Hanover County, Virginia (population 86,320), located just north of Richmond, is one of Virginia’s fastest growing counties. Before the area was colonized by the English, it was hunting ground for the Pamunkey and Chickahominy Indians. In the late 17th century, the area was settled by plantation owners and others involved in the tobacco related economy, who established the county in 1720.

Patrick Henry, “Orator of the Revolution” and first Governor of Virginia, was born in Hanover County in 1736. Henry began his law career with an impassioned plea against the King (known as the Parson’s Cause case) at the preserved Hanover Courthouse (the county also has preserved the nearby Old Stone Jail of the 1830s). Henry’s family home while Governor of Virginia, “Scotchtown” (1719), is open to the public, and his in-law’s Hanover Tavern, which is across the road from the courthouse and where Henry worked, has also been preserved.

Because of its proximity to the capital of the Confederacy, many battles were fought in Hanover County during the Civil War. Three county battlefields—Cold Harbor, Beaver Dam Creek, and Gaines’ Mill—are administered by the National Park Service as part of the Richmond National Battlefield Park, and 11 other sites are highlighted as part of the Commonwealth of Virginia’s Civil War Trails network.

Hanover County’s principal town, Ashland, has two historic districts on the National Register of Historic Places, and the Ashland Hanover Visitors Center is located in a 1923 train station.

Hanover County is working closely with private developers and public partners to integrate preservation into its land-use planning and approval process. A geographic information database contains nearly 1,000 surveyed properties and 27 Civil War-era sites, and the county has created eight Overlay Historic Preservation Districts.

Recently, development projects have been approved that include provisions for preservation of an 18th-century home and significant Civil War earthworks. In 2003, a historic resources and heritage tourism section was added to the county’s comprehensive plan, and last year the county sponsored its first annual Hanover Heritage Day.

Designated a Preserve America Community in August 2004.

For more information

Hanover County historic resources