PETERSBURG, Va. (WRIC) — The Walnut Hill neighborhood in the heart of Petersburg is close to the center of the city, has now achieved the status of a historic district.
The Virginia Department of Historic Resources‘ board members voted Thursday to make it official. The neighborhood will now be listed in the Virginia Landmarks Register and the National Register of Historic Places.
Walnut Hill is a large residential neighborhood with about 500 buildings. Marc Wagner, senior architectural historian with the Department of Historic Resources, said many of the neighborhood’s buildings were built in the early 20th century.
“They bought a big farm called Walnut Hill and started selling lots around 1910 to 1913,” he said. “Around that time, the big Dupont Plant was built in Hopewell, so the population just popped. It went crazy.”
Wagner said the area essentially became a streetcar neighborhood after this population boom. The structures were built with Colonial Revival and Craftsman-style examples, according to the Department of Historic Resources.
“They built large houses initially because some of them were prominent businessmen, but because of the DuPont Powder Plant and the city growing, it became more of a middle-class neighborhood,” he said.
A few years ago Walnut Hill resident Marcus Squires and others in the area pushed for the neighborhood to become a historic landmark.
“When I first moved here five years ago, I saw the beautiful architecture here in the neighborhood. These beautiful palatial homes as well as beautiful meta foursquare and other architectural examples,” Squires said. “I thought to myself on my runs around the neighborhood in the community, ‘why isn’t our neighborhood a historical district?'”
Squires said he submitted the preliminary information form to the Virginia Department of Historic Resources to get the neighborhood on the state and national registers. Last year, the Cameron Foundation donated $47,000 dollars to the Historic Petersburg Foundation to help survey the buildings in the area.
Now, Squires is hoping that the new historical status will help put the neighborhood on the map for anyone not already familiar with the area.
“I hope that more people will realize that there’s this beautiful neighborhood just south of Petersburg with these beautiful homes,” he said.
Wagner said the designation is an honorary recognition, with no restrictions and no local city ordinance tied to it. However, people in Walnut Hill can now apply for a rehabilitation tax credit to fix up their house or other property. Wagner warns people that the threshold, or the amount of money someone would have to spend to be eligible, is pretty high. But Squires is hoping that some of his neighbors will still take advantage of the opportunity.
“With the historical tax credits, I’m hoping that more people will see value in saving and restoring some more of these beautiful homes here in Walnut Hill,” Squires said.
Walnut Hill is already listed in the Virginia Landmarks Register and in the next 60 days it will also show up in the National Register of Historic Places, according to Wagner.