscape and estate grounds,’” said Hunter, quoting the plan. “It suggests that ‘the county work towards the creation of at least one such district in the coming five (5) years.’ Finally, we have our first.”
The Rappahannock County Historical Society helped Hallock in her research. “Jennifer was in here many times over the years while conducting the architectural survey of the proposed district,” said the Society’s executive director, Judy Tole. “We are very pleased that the Ben Venue Rural Historic District is now recognized. Ben Venue and Richmond Road, the present Ben Venue Road, are significant areas relating to our county’s valuable heritage with its varied contributing resources.”
For the complete nomination form and photographs from the historic district, go to http://www.dhr.virginia.gov/registers/Counties/Rappahannock/078-5141_BenVenueRuralHD_2015_NRHP_FINAL.pdf