Journey Through A National Register of Historic Places Travel Itinerary
along Route 15 in Virginia's Piedmont
Hallowed Ground
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Rural landscapes characterize the Piedmont region, such as this view of the Green Springs Historic District
National Historic Landmarks photograph

Scenic America: Protecting the Piedmont's Special Scenic Character

The Virginia Piedmont is one of America's most significant landscapes, encompassing centuries of historic sites located in scenic settings. The "spine" of this region is historic, scenic Routes 15 and 20, a corridor whose integrity is critical to the region. Highlighting sites listed in the National Register of Historic Places, the Journey Through Hallowed Ground travel itinerary offers a taste of the wealth of historic buildings, landscapes, and communities along Route 15. The beauty and history of the Piedmont's landscape, which encourage recreation and tourism, enrich not only local quality of life but the local economy too.

Oatlands, an example of one of the Piedmont region's elegant mansions, owned and operated by the National Trust for Historic Preservation
Photograph courtesy of Shannon Bell

While much of the Virginia Piedmont included in this itinerary is relatively pristine - for instance, along Routes 20 and 231 - other areas, most notably in portions of upper Loudoun County, are facing increasing urban growth. If a consensus is not reached on standards of development throughout the region, the Piedmont could be in jeopardy of losing the very qualities for which it is cherished: scenic beauty, historic towns, magnificent vistas, and rural character.

Over the past three years, Scenic America, working with the National Register of Historic Places, the Piedmont Environmental Council, the Conservation Fund, the Preservation Alliance of Virginia, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and other state and local groups, has sought to draw attention to the incomparable scenic and historic resources along Route 15. Yet this work has only just begun.

Just one section of Route 15 surrounded by lush farmland
Photograph courtesy of Scenic America

Preserving a Rural Economy While Encouraging "Smart Growth"
The historic, lush landscape that characterizes the beauty of the Piedmont also fuels the rural economy along Route 15. Many Piedmont communities realize that tourism can continue to flourish only as long as the rural character of the local landscape is protected and preserved. "Smart growth" refers to well-planned development that integrates quality of life and sustainability concerns with transportation and land use planning. In our work on Route 15, Scenic America and our partner organizations are helping communities fully document the special scenic, historic, cultural, and natural features of the corridor and consider how to protect this unique landscape, including adopting "smart growth" principles for development. This work is exciting, as local officials, residents, and others realize their critical role in the future development of the region.

Buckland Tavern, an example of one of the many community buildings that contribute to the small town character of the Piedmont
Photograph courtesy of Ruth E. Lloyd Information Center for Genealogy and Local History, Bull Run Regional Library, Prince William County

Hope for the Region's Future
Scenic America's work to protect the scenic and historic landscape of Route 15, along with the efforts of other groups, is bolstering several promising trends in the region. It is critical that we nurture the sense that the Piedmont's spectacular rural heritage is worth saving for generations to come. While on one level, the goal of the Journey Through Hallowed Ground travel itinerary is to create an enjoyable leisure trip for the Internet traveler, it is also an effort to encourage the protection of the endangered Piedmont landscape that is host to these historic and scenic treasures.

Our best hope for preserving those qualities which make the Virginia Piedmont so special lies in raising public awareness of the historic value of the area, as this National Register itinerary does. Appreciation of the Virginia Piedmont's historic places supports sustainable development that ensures quality of life. Scenic America works to provide citizens with specific strategies and tools to promote sound development patterns and collaborates with area merchants, tourism officials, and others to protect the community character that supports the local economy. We hope you will join us in making this vision a reality.

This essay was contributed by Scenic America, a national nonprofit membership organization dedicated to protecting America's natural beauty and preserving communities' distinctive local character. The organization provides technical assistance across the nation on scenic byways, billboard control, context-sensitive road design, cell tower location, transportation policies, and other scenic conservation issues. They also promote scenic conservation by educating Congress and state legislatures and participating in site-specific projects in various states. In addition, the organization produces a full range of publications on preserving scenic beauty, open space, and quality of life that contribute to our environment and economy. For more information about Scenic America, please visit their web site or contact them directly at Scenic America, 801 Pennsylvania Ave., SE, Suite 300 Washington, DC 20003 202-543-6200


Piedmont History essay Civil War essay Preserving the Piedmont essay


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