Historic Virginia

If you own a house or other type of historic building, the Virginia Department of Historic Resources (DHR) may have a file concerning it. The DHR provides free access to V-CRIS, a database of its architectural survey files which provides the DHR inventory number, the property name, locality, address, and whether the property is within a historic district.

If the property you're researching is already listed in the National Register of Historic Places, a copy of the nomination form will be in the DHR files. Nomination forms typically include a description, architectural analysis, statement of significance, historical background, geographical data, photos, and bibliographic references. Many of the Virginia Landmarks Register and National Register of Historic Places nomination forms can be viewed online. Due to the need to protect the location of listed archaeological sites and districts, not all nominations are posted for public access. Recently approved nominations are posted as staff time allows. For a comprehensive list of Virginia locations please see the Virginia Landmarks Register of Historic Places Master List.

(Virginia Department of Historic Resources)
This is recommended reading for anyone who is researching a Virginia property. It provides a detailed explanation of resources that can be used to locate information about properties.

Library of Virginia Resources

Most of the collection pertains to the City of Richmond and surrounding counties but the collection continues to grow through donations, purchases, and transfers from state and local agencies.
The Library's archives hold the records of the Land Office including patents and grants. In the Northern Neck Proprietary (land north of the Rappahannock River) the Fairfax family issued its own grants from 1690-1808. There is a guide to these records.
The Library's archives has copies of annual lists of land owners by county and city for 1782-1978 with some later years up to 1993 available on microfiche.
The Library has an extensive collection of these records, 1782-1975.
The Library has an extensive map collection. Maps issued in the 19th-century or earlier may include the name of property owners. For some localities there are plat books dating back to the colonial period.
These insurance policy records usually include a description and valuation of each building, as well as a drawing showing the distance between buildings. The records include many Virginia houses and commercial structures, and a smaller number of churches, schools, and public buildings.
Nineteenth- and twentieth-century newspapers sometimes contained articles about ground breaking ceremonies for commercial and public buildings as well as photographs and drawings.
These records can provide information about historic events that occurred at the property. The Library has records for social, military, civic, cultural, non-profit, charitable, and other organizations which have operated in Virginia from the late eighteenth century through the late twentieth century.
The online images represent only a small percentage of the Library's holdings. Additional items from the Library's picture collection can be viewed in the Special Collections Dept.(open Monday-Friday 1:00-4:00 or by appt. 804-692-3703).
Selected images from the Public Buildings and Grounds series of local government records. This series often includes reports, financial, contractual, and architectural documents related to the design, construction, condition, and alteration of local buildings like courthouses, jails, clerk's offices, and other public structures in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
A visual record of hundreds of elementary and secondary school buildings across Virginia from the 1920s to the 1970s.
These maps show the details of the development of canals, roads, turnpikes and other internal improvements during the nineteenth century.
Post 1880 directories list properties by street address and provide the name of occupant(s). Visitors to the Library can also view the online AncestryInstitution.com U.S. City Directories, 1821-1989 collection.
Includes descriptions and photographs of thousands of Virginia buildings as submitted by field workers. The WPA Historical Houses Drawings Collection includes 140 drawings of houses, courthouses, churches, mill houses, and taverns from 39 Virginia counties (1932-1937).
The Library also has a large collection of local histories for Virginia counties and cities which often include photos.

Other Resources

Research Hours Tuesday-Friday, 12:00-4:00 pm by appointment only. Fee: $8.00 per person.
1015 East Clay St.
Richmond, VA 23219
Open Tuesday-Thursday, 9:00 am-5:00 pm; closed Friday through Monday and on state holidays. No appointment is necessary to visit. Archives phone: 804-482-6102.
2801 Kensington Ave.
Richmond, VA 23221
Open to the public Monday-Saturday, 10:00 am-5:00 pm. Appointments must be made to view photographs and museum objects. See also the VHS Looking for a Place or Property page.
428 N. Boulevard
Richmond, VA 23220