Courthouse complex, Nike Park added to landmarks list

Published 5:35 pm Tuesday, June 25, 2019

By Diana McFarland

Managing editor

Carrollton Nike Park and Isle of Wight’s courthouse complex were approved last week for listing on the Virginia Landmarks Register, among nine sites accepted across the state by the Virginia Department of Historic Resources. 

The sites were submitted for the listings to counteract the adverse visual effects of the towers erected for the new emergency communications system. 

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

During the early Cold War, when the United States began deploying upwards of 200 Nike-Ajax batteries around the nation. In 1953, the Army Air Defense Command established Nike-Ajax Launch Site N-75 in Isle of Wight County in 1954 — now Carrollton Nike Park. {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

Strategically located, the Nike-Ajax batteries were the nation’s first surface-to-air missile defense program. The Nike-Hercules missile later replaced the Ajax, and in 1961 the military deactivated Launch Site N-75. The Army Signal Corps then adapted the facility for reuse as a radio relay station until 1971, when the military stopped using the property. One of Virginia’s few intact surface-to-air Nike-Ajax compounds, Launch Site N-75’s historic features include three underground missile magazines, earthen berms, separate Launcher and Administrative areas, and assorted concrete block buildings from the era.

Earlier this year the Isle of Wight Board of Supervisors approved the donation of a Nike Ajax missile with a launcher from the City of Hampton. It was most recently in the Hampton History Museum collection. 

“This is truly a big step forward for recognition of our county’s storied past. Much credit goes to the Isle of Wight County Historical Society that prepared the initial documents confirming the eligibility of the two districts and the Isle of Wight County Museum staff who researched and edited the official applications. Thanks also goes to county taxpayers who, through our supervisors, provided the funding to create the application documents,” said Albert Burckard, a long-time champion of the Nike Ajax missile site. 

Also approved by DHR was the Isle of Wight courthouse complex, to join Boykin’s Tavern on the Register. 

Around 1780, Major Francis Boykin purchased a two-room dwelling with basement on a 400-acre plantation, property now occupied by the Isle of Wight County Courthouse complex. 

Boykin established a tavern in the dwelling and got the county to relocate its existing courthouse from Smithfield to the property and to construct its earliest courthouse buildings there. The complex now consists of four buildings: Boykin’s Tavern; the 1801 Federal-style Courthouse, substantially enlarged at later dates; a Federal-style 1820 Clerk’s Office, also later enlarged; and a Colonial Revival-style school administration building, constructed in 1960 with a Flemish bond brick exterior. 

The courthouse grounds also feature a 1905 Confederate Monument, and a 1957 granite stone monument commemorating the settlement of Jamestown, as well as a 1930s brick wall. Despite its evolving nature, the courthouse complex and its grounds continue to evoke Early National Period county seats centrally located within rural jurisdictions.

“I hope the Isle of Wight County Historical Society can continue to work with the community and Department of Historic Resources to promote awareness of these historic sites and education on preservation,” said Isle of Wight Historical Society President Carolyn Keen. 

“Both of these sites are such jewels for the county. All history is local, but in recognizing these sites in this manner, we now formally recognize that Isle of Wight County’s history and U.S. history are deeply entwined,” said Isle of Wight County Museum Director Jennifer England.

The Department of Historic Resources will forward the documentation for these newly-listed Virginia Landmarks Register sites to the National Park Service for nomination to the National Register of Historic Places.

Other properties in Isle of Wight County on both Registers include St. Luke’s Church, Old Isle of Wight Courthouse, Windsor Castle Farm, the Smithfield Historic District, the Robert Tynes House and Fort Huger, among others. 

 Listing a property in the state or national registers is honorary and sets no restrictions on what a property owner may do with his or her property. The designation is first and foremost an invitation to learn about and experience authentic and significant places in Virginia’s history.

 Designating a property to the state or national registers — either individually or as a contributing building in a historic district — provides an owner the opportunity to pursue historic rehabilitation tax credit improvements to the building. Tax credit projects must comply with the Secretary of Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation. The tax credit program is voluntary and not a requirement when owners work on their listed properties.

Virginia is a national leader among states in listing historic sites and districts in the National Register of Historic Places. The state is also a national leader for the number of federal tax credit rehabilitation projects proposed and completed each year.

 Together, the register and tax credit rehabilitation programs play significant roles in promoting Virginia’s heritage and the preservation of the Commonwealth’s historic places and in spurring economic revitalization and tourism in many towns and communities.   {/mprestriction}