National Park Service U.S. Department of the Interior

National Register of Historic Places Program
Weekly Highlight: Prince William Forest Park Historic District
Prince William County, Virginia

The National Register of Historic Places is the official list of the Nation's historic places worthy of preservation. Authorized by the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, the National Park Service's National Register of Historic Places is part of a national program to coordinate and support public and private efforts to identify, evaluate, and protect America's historic and archeological resources.


[photo] of highlighted property

Prince William Forest Park (PRWI) is a 10,000-acre National Park located approximately thirty-five miles south of Washington, DC. Within the park, there are several different multi-cabin camps dating back to the 1930s when the park was referred to as the Chopawamsic Recreational Demonstration Area (RDA). These camps reflect the history and legacy of the New Deal and Depression-era relief programs, while the park itself is a testament to history dating back to 8,000 BC. Over 500 resources were recorded in the PRWI Historic District, and 199 resources have been listed previously on the National Register of Historic Places. Prince William Forest Park Historic District is listed for these significant contributions to American history, from Native Americans to the New Deal, from spies of the Central Intelligence Agency to urban campers escaping from the city. The PRWI Historic District’s Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) buildings are architecturally significant in NPS rustic style. They remain in use today and have historic integrity.

Humans have inhabited the hills within PRWI for at least 9,000 years, leaving artifacts and other traces of their lives behind. The first European settlers came in the late 1600s and began to transform the landscape into farmland, their fields of corn, wheat, and other crops alternating with dense woods. Roads were built, some of them following old Indian trails, and small communities soon followed. Until the 1930s PRWI shared the history of much of Virginia, and its landscape was like much of the surrounding area.

PRWI Historic District is nationally significant as a model for the NPS Recreational Demonstration Area (RDA) program that was a product of the New Deal era. NPS used Prince William Forest Park to illustrate how RDAs could restore agriculturally depleted land, employ the labor of the newly established Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), and benefit the impoverished children and families of the inner city with its campgrounds. PR WI was also one of the first RDAs in the country and the first of the RDAs in southern states to designate camps for African Americans. Chopawamsic is illustrative of the efforts of the NPS to provide equal accommodations for African-American campers during a time when most parks only offered facilities and campgrounds exclusively for whites.

[photo] of highlighted property

Read the full file on Prince William Forest Park Historic District.

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See our Weekly List (with previous highlights)