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Saint Luke's Church (Smithfield)

Smithfield, Virginia
County of Isle Of Wight.
4 miles south of Smithfield on Virginia Route 10
National Register Number: 66000838
Resource type: Building.
Property type: Religious facility. The threat level was Threatened in
Congressional District: VA-4 Certified Local Government: YES
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Current use/information: Historic and Religious Shrine.

Statement of Significance (as of designation - October 9, 1960):
This 17th century Virginia church, erected possibly as early as 1632, was designed in the Gothic style of medieval English parish churches.

Construction of sixty townhouses on four acres of land adjoining the southern property line of the church has begun. These buildings will come within 16 feet of the property line, 17'6" of the nearest grave and within 100 yards of the church itself. The space between the housing and the church is open but occupied by burial sites, making it impossible for the church association to use the space for screening with plants except in the 18 inch space between the graves and property line. Protective strategies for Saint Luke's, including the existing county historic district which extends for 1/4 mile around the Church, have proved inadequate. Local citizens have suggested extension of the Historic District to 1/2 mile around Saint Luke's, but of its immediate neighbors, including assorted small businesses and residences, a Methodist Church is the only actual property use that would be compatible with the historic district. A couple of sand pit companies and a trailer park in the vicinity of Saint Luke's are screened by scrub and trees.

Small vertical cracks in the walls of Saint Luke's are raising concern about the decreasing water levels in ponds formed by Jones Creek, an historic transportation route adjacent to the church. Erosion and silting of the creek flowing into the ponds, at the same time as new ponds are being created in the sand pits across the road, affect the water level in the soil under the Church and threaten its foundations.

Recommendation/Change since last report:
Short of a local movement to have the property condemned and acquired for public use, nothing can be done at this time to stop the townhouses being build adjacent to the church. St. Luke's should, however, serve as a case study of the need for rural preservation planning in advance of subdivision submittals. Enforcement of the existing historic district regulations would prevent further degradation of the district. The residents should be educated on the value of preserving the district as a setting for the church. The effects of the decreasing water levels in Jones Creek on the foundation of the church should be studied, to help the church adminstration develop a preservation plan.

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