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Fairfax County sites linked to African American history could be eligible for national register, report says

Lane’s Mill Archaelogical Park was identified as eligible for the National Register of Historic Places by the county’s African American Historic Resources draft report (via Fairfax County Department of Planning and Development)

Several locations linked to African American history in Fairfax County could be eligible to be designated as historic places.

Those buildings and neighborhoods include the Louise Archer School, the Tinner Hill neighborhood and Clifton Primitive Baptist Church. Along with other candidates, they appear in a draft African American Historic Resources Survey Report, which was released on Feb. 23.

The county is looking for residents to share their thoughts on the report ahead of its final version, anticipated late this spring.

“We’re looking for feedback on the historical context and properties as written in the report,” Leanna O’Donnell, planning division director at the Fairfax County Department of Planning and Development, wrote in a statement to FFXnow.

Residents who want to weigh in on the report can do so through Friday, March 24. There will also be a virtual community meeting on the report’s findings at 6:30 p.m. on Monday (March 6).

“Any feedback will be taken into consideration as we finalize the report and help identify properties that could be nominated for inclusion in Fairfax County’s Inventory of Historic Sites, the Virginia Landmarks Register or the National Register of Historic Places,” O’Donnell wrote.

The survey report furthers the work of the African American History Inventory, a database of resources related to the county’s African American culture and history. That inventory came to be following an October 2020 motion from a commissioner on the Fairfax County History Commission.

In 2021, the county received funding through the Virginia Department of Historic Resources’ Cost Share Grant Program to support the current study.

The report includes historical information about African Americans in present-day Fairfax County, starting in the 1600s. It also features photos and descriptions of buildings and communities surveyed, as well as preliminary recommendations.

For example, the entry on Louise Archer Elementary School includes a description of the building’s location, its exterior and the surrounding area of Vienna, along with pictures of the building and some historical context.

“The evolved building is the third purpose-built school for African Americans in Vienna,” the report says. “Once Fairfax County schools began to integrate, Louise Archer School was the only formerly Black elementary school to integrate and remain open.”

The report calls the school “a strong candidate for NRHP listing.”

Of the sites not already listed, Lane’s Mill in Centreville and Luther Jackson Middle School in Merrifield were deemed eligible for the national register. Other potential candidates include McLean’s Chesterbrook Baptist Church, Clifton Primitive Baptist Church, Quander Road School in Belle Haven, and the Tinner Hill neighborhood in Falls Church.

The Gum Springs area was the only part of the county excluded from the survey. That area is “part of a more intensive survey effort focusing specifically on this prominent African American community,” according to a county press release.

The county has also moved to honor Black and African American history with new historical markers, selected late last year.

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