The Virginia Historic Landmarks Commission has as its primary objective the recognition and protection of all structures in the Commonwealth which are of significance. The first step in the fulfillment of this formidable mandate is of course to survey and identify the basic resources that may be of significance. Consequently in June 1967 the newly commissioned agency began its survey of historic buildings and sites within the Commonwealth. Added impetus to this initial thrust was given by the fact that James W. Moody, then Executive Director of the Commission, and James C. Massey, then Chief of the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS), had agreed that the two agencies would join forces on a cooperative venture which would be undertaken by the staffs of both agencies. The result of this venture is the HABS Virginia Catalog. It was a fortuitous happening that HABS, which had accumulated a wealth of material on buildings in the Commonwealth since its last published Catalog Supplement of 1959, determined the need for a revised and updated catalog at the same time the Commission began its work.
During the course of the survey, the Commission staff members took new and more extensive photographs of the previously inventoried properties and marked the exact location of each structure or site on the United States Geological Survey maps which form the Commission's permanent map collection. In its work, the Commission staff also identified many more structures and sites of significance than were in the HABS collection. At present the Commission's files include information for more than 10,000 properties in every county and city in the Commonwealth. The present HABS catalog contains brief entries of approximately 3,800 properties, 190 of which were added to the original HABS list during this survey. While this joint Virginia Historic Landmarks Commission-Historic American Buildings Survey project was one of the first efforts of the fledgling Commission, it is only one of its far-flung activities.
The broad mandate of the Commission, to recognize and protect sites and structures of significance, has many other facets. To mention but a few, the Commission staff offers technical assistance in the fields of preservation, archeology, and architectural history; aids other state, local, and national agencies in their approaches to preservation, such as working closely with the Virginia Department of Highways to insure that preservation is considered in the face of highway development; assists communities in historic district zoning; and receives Open-Space Easements to protect historic properties from inappropriate development by future owners.
The Virginia Historic Landmarks staff was pleased to cooperate with the Office of Archeology and Historic Preservation in preparing this catalog and seeks to enhance and expand the Virginia HABS records in the Library of Congress by cosponsoring student summer recording programs from time to time. The Commission welcomes inquiries on this and other aspects of its several programs. Letters should be addressed to The Virginia Historic Landmarks Commission, 221 Governor Street, Morsons' Row, Richmond, Virginia 23219.