Here’s a fantastic preservation opportunity from the American Battlefield Trust. Land from three Rev War sites is in play, including a crucial acre at Great Bridge, VA–site of the Patriot militia’s 1775 victory over Lord Dunmore’s forces. Every dollar you give will net an 80-to-1 match!
Tag Archives: Historic Preservation
Every visit I’ve made to Guilford Courthouse has been a little bittersweet. I’m always delighted to be there and enjoy the National Park Service’s superb interpretation, but also upset at how much of the ground around the park has been smothered by development.
That’s why this opportunity from the American Battlefield Trust comes as such good news. It’s a chance to turn back the development clock at Guilford while also securing land at the small but significant battleground of Hanging Rock in South Carolina:
At Hanging Rock, generous battlefield preservationists like you have already secured 141 acres. These 30 acres in the part of the battlefield where the initial Patriot attack began will add significantly to the land we have saved there already.
At Guilford Courthouse, the half-acre tract at stake may be small, but it’s part of a larger strategy to deal with the modern development crowding in on this battlefield from all points of the compass. Our plan is to buy up plots of battlefield land – including small ones and those with non-historic structures on them like this one – remove all non-historic structures and restore the battlefield. The Guilford Courthouse National Military Park has generously agreed to take responsibility for demolishing and removing the house on this plot, a considerable cost that we would typically need to cover.
Best of all, matching fund opportunities will allow us to buy these 31 acres for less than a fifth of their full value! That’s right, we have a $5.20-to-$1 matching opportunity to buy these $475,000-worth of Revolutionary history for just $91,250.
Click here and pitch in as much as you can.
Quick: Name the biggest armed uprising in U.S. history since the Civil War. Now name the largest labor uprising in America. If you answered both questions with “Battle of Blair Mountain,” give yourself a pat on the back.
Adding Blair Mountain to the National Register of Historic Places is a no-brainer. Indeed, it was on the list until a judge decided to permit its withdrawal under circumstances that were—to put it mildly—rather shady.
Right now, we have a chance to help put Blair Mountain back on the registry were it belongs. Between now and Oct. 26 you can email the keeper of the registry and let them know that this is a situation that needs to be rectified. Drop them a line at Blair_mt_comments@nps.gov.
It will only take you a few minutes, but it’ll help save an indispensable part of American and Appalachian history. This is one of the most imperiled historic sites in the country; it’s under imminent threat from coal companies who want to blast it to smithereens. (No, seriously, they want to take the site of one of the biggest armed uprisings in the nation and blow it up.)
And if you’d like more information on what you can do to help and why the site is so important, check out Friends of Blair Mountain.
After all these hurricanes, fires, floods, and earthquakes, we could all use some good news. Here you go:
The two-story log cabin where Isaac Anderson lived before founding Maryville College nearly 200 years ago was slated for demolition until last week, when work began to move the structure from Knox County to Blount.
The cabin was built in 1802, shortly after Anderson’s father moved the family from Virginia to Tennessee, and in 2010 the nonprofit preservation group Knox Heritage named the cabin one of its “Fragile 15,” what it considers the most threatened historic structures and places.
Under pressure from Knox County code officials, the homeowners association for Shannon Valley Farms likely would have demolished the cabin along Creek Rock Lane within the next couple of months, according to HOA Board Member Patrick Klepper. “Our plan was to bring in some dumpsters and haul it away,” he said.
Although the HOA and Knox Heritage had tried to generate interest in the cabin for years, estimates to haul it offsite and restore it have been about $60,000 to $80,000.
Maryville College alumnus Cole Piper serves on the board for the Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center and brought the cabin to the attention of Director Bob Patterson.
Once Piper explained to him the significance of Anderson, the Heritage Center director said, “I wanted to make this happen.”
A Presbyterian minister, Anderson was called to be pastor of New Providence Presbyterian Church in Maryville in 1811 and moved his academy here, later founding a seminary that would become Maryville College.
An anonymous donor has provided funding to start the process of dismantling the cabin and hauling the pieces to the grounds of the Heritage Center, and a fundraising campaign is being planned for the cabin’s restoration.
It was headed for the dump, and now it’ll get all spruced up for visitors to the GSMHC to enjoy. I call that a win.
More good news for preservationists and Rev War buffs! A few years ago the Foothills Conservancy of North Carolina initiated an effort to identify the location of the Battle of Cane Creek, where Charles McDowell’s Whigs faced off against Patrick Ferguson’s Tories in September 1780. An archaeologist has linked the battlefield to a tract of land in eastern McDowell County, and the Foothills Conservancy has acquired the property.
Cane Creek wasn’t a large engagement, but it was an important prelude to the critical Battle of King’s Mountain. McDowell’s men headed west after the Cane Creek fight to take refuge among the Watauga settlers of present-day East Tennessee. Soon afterward, of course, refugees and overmountain settlers alike mustered and marched east for a showdown with Ferguson’s Loyalists.
I’m very glad to hear of the Foothills Conservancy’s success. It’s a wonderful Christmas present for those of us interested in the Southern Campaign.
Here’s some great news on a preservation fight this blog has been tracking for some time.
The Civil War Trust told The Associated Press it has an agreement to buy nearly 15 acres of land across from Princeton Battlefield State Park for $4 million. The group has raised $1.4 million to buy the land from the Institute for Advanced Study and will now begin fundraising for the rest, spokesman Jim Campi said.
The Maxwell’s Field site is where historians believe George Washington’s charge first struck British lines during the Battle of Princeton in January 1777. The land will be donated to the state to become part of the park.…
“This landmark agreement will enable us to preserve one of the defining moments in American history,” said James Lighthizer, president of the Civil War Trust.
The institute donated 32 acres to the state in the 1970s for the development of the park, said spokeswoman Christine Ferrara.
“We are confident that this new plan and partnership will enhance the experience of the park for all who visit,” said Robbert Dijkgraaf, director of the institute.
Supporters of preservation say the tract is one of the most endangered historic sites in the nation, noting it’s where Washington’s successful charge helped raise morale and arguably saved the American Revolution.
Roger Williams, secretary of the Princeton Battlefield Society, said that the compromise gives the group and historians the ability to “interpret the battle to be able to give a sense of what happened on this land.”
Here are three upcoming lectures at the University of Tennessee you might be interested in if you’re a a history aficionado.
First up is the 2016 Charles O. Jackson Memorial Lecture, held every fall semester in honor of a former faculty member in the Department of History. This year’s speaker is Dr. Elliott West, Alumni Distinguished Professor of History at the University of Arkansas and past president of the Western History Association. His books include The Contested Plains: Indians, Goldseekers, and the Rush to Colorado (winner of the Francis Parkman Prize) and The Last Indian War: The Nez Perce Story. Dr. West will be discussing the West before Lewis and Clark. This talk is this coming Monday, Oct. 3 at 5:00 p.m. in UT’s Howard Baker Center, room 103.
Later this fall, the McClung Museum is hosting two lectures on Knoxville’s history in conjunction with the new exhibit on historic archaeology and in celebration of the city’s 225th birthday. On Sunday, Oct. 30 at 2:00 p.m. Jack Neely will present “Subterranean Knoxville: The Buried Narrative of a Distracted City” in the museum’s auditorium. Neely has written a number of books on Knoxville’s history, including Market Square: A History of the Most Democratic Place on Earth and Knoxville: This Obscure Prismatic City. He is also a longtime journalist, a regular contributor to the Knoxville Mercury, director of the Knoxville History Project, and the guy who probably knows more about this city and its past than anybody.
On Sunday, Nov. 6 at 2:00 p.m. Kim Trent of Knox Heritage will be at the museum to discuss historic preservation in Knoxville. The folks at Knox Heritage have been working on behalf of this city’s historic structures for years, and they do some great stuff.
All three of these events are free, so if you’re in the Knoxville area, come by for a little historical edification. And if you haven’t seen Knoxville Unearthed yet, you can check it out while you’re here.
Late last month the Walt Disney Company announced the closure of the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror at the California park to make way for a Guardians of the Galaxy ride. That decision upset some people. A petition to save the attraction has racked up over 30,000 signatures.
As someone who’s both resistant to change and a theme park junkie, I can sympathize with people who want to keep the Tower of Terror open. I’m still peeved at Universal Orlando for closing Kongfrontation even though I like the Mummy-themed coaster that replaced it, and I might never forgive them for dismantling the Jaws ride to build yet another Harry Potter area.
The original Tower of Terror opened at Walt Disney World in Florida in 1994. The California version didn’t get up and running until 2004, so the folks trying to persuade Disney to keep it open will be harder pressed to make their case than if they were advocating on behalf of a classic attraction with decades of tradition behind it.But that’s not to say that older attractions are untouchable. Snow White’s Adventure was one of the Florida park’s original rides, making its debut when the Magic Kingdom opened on October 1, 1971. You’d think the ride’s age and the fact that it’s based on Disney’s first full-length animated feature might have been enough to keep it open. In 1994 Disney gave it a major overhaul and a name change, and then closed it completely in 2012. And Snow White isn’t the only longstanding attraction to get the axe. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea was another 1971 ride that went the way of the dodo, and Disneyland’s PeopleMover closed in 1995 after nearly three decades of operation.
When you consider that Disneyland opened more than sixty years ago and Disney World forty-five, it doesn’t seem too out of place to start thinking of them as places of potential historic significance. The value of some of the parks’ attractions and architectural features doesn’t just stem from their age. For example, the Enchanted Tiki Room, Pirates of the Caribbean, and the Hall of Presidents feature pioneering examples of robotics technology. The monorail systems at the Florida and California parks are interesting landmarks in the history of transportation and innovation. And if a building can take on historic significance because it’s architecturally unique or an example of a particular style, maybe it makes sense to call Spaceship Earth and Sleeping Beauty Castle historic landmarks.
It’s possible that a conversation about places like Disneyland is one worth having in the historic preservation community. But any effort to restrict Disney’s ability to demolish or modify their attractions is going to run up against the same issues preservationists face when they’re dealing with any other property owners, except this particular property owner has an army of lawyers at its disposal. I wouldn’t want to see the Jungle Cruise get bulldozed, but I wouldn’t want to be the preservationist who has to go ten rounds with the Mouse House, either.
Today is the 239th anniversary of Washington’s victory at the Battle of Princeton. Unfortunately, it’s also a day in which Princeton Battlefield is under threat. Despite concerns from preservationists, historians, hydrologists, and now state lawmakers, the Institute for Advanced Study shows no signs of slowing down in its effort to build faculty housing at the site.
Why not commemorate the battle’s anniversary by taking a few minutes of your time to help protect the place where it happened? Here are a few easy things you can do.
- Donate to the Princeton Battlefield Society. These folks have been at the forefront of the effort to keep the battleground intact.
- Join the Civil War Trust’s advocacy campaign by signing their letter to Gov. Christie. (Yep, the CWT defends Rev War sites, too!)
- Contact the Institute for Advanced Study and let them know that you’re one of the many folks who oppose their construction project.
- Support the National Trust for Historic Preservation and its work on behalf of Princeton Battlefield and other special places.
- If you’re in the area, pay a visit to the site. Higher visitation makes it easier for people who care about historic sites to make a case to the powers that be that these places are worth protecting.
Here’s the latest news in the ongoing effort to preserve Princeton Battlefield. Looks like the Institute for Advanced Study might have ignored some important environmental restrictions, which could impact the construction that threatens the battleground:
Members of a Senate committee said they want to get to the bottom of whether wetlands are on a site where the IAS is preparing to build 15 units of faculty housing on about six acres of its land adjacent to Battlefield State Park.
Sens. Bob Smith (D-17), Linda R. Greenstein (D-14) and Kip Bateman (R-16), all members of the senate Environment and Energy committee, sent a letter to DEP commissioner Bob Martin asking him to put a hold on the project until the committee hears from the DEP on the wetlands issue. For its part, the DEP said it does not issue stays, something that was up to a judge to do.
The letter went out the same day that Bruce I. Afran, the lawyer for the Princeton Battlefield Society, and other advocates went before the committee arguing that there are wetlands on the development site, an area they say is of historic value given that fighting took place during the battle of Princeton in January 1777.
In his remarks before the committee, Mr. Afran said that Amy S. Greene, a hydrologist, was retained by the IAS to do a wetlands survey in 1990, a report that found wetlands in the middle of where the IAS is planning to build. A subsequent survey in 1999, by another firm for the IAS, found no wetlands in the same area.
Mr. Afran contended that the IAS did not disclose to the DEP the original 1990 survey indicating the presence of those wetlands when it sought clearance from the agency for its housing project.
To him, that represented “a pattern of deception” to conceal the information from the DEP, which, in 2000, granted the IAS a “letter of interpretation” saying there are no wetlands in the construction area.
Mr. Afran said that in 2011, the Battlefield Society had hired Ms. Greene to contest the IAS application before the then-regional Princeton Planning Board. Her survey found the same wetlands that she originally had identified in 1990. Ms. Greene also testified at Monday’s hearing to support her findings.
He also said that a 2012 soil report by the IAS engineer also found wetlands but that the IAS did not turn over the information to DEP.
For his part, Sen. Bateman said the DEP revisited the site a few weeks ago and claim it sticks to its original interpretation.
“This issue, I would think, would be either black or white,” he said. “Either the wetlands are there or they’re not.”
Yeah, you’d assume this would be a pretty straightforward question. Then again, you’d also assume people would have enough decency not to build faculty housing on an important Rev War battleground.
Those disappearing wetlands aren’t the only thing shady about this whole affair:
The Battlefield Society came close to defeating the project when it went before the Delaware and Raritan Canal Commission in January. A commissioner, Mark Texel, director of the state Park Service who is Mr. Martin’s representative on the board, initially abstained from the vote, which led to the development failing.
He changed his mind a month later, moved to have the DRCC reopen the matter and then voted for it. At Monday’s hearing, Mr. Afran claimed that Mr. Texel did so based on “political pressure.”
Mr. Afran claimed that in September Mr. Texel, in the presence of Mr. Afran and two other people, said he was sorry for the revote that he had asked for but explained that he had gotten a call from Mr. Martin’s office.
“He made it clear to us that he was pressured into that revote decision by the commissioner’s office,” Mr. Afran told reporters after the hearing.
“We’re disputing that characterization of the conversation, and it’s just hearsay,” said DEP spokesman Larry Hanja.
Note also that the IAS turned down a $4.5 million offer from the Civil War Trust to secure the land in question. These guys are serious. Good thing the Princeton Battlefield Society is showing just as much tenacity as the people who are out to churn up priceless historic ground.