Loudoun County Heritage Commission | Pollard, Bohanon

On June 4, Heritage Commission members Robert Pollard and Donna Bohanon presented several courthouse recommendations to the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors. 

Loudoun County supervisors will weigh a report and recommendations from the county Heritage Commission on the history and exhibition of the courthouse grounds in downtown Leesburg.

This comes after supervisors voted Tuesday to publish the county commission’s research and narrative on the courthouse grounds and its memorials. The commission's research will be published online and in the county's public libraries.

The board's finance committee will initially take up the commission’s recommendations, most of which involve government action.

One recommendation is naming either the current or upcoming county courthouse after early civil rights leader, lawyer and educator Charles Hamilton Houston. The commission also recommends completing a National Historic Landmark nomination for the courthouse for submission to the National Parks Service, designing and installing a “Path Toward Freedom and Justice Walk,” erecting a Civil War Veterans’ Memorial to the U.S. Colored Troops, Loudoun Rangers, and Potomac Home Brigade and developing a Life and Liberty Memorial.

“We think it’s essential that citizens be aware of this history before engaging in a debate on what new memorials to place on the courthouse grounds,” commission member Robert Pollard said.

The commission’s scope of work did not include recommendations about current memorials or statues. County officials noted Virginia code states it is “unlawful for the authorities of the locality, or any other person or persons, to disturb or interfere with any monuments or memorials.”

The current Confederate monument on the courthouse grounds, erected in 1908, has sparked protests in recent years, notably following the deadly riots in Charlottesville that came after the city's vote to remove a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee.

In September 2017, the Loudoun Board of Supervisors directed the Heritage Commission to review the historic significance of the courthouse grounds and its statues and to determine what additional memorials would be appropriate to reflect the history of the grounds, the county and its citizens.

The commission, which established a nine-member subcommittee, focused on the history of the local African American community, identified over 30 stakeholders and consulted with historians, eventually finalizing recommendations in December 2018, according to county staff.

“We see this as an opportunity for the entire Loudoun community, especially those that know nothing or have very little knowledge of local African American history or African American perspective on history,” commissionmember Donna Bohanon said.

Catoctin District Supervisor Geary Higgins (R) said, “I thoroughly believe that we can’t learn from history if we don’t know it, and so what you all have done is shine the light of day on it, and I thank you very much for all of your work on this project.”

Dulles Supervisor Matthew Letourneau (R) offered a motion to accept the research and send the recommendations to a future finance committee meeting. Higgins was the only supervisor opposing the substitute motion.

Letourneau, who sympathized with Higgins' desire to move forward quickly, said seeking assistance from county staff will help determine the right path forward for the recommendations.

“I’ve found in my seven and half years that when we try to do things ourselves—as well-intentioned as we are—we often don’t do as good a job as when county staff helps us with them,” Letourneau said. “So, this will allow that to happen and the committee will be able to give direction.”

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Click here to read the Heritage Commission's report on the county courthouse grounds' history and plans for the future.

(5) comments

debbbie

The reports Prologue As Virginia historian James Hershman has noted, The courthouse is the symbol of the presence and power of the Commonwealth of Virginia in Loudoun County. . . . It was the state that could execute you, imprison you, or take your property -- all of that was done in that building. It was under Virginia's Constitution and the state laws it authorized that race was defined and segregation was mandated. . . . Justice, under state authority, was meted out--in unequal fashion -- in that courthouse to the black and white citizens of Loudoun County. [Email to Mitch Diamond] In its nearly three century history, the Courthouse has been the center of life in our County -- witness not only to acts of honor and bravery, justice and freedom, but also to acts of tyranny and injustice, humiliation and suffering. The Courthouse represents the long path from the promise of “All Men Are Created Equal†in the Declaration of Independence read from its steps, to the delay of that promise through brutal acts of enslavement and punishment, to the horrors of a Civil War that pitted brother against brother, to the incomplete work of Reconstruction, to the restrictions and entanglements of Jim Crow segregation, and, finally, to events and actions moving us step-by-step toward the long overdue fulfillment of the Declaration’s promise of equal justice for all. In this report we have presented some glimpses into that history, some vignettes of the people who have participated in our struggle to find justice, and some moments that capture the evolution of our thinking and our behavior over the centuries. We hope that this history, and the memorials we have proposed, provide the opportunity for all our citizens and visitors to better understand this long and difficult path toward freedom, and inspire all of us to continue on that path toward an even better future.

LoudounClear

When you consider this report was created to defuse the much more legitimate issue of removing the confederate soldier statue installed on the grounds during the Jim Crow era...this is really weak tea. Reading the report you do see that even into the 1960s the Tally Ho theater still had segregated seating so perhaps it's reasonable to expect that it always takes Loudoun a bit longer to do the right thing.

Chris McHale

$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

jke

Who gunna pay for this?

Concerned

What has Sup Higgins learned from the Waterford Gentrification Foundation? Probably nothing because he fails to actually look at the big picture, only focusing on his desired narrative. Shameful or incompetent, feel free to pick.

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