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OT: Preserving the Civil War's Real Estate

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  • lilsteve68@aol.com
    Preserving the Civil War s Real Estate After years of fighting, preservationists are now coming to the table ready to buy land. By Gerry Regan for Office.com
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 2, 2001
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      Preserving the Civil War's Real Estate
      After years of fighting, preservationists are now coming to the table ready
      to buy land.
      By Gerry Regan
      for Office.com
      March 2, 2001

      "Wanted: Developers, Dead or Alive, $20 a Head." This was the slogan
      emblazoned across a T-shirt created for a re-enactors' march last October
      that netted $50,000 for Civil War battlefield preservation. It's clear from
      this modest bounty that preservationists realize their money is better saved
      for buying endangered battlefield land, whose cost has skyrocketed during the
      past two decades.

      Their dollars, while not going as far as a few years ago, are passing to
      landowners and, to a lesser degree, developers. This contrasts sharply with
      the landscape less than a decade ago, when those pushing for saving Civil War
      battlefields typically offered developers a diet of indigestion, bad
      publicity, personal invective and lawsuits.

      "Preserving Civil War Battle Fields" Preservationists and developers are
      fighting over the best use of Civil War battlefields.

      Part 1: Preserving the Civil War's Real Estate

      Part 2: A Tennessee City Shuns "Battlefield" Designation

      Part 3: Gas Taxes for Battlefield Acres?Lawyer and developer John T. "Til"
      Hazel, based in Fairfax, Va., says he experienced that firsthand.
      "(Battlefield preservationists) rule generally by emotion. They take the
      position that anything is fair game," says Hazel, who, with partner Milt
      Peterson, tried to develop 558 acres in Prince William County, Va., adjacent
      to Manassas National Battlefield Park. Their bid came to an abrupt halt in
      1988 when the federal government seized their land after a five-month-long
      nationwide letter-writing and phone blitz to http://www.congress.org/
      Congress, paying them $118 million.

      "(Local activist Annie Snyder) drummed up some excuse, got all worked up, and
      went out and said the site was being desecrated," says Hazel. Hazel says he
      and Peterson only bought the land after the Senate Interior Committee ruled
      "there was no historical value to the land" and declined to include it within
      its approved expansion of the park boundary. He notes, "The taxpayers were
      generous in paying for it and got very little benefit."

           In the four years of the war, from 1861 to 1865, about 3 million
      Northern and Southern soldiers battled at more than 10,000 places, ranging
      from Pennsylvania to Florida, from Maryland to Colorado.       
      Jerry Russell, director of Little Rock, Ark.-based HeritagePAC, set up by
      Russell to lobby for battlefield preservation, acknowledges: "The emotion
      involved in being a Civil War buff is definitely there. If you don't know
      anything about Civil War history, such land is a cow lot."

      The price for Hazel's land — more than $200,000 per acre — proved a
      watershed. Alarmed and sobered, preservationists realized that they couldn't
      get Congress to bail them out again at those prices. They understood they
      would need to become proactive in identifying battlefield acreage before
      developers acquired them.

      A small group of National Park Service staffers and other historians created
      the Association for the Preservation of Civil War Sites, known as APCWS, in
      1987 to fulfill that vision. In 1992, the Interior Department helped
      established the Civil War Trust to administer proceeds from the sale of
      commemorative coins Congress authorized to raise money for preservation. Both
      organizations worked to create a national constituency for preservation to
      supplement the efforts of the small, localized organizations that tried to
      safeguard specific battlefields.

      Related LinksThe Conservation Fund's Civil War Battlefield
      Campaignhttp://www.civilwar.org The Civil War Preservation Trust

      http://www.civilwar.org/preservationtechniques.htm TrustCivil War Preservation

      http://www2.cr.nps.gov/abpp/cwsac/cws0-1.html Civil War Sites Advisory
      Commission Report

      <http://www.enhancements.org/whatiste.htm What Are Transportation
      Enhancements?

      http://www.civilwarnews.com The Civil War NewsSome developers, in fact, have
      come to find common ground with these organizations and have earned their
      gratitude. Michael Armm, the managing director of Lee Sammis Associates' 
      Virginia office, for one, saw the firm's owner, Lee Sammis, vilified and
      later extolled by preservationists who opposed Sammis' plan to develop 5,000
      acres in Culpeper County, Va., holding the core of the Brandy Station
      battlefield.

      "Early on, we just had a bunch of people who just wanted to fight with us,"
      says Armm. In those early days, says Armm, opponents ran artful, highly
      professional full-page ads in local newspapers, headlined, "Brandy Station
      Now Faces an Enemy Far Worse Than the Union Cavalry: A Developer from
      California."

      From 1988 to 1995, the Costa Mesa, Calif.-based developer tried to develop &
      #151; with the support of county officials &#151; the tract, the site of the
      largest cavalry battle during the Civil War. The firm was stymied by a
      coalition of local landowners and Civil War devotees who challenged the
      county's rezoning of Sammis' property. The ensuing battle cost Sammis
      "several hundred thousand dollars in legal fees," Armm says.

      "The first sort of breath of fresh air came with Association for the
      Preservation of Civil War Sites," he says. APCWS in 1995 came to Sammis
      looking for "willing sellers," shortly after the project's holding company,
      unable to get tenants or financing, filed for Chapter 11 protection. For two
      years, APCWS and Sammis negotiated the sale of his remaining 1,543 acres, and
      further, Sammis became an advocate for the planned battlefield park with
      skeptical county officials and helped APCWS get bond authority to help raise
      the $6.4 million selling price of the land.

      Next page: "One acre of Civil War battlefield land is lost to development
      every 10 minutes."

      Richmond, Va.-based developer Andy Shield finds that the goals of developers
      and preservationists "are not contradictory." In December, he, a partner and
      the Civil War Preservation Trust joined forces to purchase 463 acres in
      Henrico County, Va., 12 miles from Richmond. The Trust, providing $859,000,
      received 245 acres that he says "completes the preservation of the Malvern
      Hill battlefield," while he intends to build 121 homes on the remaining 218
      acres.

      In the four years of the war, from 1861 to 1865, about 3 million Northern and
      Southern soldiers battled at more than 10,000 places, ranging from
      Pennsylvania to Florida, from Maryland to Colorado. The war led to as many as
      600,000 deaths. Acknowledging the threat to these sites, Congress established
      the Civil War Sites Advisory Commission in 1991 to assess their conditions
      and identify means of preserving them.

      The commission's report identified 384 of these battles as "principal," with
      45 of them having a direct impact on the course of the war. More than 70 of
      these battlefields are lost as intact historical landscapes &#151; some
      literally paved over, such as at Atlanta and Nashville, Tenn. Fewer than 57
      of these 384 sites are protected from development, according to the report.

      "One acre of Civil War battlefield land is lost to development every 10 
      minutes," says the Web site of The Civil War Preservation Trust, formed in
      November 1999 by the merger of The Civil War Trust and APCWS. The Trust and
      its predecessor organizations have, by the Trust's count, helped preserve
      nearly 11,000 acres at 60 sites across 16 states, including 2,000 acres in
      the past year.

      A centerpiece of their efforts is getting the word out to local officials
      that battlefields represent economic value to communities. "Tourism is
      economic development, and it is low-impact economic development," Trust
      President James Lighthizer points out. The Arlington, Va.-based Conservation
      Fund's Civil War Battlefield Campaign, in its publication "Dollar$ and Sense
      of Battlefield Preservation: The Economic Benefits of Protecting Civil War
      Battlefields," notes how protected Civil War battlefields can function as
      "basic industries," generating jobs and tax revenue for nearby communities.

      Aiding preservationists has been the availability, through most of the '90s,
      of funds from federal programs such as the commemorative-coin program; ISTEA
      and its successor, TEA-21; and the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which is
      generated from a share of revenue from oil and gas leases on the Outer
      Continental Shelf. That fund has earmarked $8 million to acquire land or
      interests in battlefields. In fact, the Trust used $200,000 in TEA-21
      funding, along with $300,000 from the Virginia Land Conservation Fund, to
      subsidize its recent Malvern Hill purchase.

      Even with the occasional victory, time is decidedly not on preservationists'
      side, and perhaps nowhere is this more evident than in Tennessee, where a
      Civil War Sites Advisory Committee report in 1993 listed 14 of the state's 38
      battlefields as either totally or partially compromised.

      But one Tennessee site, at Spring Hill, is nearly pristine. There, however,
      in addition to high land prices, preservationists face another obstacle, one
      quite extraordinary. The mayor and some others claims that a "battle" never
      took place there.

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