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Fox Elementary named one of Virginia's most endangered historic places

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Richmond’s fire-damaged William Fox Elementary School is one of the state’s most endangered historic places, according to Preservation Virginia’s annual list.

A three-alarm fire engulfed the 111-year-old school in the heart of the Fan District in February. While the fire caused extensive damage, closing the building indefinitely, the School Board has approved renovating the school instead of rebuilding it.

Since 2005, during each National Historic Preservation Month in May, Preservation Virginia names historic sites and places around the state “that face imminent or sustained threats” in order “to encourage individuals, organizations, and local and state government to advocate for and find solutions for their preservation,” according to a news release.

“This year’s list reflects the resilience of the Commonwealth’s many historic places that have persisted for generations in support of their communities,” Elizabeth S. Kostelny, CEO of Preservation Virginia said in a statement.

“The dedication of organizations, local governments, and individuals currently working to preserve these places reflects the very nature of the historic preservation movement — the ability to adapt to challenges and retain relevance in an ever-changing world,” Kostelny added.

Fox and the Manassas National Battlefield Park were among the 11 sites named Tuesday to the 2022 list of Virginia’s Most Endangered Historic places. The organization said each site is facing “insensitive development or neglect,” according to a news release.

Kathryn Oti, whose three children are Fox alumni and who previously lived in the Fan for over 30 years, submitted an application to Preservation Virginia to have the elementary school added to the list.

“Fox has a special place in my heart,” Oti said in an interview. “My kids are long gone from Fox [but] nobody ever really leaves Fox. Everyone is part of the community.”

The application process included a series of questions, writing about the historical significance of the property, describing the property’s place in the community and why it’s culturally significant, historically significant and architecturally significant, Oti said.

Oti submitted Fox’s application after the February fire.

“There was a lot of community concern and there still is a lot of community concern about whether the building is going to be rebuilt,” she said.

“The community, and I don’t speak for everyone, obviously, but I think most people would like to see the property be rebuilt, not torn down and something new put in its place because of the historicity of the building and its place in the neighborhood and in the larger community,” Oti said.

Preservation Virginia said two Civil War battlefields, Manassas National Battlefield Park, and Brandy Station Battlefield in Culpeper, face threats from the proximity of proposed data centers. Twitter: @jessmnocera


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