Friday, September 7, 2012

Danville, Virginia -Making Historic Strides

Written by Guest Blogger Sarah Latham, President of Danville Historical Society
The City of Danville is moving forward with its River District plans.  The first phase of historic downtown redevelopment will focus on widening the sidewalks to make them more pedestrian-friendly and beautiful.  The widened walkways will also accommodate outdoor seating for eateries.  Danville wins award for River District Plan.
At the same time the city government has hired firms to create master plans in portions of two historic neighborhoods: the Monument-Berryman neighborhood that contains historic mill housing in the Tobacco Warehouse District, and parts of the Old West End (OWE) National Register Historic District.  The focus of the OWE master plan is on areas where numerous historic houses have been cut up into multi-unit apartments, as well as on the “Five Forks” area that was formerly a thriving residential/retail/commercial district. 
In addition, the city is partnering with the Danville Historical Society on some initiatives.
The Danville Historical Society received a grant from the Danville Regional Foundation earlier this year to create a “gathering space” on the (city-owned) grounds of the Danville Museum of Fine Arts and History.  
Trail marker with brass tobacco leaf
This gathering space will have a circular patio, seating and vertical granite slabs that will serve both as sculpture and as kiosks containing visitor information.  The space will also be the starting point for the Historical Society’s guided tour of Danville’s Millionaires Row.

Fred Meder's mother, Elaine, helping create trail markers

DHS board member Joyce Wilburn and DHS member Fred Meder conceived and spearheaded the plan.  They received cooperation from the Danville Museum, the City of Danville, Pittsylvania County and Caswell County for the project.  Visitor information for the city and both counties will be available at the kiosks.
As part of this plan, Joyce Wilburn and DHS board member Paula Smith developed a self-guided walking tour of the Holbrook-Ross National Register Historic District in Danville.  Holbrook-Ross is a neighborhood created by professional African-Americans shortly after the Civil War.  The Danville Regional Foundation grant provided funds to print brochures of the walking tour.
Finally, the plan also includes placing trail markers along the routes of the Millionaires Row and Holbrook-Ross tours.  Fred Meder designed and fabricated the markers.  The City of Danville has agreed to do the necessary work to place these markers in the sidewalks.
This Historical Society initiative has led to a new collaboration with the City of Danville: the development of a Heritage Walking Trail in Danville’s historic downtown and Tobacco Warehouse District.  Local attorney R.J. Lackey conceived the idea for a heritage walking trail and soon learned that the DHS had two trails.  Working with Mr. Lackey and the City of Danville, the DHS is helping map out the overall proposed trail, linking the two existing ones with the new ones.  The DHS will also research and create content for information kiosks and signage along the routes of the trails.           

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