The Town of Ashland is thrilled to share that on Tuesday, September 20th, Ashland's Berkleytown neighborhood received official designation and listing as a Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places by the National Park Service. The designation recognizes the significance of African American history in the Town of Ashland during the period of 1910-1969.
The process to seek the designation was initiated by the Town's Planning & Community Development department in 2021 in consultation with Berkleytown residents.
The Town facilitated several public input sessions prior to and as part of the designation process to ensure that all residents of Berkleytown, current and former, were included. In addition, consulting firm Dovetail Cultural Resource Group did extensive historic research on the individual properties in the community.
The final designation document was presented to the community for input before it was submitted for review and approved by the Department of Historic Resources Register Evaluation Committee and the Virginia State Review Board. The Berkleytown Historic District was officially listed on the Virginia Landmarks Register on June 16, 2022, and then nominated further for National Eligibility, where it was listed on September 20th.
Registration on both the National and State Historic Registers are honorific only and do not automatically place any restrictions on property owners within the district. Only local zoning ordinances can affect these permissions, of which Ashland currently has none.
The designation does, however, make the properties eligible for historic rehabilitation tax credits. In Virginia, the Historic Tax Credit rate is 25%, which reimburses eligible rehabilitation expenses. Income-producing properties can also apply for the Federal Tax Credit, allowing them to claim up to 45% of the expenses. National Register designation may also allow property owners in the district to be eligible for additional grants or other incentives.
A traditionally African American community, Berkleytown was formed in 1894 just outside of Ashland's town limits at that time. As a result, residents were not subject to the Town’s segregation ordinance, which was passed in 1911 and prohibited anyone from moving onto a block where a different race was in the majority.
During this time period, Berkelytown residents relied on strong communal ties to one another and to the Black-owned businesses that supported the neighborhood, resulting in a largely self-sufficient and thriving community.
Today, several of these resources remain and are visible reminders of Ashland’s past. By acknowledging and working to help preserve historic places such as Berkleytown, the Town of Ashland can make more informed and inclusive decisions for the future.
You can learn more about Berkleytown's history in this 2021 story from the Richmond Times-Dispatch or by visiting the Hanover County Black Heritage Society.
(Photo credits: Ashland Museum)