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South Boston News / October 23, 2013
The Town of Clarksville is at grave risk of losing a historic landmark — a shuttered tobacco warehouse on Virginia Avenue that its owner, Winnie Freeman, believes was the site of Virginia’s longest-running tobacco auctions until the collapse of the tobacco program a decade ago.

The cavernous structure, located at 611 Virginia Avenue, may have to be torn down after its roof caved in last week. Although Mecklenburg County Building Inspector Eddie Harris has not condemned the structure, Town Manager Jeff Jones expressed worry about the safety of those who pass by the building.

“My first concern is to make certain no one gets hurt,” said Jones.

For now, the alleys on either side of the warehouse are blocked to car and pedestrian traffic.

Freeman, whose father owned the building before her, remembers her father saying the 150-year-old warehouse housed the longest-continually existing tobacco market in the state. Most leaf warehouses closed more than a decade ago with the demise of the tobacco price-support program.

With its large bays and lofty ceilings now punctured by the ravages of time, the white brick building stands as a reminder of the Golden Leaf’s importance to the region. It may not stand much longer, however.

Jones said he is working with Freeman to address to safety issues, but at the moment it appears as if the only solution is to demolish the structure. If that happens, the area will have forever lost another piece of its heritage.

One local resident, who asked not to be named, bemoaned the loss: “If that building goes, the entire Clarksville landscape will forever change, and to be replaced with what? If I had the resources, I would buy it myself.”

Freeman is more than willing to entertain a buyer who wants to fix up and preserve the structure. When asked if anyone ever approached her to purchase the building, Freeman says, “No.”

Sonya Ingram with Preservation Virginia is coming to Mecklenburg County next week to look at the old Roller Mill in Chase City, with plans to stop by the Clarksville warehouse. While her organization is not immediately in a position to fund the restoration of the site, she hopes to begin discussion with owner Freeman.

Preservation Virginia is a private non-profit organization and statewide historic preservation leader founded in 1889. The group is dedicated to perpetuating and revitalizing Virginia’s cultural, architectural and historic heritage, ensuring that historic places are integral parts of the lives of present and future generations.

Ingram, like Freeman and many Clarksville residents, appreciates the history behind the building and its significance. Therefore, she would love to see a buyer come forward before the building is lost.

The clock is ticking, as Freeman’s daughter is searching for a contractor to possibly dismantle the warehouse.

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This is so sad. As a photographer, I love the front of this ole place. Maybe try to rebuild, don't tear it down! :(

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