These 4 Virginia Historic Sites Shaped the Nation. Now, They’re Receiving Federal Funding for Research and Repairs.

Historic American Buildings Survey (Library of Congress)

By Amie Knowles

July 25, 2023

Over $1 million will go toward preserving state-owned historic sites including the Belle Isle Manor House, the Timberneck House at Machicomoco State Park, the submerged Siege of Yorktown Battlefield, and Fort George.

Four historical sites in the commonwealth got a big boost this month. Over $1 million will go toward preserving the state-owned locations, thanks to the Semiquincentennial Grant Program.

The program focuses on historical sites throughout the country, which help tell the story of the founding of the United States 250 years ago. While the semiquincentennial celebration won’t take place until 2026, the grant program began in 2020 in an effort to preserve and restore select sites and structures listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

To be eligible for a grant from the program, sites must adhere to four criteria:

  • Be owned by a state government
  • Be listed in the National Register of Historic Places
  • Have significant association with or commemoration of people, places, or events taking place by December 31, 1800
  • And may include certain partnerships with states through leases, operating agreements, or fundraising relationships.

In total, 20 cultural resource preservation projects across 14 states will benefit from this round of grant funding. 

Curious about the additions from Virginia? We’ve got all the deets on the featured four.

Belle Isle Manor House 

These 4 Virginia Historic Sites Shaped the Nation. Now, They’re Receiving Federal Funding for Research and Repairs.

Historic American Buildings Survey (Library of Congress)

The largest grant headed to a Virginia site will go to the Belle Isle Manor House in Lancaster. 

Built around 1760, the tobacco plantation home was constructed by enslaved Virginians. While it switched hands privately multiple times throughout the centuries, the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation (VDCR) purchased the home in 2015. 

Since the purchase, community groups and volunteers have joined park staff in an effort to revitalize the historic property and gardens. 

“High-priority repairs include further masonry cleaning and repair, foundation stabilization, and lead and asbestos abatement, with a goal of a complete interior renovation,” according to the Friends of Belle Isle State Park website

The nearly $795,000 grant will help with the historic site’s rehabilitation needs.

Timberneck House

The second-largest grant will support the second phase of rehabilitation efforts at the Timberneck House. 

Located in Machicomoco State Park in Hayes, the historic home was built in 1793—and burials on the property began in that same century. Originally owned by the Catlett family, the farmhouse expanded with an addition around 1850. 

Hosting an original staircase and period hardware, the two-story weatherboard home is well on its way to becoming a “place for learning, lodging, and exploring Virginia’s Middle Peninsula,” according to the Fairfield Foundation (who is taking the lead on renovations). 

Once complete, the restored house will feature “a number of exhibits discussing the history and persistence of Virginia Indians, the history of Timberneck farm, and highlighting many local sites of interest in and near Gloucester County,” the foundation’s website read. 

The project will receive over $180,200 for the necessary repairs. 

Submerged Siege of Yorktown Battlefield 

These 4 Virginia Historic Sites Shaped the Nation. Now, They’re Receiving Federal Funding for Research and Repairs.

Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division

You’ve probably heard of the Battle of Yorktown, where Continental and French forces outnumbered and outfought the British troops. The Virginia site was the location of the last major land battle of the American Revolution, which led to peace negotiations and brought about the end of the Revolutionary War. 

But did you know that some of the history of that fateful battle remains underwater more than 240 years later? The federal funds will provide $75,000 to conduct a remote sensing survey of selected areas of submerged portions that help tell the story of the battle. 

Former discoveries include several shipwrecks found in the York River, cannons, glass beverage containers, a brass pocket knife, a ceramic whistle in the shape of a monkey, and more.

Fort George

Did you know that the first enslaved Africans in the New World arrived on the shores of Virginia? In 1619, some “20 and odd” African men and women landed at Point Comfort, the seaside area now known as Fort Monroe, after being stolen by English privateers from a slave ship bound for Vera Cruz, Mexico. 

In an effort to further fortify Point Comfort, construction began on Fort George in or around 1730. However, a hurricane destroyed the structure in 1749. 

Funded with $75,000, the grant will allow for a Fort George resource protection survey.

Federal Funding

Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, both Virginia Democrats, released a joint statement about the federal funds. 

“Virginia’s rich and diverse history is worth protecting,” the senators said. “We are thrilled to see this substantial funding go towards the restoration and preservation of some of the most notable sites that shaped not just Virginia, but the entire country.”

  • Amie Knowles

    Amie is Dogwood's community editor. She has been in journalism for several years, winning multiple awards from the Virginia Press Association for news and features content. A lifelong Virginia resident, her work has appeared in the Martinsville Bulletin, Danville Register & Bee and NWNC Magazine.

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