Culpeper, Manassas battlefields make Virginia’s ‘Most Endangered Historic Places’ list

Article written by Clint Schemmer; published May 11, 2022 in the Culpeper Star Exponent.

Data-center development increasingly threatens some of Virginia’s major Civil War battlefields, leaders of four U.S. and Virginia preservation groups said at a press conference Tuesday on the Manassas battlefield.

Preservation Virginia, one of the nation’s oldest historic-preservation groups, called out the danger in its 2022 “Most Endangered Sites” report released Tuesday.

The report cites specific threats to Manassas National Battlefield Park and Culpeper County’s Brandy Station Battlefield from recent data-center proposals.

As part of the coalitions opposing these data centers, the American Battlefield Trust stresses how such projects can ruin pristine Civil War landscapes prized by visitors. The centers use gobs of electricity, impinge on historic viewsheds, require paving, increase runoff and create noise, the trust said in a statement Tuesday.

 

Unlike the housing or commercial developments that have infringed on battlefields in decades past, data centers are a new, 21st-century consideration that communities and conservationists are still learning how to address, the national nonprofit group said.

“We want the local officials in these counties to understand that as with any type of development, preservation and data centers are not mutually exclusive,” Trust President David Duncan said. “These communities can have both, but it all depends on the careful consideration of location. With its highly regarded report, Preservation Virginia has empowered this important message and turned attention to an issue that is far from over in the commonwealth and throughout the country.”

Locating data centers within technology corridors and away from culturally sensitive areas would convey how local governments value and support the preservation of their irreplaceable historic resources, the conservationist said.

Preservation Virginia’s annual “Most Endangered” warnings stretch across more than 20 years, and have helped prevent the loss of nationally important historic sites, including parts of Spotslyvania County’s Wilderness battlefield.

 

“Inclusion on the Virginia’s Most Endangered Historic Places list can have a profound influence in bringing organizations and individuals together to forward solutions and resolve threats. This year’s list is no exception,” Elizabeth S. Kostelny, CEO of Preservation Virginia, said in a statement. “The resources included reflect a range of issues and opportunities as Virginia continues its tradition of honoring its past while planning for the future.”

 
 

Kostelny, Kyle Hart of the National Parks Conservation Association, Chuck Laudner of the American Battlefield Trust and Raquel Montez, acting superintendent of Manassas National Battlefield Park gathered Tuesday afternoon at the park’s Brawner Farm—heart of the Second Manassas battlefield—to highlight the issue.

Manassas National Battlefield Park is under grave threat from a rezoning requested for a massive data-centers district to be built a stone’s throw from the park.

Culpeper County recently approved Amazon data centers on 230 acres of historic farmland near Stevensburg despite public outcry and concerns expressed by the trust and a coalition of eight other national, regional, and local organizations. Adjacent landowners are suing the county Board of Supervisors in hopes of overturning its 4-3 rezoning decision; the six property owners claim the board violated state and local laws.

 

The Stevensburg development on State Route 3 would be built beside two nationally significant properties—Salubria, an 18th-century manor house on the National Register of Historic Places, and Hansbrough’s Ridge, a Virginia State Landmark that played an important role in the Battle of Brandy Station on June 9, 1863.

 

Last summer, activists encouraged the Prince William County supervisors to reconsider the footprint of the county’s data centers.

If the proposals are approved, they would invite industrial development near both of Prince William County’s National Park Service sites—Manassas National Battlefield Park and Prince William Forest Park—a possibility that the trust and eight other national, regional and local organizations adamantly oppose. Later this year, the Board of Supervisors is expected to decide on a Comprehensive Plan amendment to rezone the land along Pageland Lane.

Preservation Virginia said its Most Endangered Historic Places program has a track record of success. Last year, the listed sites included Rassawek, historic capital of the Monacan Indian Nation; River Farm, headquarters of the American Horticultural Society; and the Warm Springs Bathhouses, the oldest spa site in the United States.

All were saved from insensitive development and neglect, the group said. Since Preservation Virginia’s program began, more than 50% of its listed sites have been saved, 10% were lost, and the remaining 40% are still being monitored.

 

Other sites on 2022’s list include Dunnington Mansion in Farmville; Green Valley Pharmacy in Arlington; Havelock School in Warsaw; Ivy Cliff Slave Dwelling in Bedford County; Parker Sydnor Cabin in Mecklenburg County; Preston-Crockett House in Smyth County; Reedville Grand Order of Odd Fellows Lodge/African American School in Northumberland County; Saint Paul’s Chapel Rosenwald School in Brunswick County; and William Fox Elementary School in Richmond.

Article on starexponent.com

 

More on Judge Grimsley: Dedication of the 28th NY Monument

To continue with Judge Daniel A. Grimsley’s efforts to memorialize the Cedar Mountain Battlefield, two more news clippings are presented here.  These document his successful efforts to coordinate brotherly reunions between the veteran soldiers of the Blue and the Gray.   In this instance the occasion was the dedication of the 28th New York Monument in the Culpeper National Cemetery, August 9,  1902.

Continue reading “More on Judge Grimsley: Dedication of the 28th NY Monument”

Judge Daniel A. Grimsley, Early Preservationist

The following newspaper articles detail the efforts of an early pioneer of Culpeper Battlefield Preservation.  Visitors to Cedar Mountain Battlefield today can view the results of Judge Grimsley’s efforts, manifested in the small stone markers placed around the grounds.

Continue reading “Judge Daniel A. Grimsley, Early Preservationist”

American Battlefield Trust and partners develop preservation-focused resources to siting utility scale solar

Friends of Cedar Mountain Battlefield applauds the efforts of the American Battlefield Trust, Preservation Virginia and Cultural Heritage Partners to develop resources to help guide utility scale solar to siting that preserves Virginia’s historic sites and landscapes. The integrity of our ongoing Rapidan Front Landscape Study, funded by an American Battlefield Protection Program grant, has twice been threatened by proposed utility scale solar projects encompassing thousands of acres in the area of study.

As Virginia’s clean energy efforts move forward, we support a collaborative approach to ensure protection of our state’s historic resources, highly valued by residents and visitors alike. Please take a moment to read the ABT and partners’ report and policy language developed as resources for siting utility scale solar plants. The policy language is intended for governments and planning officials involved in evaluating utility scale solar applications. Both resources provide insight into the complexity of balancing responsible renewable energy efforts with protection of historic resources. 

Another utility scale solar project threatens historic land

Another solar developer has proposed a solar array project that, if approved, would be located in the study area for the Rapidan Front Landscape Study federal grant awarded to Friends of Cedar Mountain. This is the fourth utility scale project to be proposed in Culpeper County since 2018; all have posed a challenge to the integrity of the county’s historic landscape. Update 11/23/20: Maroon Solar has withdrawn its application. Continue reading “Another utility scale solar project threatens historic land”

Opposition to utility scale solar on historic land

In October 2018 the Culpeper County Board of Supervisors approved a proposal by Greenwood Solar, now a subsidiary of NextEra Energy, for a 1000 acre utility scale solar project. This industrial scale project is placed squarely in an area of historical significance to the Civil War, with Brandy Station battlefield to the north and Morton’s Ford battlefield to the south.

October 4, 2020 update to the information in this post: On October 2, the conditional use permit for Greenwood Solar expired. Greenwood Solar representatives asked the Culpeper Board of Supervisors for an extension, which thus far has not been considered at the Board’s subsequent meetings.

Continue reading “Opposition to utility scale solar on historic land”

Culpeper Star Exponent: Interior Department funds Rapidan Front study in Culpeper

The following excerpt is from an article written by Clint Schemmer and published in the Culpeper Star Exponent on May 17, 2020. The article describes the awarding of a preservation grant to Friends of Cedar Mountain to support a cultural landscape assessment to study the nationally significant Civil War landscape along the Rapidan River front, extending north to the Union Winter Encampment area of 1863-1864 and the Cedar Mountain Battlefield. Continue reading “Culpeper Star Exponent: Interior Department funds Rapidan Front study in Culpeper”