The South Rockfish Valley Rural Historic District, a 1,620-acre swath of historic farms, agricultural landscapes, and small crossroads residential communities in northwest Nelson County, is a well-preserved rural landscape with a continuous tradition of farming in a circumscribed geographic area since the first half of the eighteenth century. Extending the entire length of the district, historic Rockfish Valley Highway has served as the valley’s main transportation corridor since the 18th century. The district’s cultural landscape retains an exceptional degree of integrity. Historic fence lines, farm roads, and the settlement pattern of small crossroads communities amid large tracts of agricultural land that have been farmed for more nearly three centuries add to the continuity of the traditional, rural cultural landscape. Natural features such as the river, tributary streams, and areas of woodland contribute to the district’s character. Unobstructed views toward surrounding Devil’s Knob, Black Rock Mountain, Grassy Ridge, Crawford Knob, and Horseshoe Mountain are also important features. In addition to farms and homes the district contains five historic churches, a general store, two former apple packing sheds, quarters for enslaved workers, and a wide variety of agricultural and domestic outbuildings.
The agricultural history of this exceptionally fertile valley chronicles the development of tobacco cultivation for international export from the eighteenth through late nineteenth century, the transition to a thriving apple orchard industry from the 1880s through early 1940s, and the present mix of cattle farming and experimentation with viticulture and cider orchards. The district contains a collection of eighteenth-, nineteenth-, and early twentieth-century century architecture representing a variety of vernacular and more formal styles. Of particular interest is the collection of late eighteenth- to early nineteenth-century farmhouses with high integrity, including three that are individually listed on the National Register.
The South Rockfish Valley Rural Historic District was listed on the Virginia Landmarks Register in June 2016 and on the National Register of Historic Places in August 2016. The National Register nomination was co-authored by David Lewes of the William and Mary Center for Archaeological Research and Mary Ruffin Hanbury of Hanbury Preservation Consulting. The nomination can be found here