Monday, February 23, 2015

Selma Mansion, Still Endangered

Selma is a 113 year-old mansion located five miles north of Leesburg in Loudoun County. The property is near U.S. Route 15/James Monroe Highway, formerly known as the Carolina Road, an important Colonial trading path that extended from Maryland to North Carolina.

Selma Plantation stands in the background as a new housing development goes up.

The original estate at Selma was established in 1815 by Armistead Thomson Mason, nephew of George Mason. A 19th century house stood at Selma until it burned in the 1890s. The present Colonial Revival mansion was built in 1902 by Elijah White. The 1902 house is Loudoun’s earliest example of Colonial Revival architecture. Over the years, Selma has changed hands multiple times and is currently owned by Historic Selma Estates. It does not appear that Selma is currently for sale. 

Selma is part of the Catoctin Rural Historic District, a 25,000-acre area in northern Loudoun County that contains a mixture of historic churches, schoolhouses, bridges, small farms, and large estates.

Since 1999, no obvious maintenance or improvements have been made to the property. A 300-unit development was built near Selma which disrupted the viewshed from the mansion.  For these reasons, Selma was listed on Preservation Virginia’s Endangered Sites list in 2009.

Preservation Virginia‘s Endangered sites program helps raise awareness of Virginia's historic sites at risk from neglect, deterioration, lack of maintenance, insufficient funds, inappropriate development or insensitive public policy.
Preservation Virginia does not own or control the buildings we list. We encourage preservation-minded individuals or organizations to invest in endangered sites that are for sale or in need of financial assistance. If you are interested in visiting, researching, or purchasing any Endangered Sites listing like Selma Plantation, please contact owners, local real estate agents, or local city or county government officials in which the endangered site exists. 

Tuesday, February 10, 2015


Historic preservation has many local economic benefits, such as the hiring of craftsmen and skilled workers.  Since Preservation Virginia’s Tobacco Barns Project’s inception in 2012, over ten local jobs have been supported in the Pittsylvania, Halifax and Caswell County region.

These ten jobs represent five local building companies from Pittsylvania, Halifax and Caswell Counties who were hired in 2014 to repair barns as well as a local photographer; moreover, these companies will continue working with the barns project in 2015 and beyond.

William and Miles McNichols repairing a tobacco barn in Pittsylvania County

Not only are jobs being created, but these jobs go beyond the benefits of typical job creation by giving back to the entire community. For example, the barns that were repaired are all visible from the public right-of-way and could easily be incorporated into a regional tobacco heritage tourism initiative, such as a smartphone application-led driving trail.

By celebrating and supporting the deeply-ingrained agricultural history of the region, the barns project has had other positive outcomes such as strengthening local identity and reinforcing what people already know — that promoting local heritage is vital to the current and future well-being of their communities. These benefits are something that local jurisdictions and economic development departments should recognize.

Job creation aside, there are yet more examples of how historic preservation helps improve local economies:
  • Investing in a historic house is a sound investment. The lifespan of new buildings is between 40-50 years but most historic structures were built to last over 100 years. Houses in historic districts have proven to have higher property values than houses not in historic districts. Historic home owners are also eligible for historic rehabilitation tax credits.
  • Historic buildings attract people who want to improve and be active participants in their communities. For example, many people have moved to Danville in recent years for one reason — affordable historic houses. When these tax-paying citizens add so much to the local economy, Danville’s historic districts should be considered prime economic assets. 
  • Historic buildings, sites and main streets attract visitors. Tourism is Virginia’s second largest industry. The city, town, or county that does not take advantage of its tourism potential is making a huge economic blunder.

Von Wellington of Wellington Film Group recording the repair of a tobacco barn

The reach of the Tobacco Barns Project serves as an example of the kind of inclusive program that localities should take to heart and it helps demonstrate that historic preservation in the 21st century is not just about saving elaborate houses owned by a town’s former leaders, but rather the recognition of a wider, more inclusive and shared history that also comes with many economic benefits.