In December, the Board of Historic Resources and the State Review Board approved the addition of 13 sites to the Virginia Landmarks Register including the Toano Commercial Historic District located in James City County. This is the first historic district to be recognized by the Department of Historic Resources in the County. The Virginia Landmarks Register is managed by Virginia Department of Historic Resources (DHR). Property owner and Toano native, Jack Wray, spearheaded the Toano Commercial Historic District application to DHR. The district includes 11 properties and totals 4.1 acres. Nine of the properties have historical and cultural significance and were built between 1900 and 1926 as commercial properties.
“Previous generations who lived in Toano, including mine, saw it change drastically in 1966, when Route 60 (Richmond Road) was expanded from two to four lanes. We lost 14 significant buildings. What used to be a walking village was wiped away,” said Wray. “The new Commercial Historic District recognizes and honors those buildings that survived intact on the north side of the Route 60 corridor. We have a great opportunity to commemorate some of the ones that were lost on the south side of Route 60, across from the new district. Using old photographs we want to evoke the architecture of the old Barrel Factory, the Potato House, the original Depot and Barksdale’s Drugstore. Basically, we want to continue with the example set by the new Toano Fire Station #1, which was built in the likeness of Toano High School on its original site.”
The approval of the Toano Commercial Historic District to the Virginia Landmarks Register will move the application forward to the National Register of Historic Places.
Brief History of Toano
The area, originally known as Burnt Ordinary, was formed in the 1760s at the crossroads of the old stage road between Williamsburg and New Kent (present day Richmond Road) and Old Forge Road. By 1881, the Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad reached Toano. Taking advantage of new opportunities the railroad brought to the area, a group of local visionaries came together and created a unique community and economic powerhouse. Toano became the largest shipping point for local crops, especially potatoes and lumber, between Newport News and Richmond. Subsequently, Toano became the commercial center for upper James City County surpassing pre-Rockefeller Williamsburg in truck farming, industry, education, politics, banking and mercantile businesses. Toano was known as a “Village of Stores.”
More information about the Toano Commercial Historic District is available online. A complete listing of properties in James City County on the Virginia Landmarks Register is also available online.
Amy Jordan, Director of Economic Development