Skip to main content

Harrisonburg-Rockingham Historic Properties Collection

Identifier: SC 0195
  • Not requestable

  • Staff Only

Scope and Content

The Harrisonburg-Rockingham Historic Properties Collection was generated by students in Mr. Darryl Nash’s Historic Preservation Class (HIST 493/693, ARTH 493) at James Madison University. The only exception to this is the Graves Chapel Property which was completed by Mr. Nash himself. The collection primarily contains National Register Nomination Forms and supporting material for potential property candidates for the National Register of Historic places in Harrisonburg and Rockingham County, supported by a wide array of documents and images relating to each property. It is arranged chronologically by date generated, then alphabetically by property.

Forms consist of National Register of Historic Places Nomination Forms (NRHP in the Contents List.) These are occasionally supplemented by a Virginia Division of Historical Landmarks form (VDHL), most notably in the earlier properties, 1989 to 1991, 2000, and 2002. In the Breneman’s Mill property there is also an additional Department of Historic Resources Preliminary Information Request form (DHR.) These two latter forms were created during the preliminary process of nominating a property for the National Register. The National Register form provides an architectural essay explaining the architectural significance of the property in relation to a specific time period and location, as well as a historical context essay explaining the historical significance of the house. This essay usually connects the property to prominent citizens in Harrisonburg’s history or national events, in this area predominantly the Civil War. The main criteria for Register acceptance lies in a combination of these two characteristics.

Supporting Documents contain a wide variety of materials used to supplement the National Register Form, as well as research documents utilized by the students. They are arranged in the following order: typed histories and bibliographies, floor plans and draftings, maps and land tracts, deeds and tax chains, genealogical material, articles, advertisements, newspaper articles, and correspondence. Most of these documents are photocopied from the original, excluding the floor plans and draftings. The majority of the genealogical material originates from the Harrisonburg-Rockingham Historical Society; Newspapers and advertisements from the Daily News Record. Most supporting documents are one page in length; if they exceed one page, this is denoted in the Contents List. In two properties, the Kiser-Roller House and Liskey Buildings, the nomination and supporting documents are enhanced by “artifact samples” taken from the original property. These wallpaper and plaster samples were extracted from interior walls and help determine the properties’ social class and age. These were scanned and not returned to the collection.

Images are composed primarily of black and white or color photos, most of them labeled in some form unless otherwise noted. In some instances, the photographs were photocopied onto paper as in the Tide Spring Property and Whitmore House. As a whole, the images depict each specific property, both outside and inside the structure. Some properties contain images in other forms: negatives, slides, or computer generated prints. The only properties in the collection that do not contain images are Breneman’s Mill, Rockingham Motor Company, and the Thomas Harrison House.

Oversized material consists of hand-drafted floor plans, blueprints, and US topographical maps pertaining to each specific property; these range in size from 18"x22" to 22"x36". All properties contain floor plans and blueprints, however some materials reside here and others in Supporting Documents depending on size. See the Contents List for a listing of each individual property.


  • Creation: 1989-2013

Access Restrictions

Collection is open for research. Researchers must register and agree to copyright and privacy laws before using this collection. Please contact Research Services staff before visiting the James Madison University Special Collections Library to use this collection.

Use Restrictions

The copyright interests in this collection have been transferred to the James Madison University Special Collection Library. For more information, contact the Special Collections Library Reference Desk (

Bio/Historical Note

Properties represented in the Harrisonburg-Rockingham Historic Properties Collection provide lasting documentation of significant properties in the Harrisonburg-Rockingham County area. The unique architecture and historical significance of these properties provided the foundation for consideration for nomination for the National Register of Historic Places.

Architectural styles in Rockingham County and the City of Harrisonburg differ from eastern Virginia largely due to early settlement patterns. Rockingham County was formally established in 1777 from Augusta and Orange counties. The physical geography of Rockingham County, located west of the Blue Ridge Mountains, deterred most settlers on the eastern coast from crossing the mountains to explore western Virginia. The immigrants of Rockingham County thus hailed from northern states, such as Pennsylvania and Maryland, bringing with them architectural styles from their Germanic, Swiss, and Scots-Irish heritage.

There were two distinct periods of development in America, both of which influenced architectural choices in Rockingham County and Harrisonburg; the Antebellum period from 1830-1860 and the Reconstruction and Growth period from 1865 to 1917. The dominating styles in Rockingham County ranged from 19th century Colonial (as seen in the Mannheim House,) 19th century Georgian (as seen in the Emanuel Roller House and the Contentment House,) 19th century Federal (as seen in the Jacob Yount House,) to 20th century Modern. Transitional styles include the Queen Anne style, Gothic and Greek Revival, Italianate, and Colonial Revival. All of these distinct styles were modified to reflect local traditions and customs. This change of style, due to local materials, craftsmen, and traditions, is known as “vernacular style.” All of the houses in this collection represent some form of vernacular style, while reflecting the national architectural style as well.

Some of the more notable properties in the collection include:

The Thomas Harrison House: The historical context of the Thomas Harrison House is vital to the Harrisonburg community as it was the home of its founder, Thomas Harrison. The house represents the first permanent structure of the area, as well as one of the only surviving vernacular stone structures. This circa 1750 house reflects the 18th century vernacular style to its fullest extent. The house, built of limestone rubble, is a one and half story single pile structure over a raised basement with an attic. The basement was built over a spring, which is characteristic of many early Rockingham County houses.

Mannheim: This property serves as an example of 18th century farm life and the institution of slavery, which was not as widespread in Rockingham County as in central and eastern Virginia. Architecturally, the Mannheim house represents the Germanic influence. Built in 1750 with a massive central chimney, this two story house displays fine Germanic craftsmanship. The property also includes several examples of outbuildings, including a springhouse, icehouse, and slave quarters.

Contentment: The historical context of Contentment has both political and social elements. Members of the Grattan family, the original builders of the house, served in the Virginia House of Delegates. In 1864, the land surrounding Contentment was used during the Civil War as Confederate troops organized there prior to the Battle of the Piedmont. Socially, the Grattan family represents one of the most prominent Scots-Irish families in Rockingham County, as the family had resided in Contentment since 1761 and helped support Revolutionary War efforts. The Contentment House is a large, two-story Georgian style farmhouse built in 1823. With the traditional pattern of two windows aside a central door, a second story aligned with the same layout, and fireplaces on the gable end, the house remains relatively unchanged.

John Paul House: This property, as its name suggests, is significant largely due to the significance of its inhabitants. The Paul family boasts two federal judges and one state judge. Most prominent was Peter Paul, Jr. who was appointed Justice of the Peace in 1855. The John Paul House, also known as the Ottobine Farm, is representative in the nineteenth century changing architectural styles as it reflects both Late Victorian Gothic style and Greek Revival. The original 1890 Gothic-style carved porch was replaced in 1939 with a two-story Greek Revival portico to match the family’s growing prosperity in Harrisonburg.

Peale House: Jonathan Peale, the owner, was a wealthy farmer and prominent citizen in early Harrisonburg history. However, its historical significance stems from its association with General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, who was said to have set up base at the Peale House prior to the Battle of Cross Keys and Port Republic. The Peale House is a unique example of Gothic Revival architectural style incorporated with vernacular style built in the 1840s. Constructed of brick, the house boasts Doric columns supporting a two story portico on the front and two story columns supporting the back porches; these features are reminiscent of ancient Greek temples hence the style name.


3.3 cubic feet (6 boxes, 1 flat file)

Language of Materials



The collection contains National Register of Historic Places nomination forms and supporting documents, maps, floor plans and images for properties in the vicinity of Rockingham County and the City of Harrisonburg generated by students in James Madison University’s Historic Preservation class, 1989-2013.


The collection is arranged chronologically by the date the project was completed, then alphabetically by property name. Within project folders, documents include forms, supporting documents and images.


The Harrisonburg-Rockingham Historic Properties Collection came into existence in 1989 when HIST 493/693 was first offered at James Madison University. Taught by Professor Darryl Nash since its inception, the purpose of the course was to teach students historic preservation techniques, while providing a hands on project solidifying those objectives taught in class. At the end of term, students were expected to complete a Nomination form ready for submittal to the Department of Historic Places. Nash had retained a sizable collection of student projects, and donated them to Special Collections in fall 2006.

A 2013 accural of additional property reports was processed and added to the existing collection in 2022.

Acquisition Information

Received from Professor Darryl Nash in June 2006.


CDs containing digital versions of physical photographs were note retained.


  • Massey, James C, Shirley Maxwell, J. Daniel Mezzzoni, and Judy Reynolds. Shenandoah County Historic resources survey: survey report. Richmond, Virginia: The Virginia Department of Historic Resources, 1995.
  • National Register of Historic Places. SED/JJ. 2 February 2007. National Park Service.
  • Suter, Scott Hamilton and Cheryl Lyon. Harrisonburg. Chicago, Illinois: Arcadia, 2003.
  • Suter, Scott Hamilton and Cheryl Lyon. Places, Faces, & Traces: Historical Photographs of Harrisonburg and Rockingham County. Dayton, Virginia: Silver Lake Mill, 2005.
  • Terrell, Isaac Long. Old Houses in Rockingham County, 1750-1850. Verona, Virginia: McClure Printing Company, 1970.

Processing Information

Photocopied and/or duplicated material was separated from the collection. Original wallpaper samples from the Kiser-Roller House (1993) and the Liskey House (1995) were scanned and discarded. Two irregularly sized floor plans for the Lincoln-Pennybacker House (1989) had been pieced with tape, and thus were scanned and discarded. Images for the O.C. Sterling House (1989) had been pasted on mat board, which were scanned. Paper copies of the aforementioned scans are filed according to their respective property.

In order to streamline the process of applying collection numbers, Special Collections staff completed a large-scale renumbering campaign in 2017-2018. This collection was previously cataloged as SC 5016.

A Guide to the Harrisonburg-Rockingham Historic Properties Collection, 1989-2013
Margaux Zanelli, Grace Thomsen
May 2007, July 2008, December 2022
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • July 2008: Edited
  • December 2022: Accrual

Repository Details

Part of the James Madison University Libraries Special Collections Repository

820 Madison Drive
MSC 1706
Harrisonburg Virginia 22807
(540) 568-3612