Sweet Briar College among 'most endangered' Virginia places

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RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — A preservation group's annual list of the most endangered places in Virginia includes Sweet Briar College, which is scheduled to close in August.

Sweet Briar College announced in March it would close because of crushing financial challenges. The 114-year-old women's college held what could be its final commencement over the weekend at its historic, 3,250-acre campus in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

The former plantation has 21 buildings on the National Register of Historic Places. The campus also includes a slave cemetery.

Preservation Virginia, which on Monday announced the 11th edition of its annual list of the state's most-endangered historic places, said that while the college has cared for its historic resources, the possible sale of the campus means an "uncertain future" for its historic assets.

The statewide nonprofit suggested that conservation easements should be established prior to any sale to protect the property.

Sweet Briar's closing is being fiercely opposed in court, and elsewhere, by alumnae groups and others.

Besides Sweet Briar, Preservation Virginia's other endangered places are:

— Abijah Thomas octagon house, which was built in Marion, Smyth County, by slave labor between 1856 and 1858. The Octagon House Foundation has limited resources to preserve the site.

— Gibson Cottage, built around 1840 and used as the manager's residence at the Warm Springs Hotel. It is deteriorating and listed for possible demolition by Bath County.

— Jamestown Road houses, built in the early 20th century before the restoration of Colonial Williamsburg. Owned by the College of William and Mary, two of the 12 houses have been demolished and the rest could face a similar fate under the college's master plan.

— The town of Port Royal, chartered in 1744, was established on the Rappahannock River primarily as a port for the export of tobacco. While the town retains more than 35 18th and 19th century structures, it has become increasingly isolated and several of the oldest buildings are in need of stabilization.

—Taylor-Whittle House, Norfolk, is the focal point of the last early neighborhood remaining in the city. It was deemed unsafe for occupancy in 2011.

— Historic courthouses and courthouse squares, statewide, which have been subject to spotty preservation. In Augusta County, for instance, the 1901-vintage courthouse is threatened with abandonment by county government.

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