By Ryan Cornell
In 1756, a 24-year-old wunderkind from the Northern Neck designed and supervised construction of a fort in Winchester, which would serve as a headquarters for Virginia troops during the French and Indian War. That man would later go on to accomplish many great things, and it was here that he developed as a leader.
His name was George Washington.
Although the Fort Loudoun structure no longer stands and much of its site has been replaced with roads and residential properties, a half-acre portion at 419 N. Loudoun St. has been inducted to the Virginia Landmarks Register.
"It's an honorary distinction," said Randy Jones, spokesman for the Virginia Department of Historical Resources. "The threshold to get on there is pretty tough."
Jones said the site needed to meet one out of four criteria to be considered: association with a pattern of events, association with a significant person, property yielding significant historic information through archaeology or property embodying a distinctive style of architecture. Not only did Fort Loudoun meet one criterion, it met the first three.
Along with archaeological artifacts, a section of the fort's defensive bastions, a barracks and the original well that Col. Washington ordered dug remain on the site.
Dennis Pogue teaches a historical preservation program at the University of Maryland and has worked at Mount Vernon for 25 years. He wrote the form nominating Fort Loudoun as a landmark.
"It was the first fort built in Virginia and the most substantial," Pogue said. "It was also closest to major area of conflict in Virginia."
Fort Loudoun would never see combat, though it housed munitions and troops and was built to protect backcountry settlers from incursions by the French and their Native American allies.
"Washington was put in the position because he showed a lot of potential," Pogue said. "Dinwiddie was impressed by him. Many scholars have argued that this was a major learning period for him."
Jones said that the Fort Loudoun site is nominated for inclusion in the National Register for Historic Places, which will be announced in one to three months. "99 percent of sites approved for the state register are ultimately approved as Historic Places," he said.
The garrison is among eight other historic sites throughout Virginia that made it onto the Virginia Landmarks Register in June. According to the Department of Historical Resources, Fort Loudoun is the 21st site in Winchester to be added to the register and is only the third site from the French and Indian War on the list. New sites are added to the Virginia Landmarks Register four times a year.
Contact staff writer Ryan Cornell at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or firstname.lastname@example.org