- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 27, 2006

RICHMOND (AP) — The Shenandoah Valley region, which includes a historic town and the birthplace of the country’s fifth president, is among the most endangered regions in Virginia, according to a list compiled by a state preservation group.

The Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities has named the town of Fincastle, in Botetourt County, and the birthplace of President James Monroe, in Westmore County, among the endangered.

The list includes 10 sites, endangered by factors such as neglect and impending land development, said Elizabeth Kostelny, the group’s executive director.

One example is the stone granary at Belmead Plantation in Powhatan County.

The 1841 building is considered by historians to be one of the finest examples of Gothic-style residential architecture in the country, but is deteriorating under a leaking roof, rotting timbers and crumbling stonework, the group said.

The 356-year-old Rosegill house in Middlesex County and other sites are threatened by dense housing and commercial zoning.

The Middlesex County Board of Supervisors recently voted in favor of allowing developers to build 700 housing units on the 848-acre Rappahannock River estate surrounding the house.

The site was once the largest and oldest tobacco plantation on the Rappahannock.

Pasture land along the Interstate 81 corridor, spanning the western stretch of the state, faces a different threat.

Mrs. Kostelny thinks the stretch could lose its historic and scenic character if the state adds lanes to the highway as part of a proposed $19 billion project. It could affect nearly a dozen Civil War battlefields, she said.

“It’s a beautiful road; the landscape is absolutely gorgeous,” Mrs. Kostelny said. “And if there’s not a lot of planning that goes into the road, that beauty is gone forever.”

Fred Althizer, manager for the I-81 project, said state transportation authorities have not committed to the traffic-reducing plan, which would widen the interstate all 325 miles from Bristol to Winchester.

“It’s premature to say we’re going to do one thing or another,” he said.

Fincastle Mayor Robert Gengo was pleased to see his town on the list.

Fincastle is the oldest incorporated town west of the Blue Ridge Mountains but is fast becoming a commuter town because it is just 30 minutes outside Roanoke.

The group said the Botetourt County Planning Commission recently approved new developments with 200 houses that would encircle the town’s historic district.

Mr. Gengo hoped the listing would help in the town’s effort to preserve its numerous centuries-old buildings.

“It’ll bring us some publicity that we need,” he said. “We have something very precious, very unique, here.”

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