What is the Program?
The Historic Marker Program was created to recognize structures of historic and architectural significance in and around Lexington (see eligibility criteria). By identifying such structures, Historic Lexington Foundation (HLF) strives to foster broader public awareness and appreciation for the area’s past and encourage efforts to preserve its architectural heritage.
Genesis of the Program
In 2011, HLF placed a marker on the Haden and Rebecca Holmes House located at 205 Fuller Street in Lexington. The year before, HLF had saved the house from demolition through its purchase, stabilization, and exterior restoration. The marker reads simply “The Holmes House c. 1880” together with the name Historic Lexington Foundation and the HLF hinge logo. While not necessarily distinguished from an architectural standpoint, the Holmes House was the home of freedmen who came to Lexington from Amherst County after the Civil War and was one of the earlier homes in what would become the African American neighborhood of Green Hill. And because of its association with a prominent African American family, HLF decided to honor it with a historic marker. That bronze marker with dark green background serves as the prototype for the Historic Marker Program.
Types of Buildings Considered
The Lexington area is architecturally rich. Buildings have often undergone various usages over the years. Those building types covered by the marker program include those that over their lifetimes have served as private residences, commercial buildings, stables, mills, theaters, schools, churches, and municipal buildings.
Generally, a building must be at least 50 years old and of historic and/or architectural significance to the Lexington area. The building’s exterior must be properly maintained in accordance with its architectural style and heritage. Changes and alterations to the building’s exterior must be consistent with its architectural integrity. If a building has been moved from its original site, it must maintain its historic architectural style.
A building owner, or a building tenant with the building owner’s approval, may apply to receive an historic marker (see application form). In the application, HLF will ask for the historic name of the building and the date of construction for inclusion on the marker. The name may be associated with the first owner or others associated with the property, e.g. Jacob Ruff House and the Alexander-Withrow Building. As part of the application process, HLF will also request a brief description of the property, e.g., architectural style and significance.
Fee for Historic Marker
Once an application has been approved, HLF will ask for a $200 check from the applicant. This covers the cost of fabricating the marker and shipping and handling. Should the cost of the marker increase in the future, the cost to the applicant will increase accordingly.
Installation of Marker
Installation will be at the owner’s expense. It is expected that the marker will be installed on the front of the property. If the applicant requires professional assistance in installing the marker, HLF will provide recommendations for such service.
Inclusion of HLF Website
With the approval, and only with the approval of the property owner, HLF will include the property on its website. This will include building name and date as it appears on the marker, the address of the building, and a brief description of the historic and architectural significance to the building.
Historic Lexington Foundation Inaugurates Historic Marker Program
In celebration of the 50th anniversary of its founding, Historic Lexington Foundation has established a new program to help showcase historic properties in and around Lexington. Beginning this summer, owners of historic homes and other buildings will have the opportunity to order and install plaques on those properties listing the historic name and date of construction.
“By identifying such structures, HLF strives to foster broader public awareness and appreciation for the area’s past and encourage efforts to preserve its architectural heritage,” notes HLF Executive Director Don Hasfurther. Many historic cities, including Fredericksburg, Virginia, and Annapolis, Maryland, have long-established historic marker programs, each with markers on over 200 historic properties.
To inaugurate the program, HLF will be placing a marker on the South Main Street home of Gene and Nancy Sullivan. The brass marker reads “General Francis H. Smith House c. 1889.” Designed by prominent Lexington architect William McDowell, the house was the last home of General Smith. A West Point graduate, Smith was the first superintendent of the Virginia Military Institute. Coincidentally, Gene Sullivan is a West Point graduate.
Generally, a building must be at least 50 years old and of historic and/or architectural significance to the Lexington area. The building’s exterior must be properly maintained in accordance with its architectural style and heritage.
General Francis H. Smith
Gene and Nancy Sullivan holding marker with picture of General Francis H. Smith in the background.