26 June 2009 by Published in: Battlefield preservation 10 comments

From today’s AP wire:

Wal-Mart step closer to store near Va. battlefield

By STEVE SZKOTAK Associated Press Writer
June 25, 2009

ORANGE, Va. – Wal-Mart has won the backing of Orange County planners for a Supercenter near the Wilderness Battlefield in Virginia.

The 5-4 vote Thursday sends the proposal to the Board of Supervisors. That board is believed to be leaning toward approval of the 138,000-square- foot store within a cannon shot of the Civil War battlefield.

Supervisors will conduct a public hearing before taking a vote on the proposal. It has been criticized by some of the nation’s top historians.

They have said the store is an affront to 29,000 Union and Confederate soldiers who were killed or injured 145 years ago at the Wilderness.

Wal-Mart has said its studies have concluded the store will not actually be on the site of any bloody combat.

It certainly is an affront, but given that three of the five Orange County supervisors have already publicly stated that they support the project, I see no way to stop it. It means that an already overly congested but terribly historic intersection is now about to become even more overly crowded. Shame on the Orange County supervisors for permitting their greed for tax dollars ahead of irreplaceable historic ground that, once developed, can never be reclaimed.

Scridb filter


  1. David Rhoads
    Fri 26th Jun 2009 at 11:21 am

    It’s too bad. At the open hearing in May, local sentiment among the people who made comments was running 2-1 against the Wal-mart special use permit. I had to wait three and a half hours to get my three minutes to ask the Commission to recommend denying the permit.

    I do feel that the members of the Planning Commission at least approached the issue honestly and considered all the opinions on the issue that they heard. Unfortunately, I can’t say I feel the same way about our County Supervisors.

    One direct impact on the battlefield of granting this permit is that some tentative plans to clear trees on the Ellwood property to restore 1864 lines of sight will probably now end up being shelved. At the time of the battle, all the land between the Lacy House and Wilderness Tavern was open fields. Today there are some intervening tree lines that have grown up. When I was visiting Ellwood a couple of weeks ago, one of the volunteers told me that they were considering removing those trees. Now, though, it would be better to leave them there because if they remove the trees, the centerpiece of the view from the front steps of the Lacy House will be the new Wal-Mart.

  2. Randy
    Fri 26th Jun 2009 at 11:45 am

    That really is a disgusting, but not unforseeable turn of events. The big box stores are marching across the landscape, historic and otherwise, eating up land like a swarm of locusts. Local officials, eager for tax revenue, are only too happy to enable them. Shame.


  3. Fri 26th Jun 2009 at 12:16 pm

    I’m shocked . . . shocked I tells ya. Then again, if there is one thing this world really needs in these trying times it is another Walmart. Your efforts are appreciated, David, but it sounds like you made the fundamental mistake of assuming that in the end the officials really cared what you thought.

    Do local officials actually live or plan to live and drive in the localities they are deciding on when they make these decisions? (The developers sure don’t.) This question crosses my mind every time I am in Northern Virginia. Local officials make these decisions and when complaints arise later about congestion blame the state or federal government for not enabling their irresponsibility with funds for road improvements. And of course, when road improvements are made, that enables the building of another development or shopping center. And in the words of Ratt (or was it Van Halen?) it goes round and round and round.

  4. Fri 26th Jun 2009 at 12:52 pm


    You are correct in the assessment of local officials. Maybe, if were a Wal-Mart confined to just that one little parcel of land, the Battlefield would be insulated somewhat. Certainly a blow to preservation but not catastrophic.

    It is the aftermath of that Wal-Mart that will have the most impact – increased traffic will attract even more businesses. And then feed cries to expand the road infrastructure. Then one day someone approaches VDOT with a plan to put a four lane bypass on an “easement” near the battlefield.

    In two decades, I’ll explain to a friend how “Grant’s headquarters were over there behind the Chuck-E-Cheese.”

  5. garyjd
    Fri 26th Jun 2009 at 4:00 pm

    I’m not surprised at all. This merely opens the door to retail expansion in the area. It might be best to prepare for the battle(s) yet to come. ~Gary

  6. Mike Clem
    Fri 26th Jun 2009 at 6:08 pm

    As if this decision wasn’t enough of a blow to battlefield preservation, the Frederick County, Md., Commissioners landed another sucker punch this same week to the site of the “Battle That Saved Washington.”

    In late April the five-member board suspended deliberations on building a trash incinerator at a county site across the Monocacy River from the battlefield in search of waste disposal alternatives. But this month Commissioner Charles Jenkins moved to reconsider the plan and in a 3-2 vote on Tuesday, the board approved construction of the $512 million plant literally within yards of the Worthington-McKinney Ford used by McCausland’s cavalry brigade and later Gordon’s division to outflank Lew Wallace’s handful of federals blocking Jubal Early’s drive down the Georgetown Pike to Washington.

    (See story at http://www.fredericknewspost.com/sections/news/display.htm?StoryID=91817)

    Not only will the garbage-burning plant sit within the designated National Historic Landmark boundary for the battlefield, but the 350-foot smokestack and 100-foot tall facility will dominate the skyline from any point in the park. Then there’s the constant traffic, noise, lights and odor produced by the plant’s 24-hour operation required to incinerate 1,500 tons of trash seven days week that will confront the park’s visitors.

    Superintendent Susan Trail said that since 2000, the park expenditures total about $4.5 million to stabilize historic buildings, rehabilitate the battlefield landscape and remove non-historic structures. An additional $4 million was spent for its new visitor center, which opened last June. Trail said visitation last year was 22,225, up from 18,579 in 2006. The park is projecting about 30,000 visitors this year.

    A recent independent survey conducted by Michigan State University on the economic impact of the park found that the total contribution to the local economy in 2006 was 35 jobs and $2.1 million in added value — before the new visitor’s center opened.

    Even if the commissioners are so cold-bloodedly callous and uncaring about the destruction of our nation’s historic sites and dishonoring the 2,300 Americans who made the river run red with their blood on that hot July day in 1864, you’d think in this economic climate they’d be more sensitive to protecting a revenue-producing major tourist attraction that was funded by our tax dollars!

    I hope you can use your bully pulpit to help make fellow preservationists aware of this desecration and urge your many readers to contact the Frederick Board of County Commissioners about this outrageous desecration, especially “Flip-Flop Charlie” Jenkins (chjenkins@fredco-md.net) and his colleagues John L. “Lennie” Thompson (lthompson@fredco-md.net) and Vice President David Gray (dgray@fredco-md.net) who voted for the incinerator. Board President Jan Gardner (jgardner@fredco-md.net) opposes the location and Kai Hagen (khagen@fredco-md.net) is against the entire project. They can also be reached at Winchester Hall, 12 East Church St., Frederick, MD 21701, phone: (301) 600-9000; fax: (301) 600-1849; web site: http://www.co.frederick.md.us/index.aspx?NID=27

    I apologize for my verbosity and for standing on your soapbox to make my speech, but I know you have a soft spot for this small, little remembered field that’s overshadowed by its more famous Civil War neighbors at nearby Gettysburg and Antietam. Thank you for your support to save the site of the Battle That Saved Washington.

  7. Jeff Mancini
    Sat 27th Jun 2009 at 12:24 pm

    A compelling contrast in battle field preservation from what I understand is the sites at Todd’s Tavern and Yellow Tavern. Fought 5/7/1864 the Todd’s Tavern site is remarkebly intact. On the contrary Yellow Tavern’s battlefield (fought 4 days later 5/11/1864) sits right in the middle of two interstate highways intersecting while the rest of the site is surrounded by residential urban sprawl from the growth of nearby Richmond. Apparently area youth now use the JEB Stuart monument site as a late night meeting ground to party complete with broken bottles littering the perimeter. Most of that battlefield is privately owned so sympathy and cordiality must be extended to the areas residents.

  8. Sat 27th Jun 2009 at 2:00 pm

    Hi, I just came upon your site today and found it very interesting. I especially liked the post on the Confederate Calvary at Gettysburg. I don’t recall ever seeing that issue dealt with before.

    Though my blog has nothing to do with the Civil War I decided to present you with a tongue-in-cheek award which is making the rounds on the blogosphere. You do not have to fulfill the “strings attached” in order to claim it.

  9. Chris Van Blargan
    Sat 27th Jun 2009 at 10:42 pm

    A glimmer of hope?


  10. Eric Mink
    Mon 29th Jun 2009 at 4:37 pm

    It ain’t over until that final vote. In the preservation community, we have an annoying habit of accepting “the inevitable.” A very bad strategy. If I remember correctly, the Spotsylvania planning commission endorsed the Town of Chancellorsville on the May 1st Battlfield, but the supervisors ultimately rejected the proposal. Like I said, it ain’t over until that final vote occurs. – Eric

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