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

 

The Carnage was Fearful: New book about the battle

Just published, a new look at the Battle of Cedar Mountain by historian Michael Block, former vice president of Friends of Cedar Mountain.

Now available from publisher Savas Beatie and other outlets, The Carnage was Fearful, a look at the Battle of Cedar Mountain by author Michael Block. Mike is the former vice president of Friends of Cedar Mountain and has spent countless hours developing interpretation of the battlefield and escorting visitors to the battlefield on in-depth tours. Continue reading “The Carnage was Fearful: New book about the battle”

Searching for witness trees at Cedar Mountain

In mid September, the Friends of Cedar Mountain (FCMB) board was honored to host an interesting visitor: Dr. Gary Strobel, a renowned microbiologist and naturalist who makes beautiful pens and other items such as small magnifying glasses from the wood of witness trees. Dr. Strobel and his wife Soozie spent a few days in Virginia exploring a number of area battlefields in hopes of identifying trees that may have witnessed the clash of armies during the Civil War. Continue reading “Searching for witness trees at Cedar Mountain”

Park Day efforts keep historic Cedar Mountain pristine

About two-dozen volunteers donated time and muscle Saturday to tidy up Cedar Mountain battlefield just south of Culpeper, where nearly 3,700 Civil War soldiers lost their lives on August 9, 1862.

The nonprofit Friends of Cedar Mountain Battlefield participates in the annual event, started in 1996 by the American Battlefield Trust, which owns the historic land.

Each year thousands of history enthusiasts, families, Boy and Girl Scouts and many others join together to lend a hand in an effort to help maintain parkland across the nation preserved by ABT.

“Park Day is a time for anyone to visit America’s incredible parks for a hands-on opportunity to help preserve the unique beauty and history that each has to offer,” said Friends of Cedar Mountain President Diane Logan on Wednesday.

 

In Culpeper, Logan said, Park Day brings together returning Friends and first-time volunteers, an occasion she and other leaders enjoy as they connect names with faces.

 
 

“It’s exciting to witness the enthusiasm each visitor brings to the day with their varied interests,” Logan said. “Many come to preserve the history of the site while others have embraced the beauty as a place to bring family and friends for hikes, walk with their dogs, go on picnics and take photographs.”

At Saturday’s event, a group of seven employees of Culpeper’s Ardent Mills participated in the clean-up event, something Logan said the milling company encourages.

“They did a variety of things—trimming shrubbery, clearing sites for upcoming living history events, raking and cleaning around monuments,” Logan said.

Ardent Mills employee Brandi Warfield and her husband, Justin Warfield said they try to help out during Park Day every year.

 

“I think the last time we helped out at Brandy Station battlefield,” Brandi Warfield said. “It’s a nice way to spend a Saturday.”

Mike Williams and his grandson, DJ, worked on Saturday weed-whacking and raking around signage and the Cedar Mountain’s iconic replica cannons. The Fredericksburg resident said he discovered the battlefield years ago on a drive from Culpeper to Orange, even before any land had been saved. He said he values history and the lessons it can teach.

 
 

“Mike said DJ first visited Cedar Mountain as an infant,” Logan said. “Now he’s 10 years old and Mike told him, ‘This battlefield looks exactly the same as it did when you came here as a baby, and it will look the same when you are grown. That is the beauty of preserving historic land.’”

Coming all the way from Silver Spring, Md., James Owens said he enjoys participating in living history events at Cedar Mountain regularly and is a member of the Friends group.

“It’s very satisfying to come out and do my part toward returning the park to its wartime appearance,” Owens said. He used a chainsaw to cut back undergrowth that was starting to intrude on one of the park’s walking paths.

 

Jennifer Michaels, a nurse at Mary Washington Hospital in Fredericksburg, worked with her husband and daughter Saturday to clear away leaves and foliage from a small family cemetery on the battlefield.

 

A new member of the Friends of Cedar Mountain, Michaels “is especially interested in cemeteries and in becoming a civilian living historian,” Logan said.

At Cedar Mountain Culpeper’s native son, Maj. Gen. A. P. Hill, sealed the Confederate victory when his division re-formed Gen. Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson’s crumbled line, leading the charge that turned the tide of the battle.

 

“For Hill and other Culpeper men engaged, this was a personal battle to liberate their homes, friends and family from Union occupation,” The Friends of Cedar Mountain website states.

To learn more about Park Day and the Cedar Mountain battlefield, located at 9465 General Winder Rd., Rapidan, visit friendsofcedarmountain.org or email info@friendsofcedarmountain.org.

 

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.