Prehistoric & Archaeological Sites
A rich cultural heritage and numerous historical sites are tangible assets that make Loudoun County an appealing place to live and work, while contributing directly and indirectly to Loudoun’s economy.
Loudoun County has an unusually high number of historic and prehistoric sites that, along with scenic resources, farms, and open spaces, are major components of its unique rural character and economy. Over 4,350 historic structures and sites and over 1,500 archaeological sites have been surveyed and mapped, and there is potential for identifying many more. These heritage structures and sites comprise a valuable resource with cultural, aesthetic, and economic value to the residents of the county. Along with the rural landscape in which they are set, historic sites are among the county’s largest tourist attractions.
Native American Sites
The archaeological sites that are currently mapped are mostly prehistoric Native American sites, some of which date to circa 8,000 BC. Most of the previously identified sites are in the eastern part of Loudoun where there have been impacts associated with new development, particularly to those sites located outside floodplains. These sites represent an important link to the county’s past, and efforts are being made to discover and map them before they are lost to development. Many more sites are likely to be identified in other parts of the county as development expands.
For more than two centuries, agriculture was the dominant way of life in Loudoun County, which had a relatively constant population of about 20,000. That began to change in the early 1960s, when Dulles International Airport was built in the southeastern part of the county. The airport attracted new businesses, workers, and their families to the area. Still, until the mid to late 1980s, much of Loudoun remained primarily an agricultural area. With the increase in development much of the fertile farmland is now gone. This change in the use of the land has had an impact on the natural and cultural resources of the county.
While ideas about what is scenic may vary, people generally agree on what areas and places are the most visually appealing. These areas and places often include many of the same resources (or combinations of resources) that are addressed as part of the county’s Green Infrastructure. Often, significant scenic resources co-exist with historic structures or are a part of a mountainside area, stream valley, or other natural setting. Scenic views are often associated with the roads, highways, rivers, and streams from which they are most often enjoyed; as well as with agricultural lands, mountainsides, and other features that make up these vistas. Loudoun’s rural roads, agricultural fields, hedgerows, crop fields, farmhouses, barns, crossroad churches, and villages all contribute to the scenic areas and corridors in the county.
The state has designated Routes 15, 665, 662, 673, 681, 690, 704, 719, 722, 728, 731, 734, and a portion of Route 7 (Colonial Highway, from Route 699 to Route 287, approved February 2001), as Virginia Byways. Likewise, Catoctin Creek and Goose Creek have been designated as State Scenic Rivers; and the county has designated historic and mountainside districts and river and stream corridor buffers that protect elements of the scenic landscape and critical cultural and natural resources.
Historic & Cultural Conservation Districts
Loudoun County administers six Historic and Cultural Conservation Districts: Aldie, Bluemont, Goose Creek, Oatlands, Taylorstown, and Waterford. The county has also designated one historic roadways district. The Beaverdam Historic Roadways District is a network of 32 rural roads located in the southwest corner of the county, which creates a roadway buffer area intended to preserve rural character and landscape quality. Read more about Loudoun County Historic and Cultural Conservation Districts
The county has nearly 50 sites that are on both the Virginia Historic Landmarks Register and the National Register of Historic Places. There are also five National Historic Landmarks in the county; including Balls Bluff Battlefield, Dodona Manor, Oatlands Plantation, Oak Hill, and Waterford.
Protection for some of the county’s historic structures comes from design guidelines contained in the Zoning Ordinance, but the ordinance protects only the designated county-administered historic districts. State and national designations are primarily honorary.