Editor: The purpose of Loudoun County’s Heritage Commission is “to support and protect Loudoun’s Heritage Resources,” which are its “valued natural, cultural, and historic locations, site, and objects … that have been passed down from previous generations.”
The Heritage Commission regards Loudoun’s rural elementary schools as critical heritage resources that merit careful protection. The rural schools are an integral part of the county’s historic villages, and as such constitute a vital link to Loudoun’s rich but rapidly disappearing social and cultural heritage.
The Heritage Commission does not stand alone in its opinion. In 2014, Preservation Virginia, the state’s preeminent preservation advocacy group, identified and added historic schools to its list of Virginia’s Most Endangered Places, specifically hailing the importance of schools in Loudoun County such as Aldie and Middleburg.
In response to Preservation Virginia’s identification of this imminent threat, Loudoun County joined with the Virginia Department of Historic Resources in 2016 to initiate a study of seven of Loudoun’s rural schools. It determined that collectively the schools are of exceptional architectural and historic significance. Of note, Lincoln Elementary, whose unique architecture represents two centuries of Loudoun’s history, would easily qualify for the Virginia Landmarks Register and the National Register of Historic Places.
The 2016 study also examined the schools’ economic and social impact on their respective village communities. Elementary school grounds serve as the nerve center for their villages and community activities. Families at such events patronize local businesses and experience village life together as a community, just as residents have for generations. In turn, local businesses support school activities through in-kind donations or direct funding. Abandoning these schools would profoundly affect the rural and tourism economies and erode one of Loudoun’s most treasured heritage resources.
In our opinion, the rural schools are vital heritage resources. The Heritage Commission strongly recommends that the School Board continue to keep these schools in operation, protect their structures, and safeguard their viability as centers of rural community life.
Robert Pollard, Chairman
Loudoun County Heritage Commission