10 January 2010 by Published in: Battlefield preservation 11 comments

The following threat to develop critical land near the Brandy Station battlefield was reported in yesterday’s edition of the Culpeper Star-Exponent newspaper:

‘Civil War Williamsburg’

By ALLISON BROPHY CHAMPION
Published: January 8, 2010

Union forces clashed with Confederates in two separate fights at Rappahannock Station — the wartime name for modern-day Remington — in August 1862 and November 1863.

A major crossing here was the Orange & Alexandria railroad bridge, which the Yankees burned in October 1863, the Library of Congress records.

Both sides wanted control of the vital waterway at the site and many died fighting for it.

Now, a local developer wants to return the place to its roots with the establishment of Culpeper Crossing, a Civil War-themed tourist destination on 14 acres of wooded, riverfront land adjoining the battlefield.

Bob Currier, in addition, has already placed a much larger parcel of actual battlefield into permanent conservation easement.

“We need a Civil War Williamsburg,” said the Remington resident, whose family has owned 100-plus acres at Rappahannock Station for more than a century. “It will be the only thing like it — on a battlefield where trenches are still intact.”

Located about five miles north of the more famous village at Brandy Station — the site of North America’s largest cavalry engagement in June 1863 — Remington sits about half a mile from the Rappahannock River in Fauquier County, though a portion of it sits within the border of Culpeper County.

Currier, who has a background as a builder, plans to get started on his “reproduction Civil War town” on the Culpeper side of the river this spring.

Besides an 18-room bed and breakfast and a museum, the secluded, riverfront development will include shops, a church, restaurant and live theater — the potential for up to 20 buildings in all, according to Currier.

He also plans to incorporate other periods of history relevant to the area including a Native American village, French and Indian War fort and Revolutionary War attractions.

Currier said he’s found hundreds of arrowheads and two dozen stone axes on the property. He wants to offer wildlife exhibits and the arts at Culpeper Crossing as well.

The Virginia Department of Historic Resources sees the possibilities.
“Your concept for Culpeper Crossing offers an exciting opportunity to present the rich history of this area in an engaging format and setting,” wrote DHR director Kathleen Kilpatrick in a letter to Currier last year. “We look forward to working with you to develop a sensitive and important new asset for Virginians and the nation.”

She encouraged “the use of local building tradition … to link Culpeper Crossing with the cultural heritage of its location.” It’s something Currier remains committed to doing as he moves forward, having ordered bronze statues of Gens. George Meade (Union officer from Pennsylvania) and Robert E. Lee of Virginia, who met in Remington.

Civil War soldiers who fought in Culpeper — believed to be the most marched upon county during the war — surely would never have guessed the history-themed recreation that awaits the river land at Rappahannock Station.

One letter in Currier’s collection of correspondence drafted in this area from that time stands out especially.

“I hope the time is not too distant when all who live may see this war ended and peace flow again in one unbroken stream through all our valleys — from east to west and from north to south,” wrote John M. Lovejoy of the 121st New York Regiment, stationed near Brandy Station in 1864.

Conservation easements

Currier wants his family’s land to remain unbroken by rampant development, which has crept closer to Culpeper’s battlefield sites in recent years.

And so about a year ago, he placed 189 acres of Rappahannock Station battlefield — adjoining Culpeper Crossing — into permanent conservation easement, meaning it’s going to stay as is forever.

He admitted that his foremost reason for pursuing the conservation easements through the DHR was for the money — easement holders can sell the tax credits they receive for cash. Currier did just that, getting about $3 million for the tax credits.

According to the terms of the easement designation, the land can never be subdivided and it carries strict limits, for perpetuity, on very limited development.

Currier credited family friend Sandra Stevens, an easement consultant from McLean, for helping him navigate the complicated process.

“What she is doing has dramatically affected the county,” he said of other easement projects Stevens worked on last year, including battlefield land in Brandy Station.

“I wouldn’t have gotten through it without her.”

Property value

Stevens, who has a background in lobbying, began her easement consulting business with Currier back in December of 2008.

“I did his and decided this was something I love doing,” she told the Star-Exponent in a recent interview. “It gives me an appreciation for the value of people’s property and how they feel about it.”

Successfully obtaining easement status is a complicated process, Stevens said, that spans about nine months. In Virginia alone, she said, there are 34 different land trusts, including DHR, the Civil War Preservation Trust and Piedmont Environmental Council, that hold properties in easement.

It’s an altruistic motive to put your land into easement, Stevens said, but these days many folks are doing it for the money too – to save the family farm.

She said she has thousands more acres in Culpeper County “in the pipeline” for easement designation.

The benefit to the county of historic easements is open space preservation, Stevens said.

“The state of open land in the county right on U.S. 29 has definitely changed,” she said. “We won’t be having overpasses and congested traffic areas like it would have been if had been developed as originally planned,” Stevens said, referring to the previously planned large development at Willow Run, property that she helped put into easement in 2009.

Wendy Musumeci, the DHR’s easement program coordinator, said her department holds 1,175 acres in historic conservation easement in Culpeper County.

Of those, 641 acres were added last year, she said, noting, “Future generations have to abide by these land restrictions.”

Culpeper County Planning Director John Egertson, speaking for himself and not the county, said conservation easements are a positive thing for the county because they maintain its overall rural character.

On the other hand, he noted, conservation easements could be detrimental if they prevented development in areas intended for growth, like the county’s technology zone next to the Daniel Technology Center.

“As for the various easements which have put into place to date, I am supportive of them all.”

Union soldier W.H.B. Dudley, camping near “Rapperhannac Station” in September of 1863 did not feel so supportive of the other side.

“We had a nice cav fight,” he wrote to his nephew George Payson. “We drove the rebels about 15 miles; they did run, tore up things good. I could see lots of dead rebels.”

We definitely do NOT need a Civil War Williamsburg where this guy wants to put it. I’m hard-pressed to think of a worse place for such a thing. It brings to mind the scheme to put a Disney park near Haymarket in the 1990’s.

Remington is immediately north of the Rappahannock, and adjacent to Beverly’s Ford, meaning it’s just north of the Brandy Station battlefield. It’s got its own battlefield in its own right. While I great appreciate the fact that Mr. Currier granted the preservation easement for his land, this is an incredibly stupid idea.

I want to encourage each and every one of my readers to do what you can to oppose this stupid scheme. Write to VDHR. Write to the CWPT. Write to Congress. Do what you can to prevent this thing from being built.

I’m not opposed to something like a Civil War Williamsburg being built–in fact, it could be a terrific idea if executed properly. However, a real battlefield next to one of the most important sites of the entire war is most assuredly NOT the place to built such a blight.

Scridb filter

Comments

  1. Chris Evans
    Sun 10th Jan 2010 at 6:53 pm

    Terrible idea. I agree that a ‘Civil War Williamsburg’ could be a neat idea but it is stupid to put something like that on an actual battlefield. I sure hope this idea is defeated like the Formula 1 track at Brandy Station was and the Disney Civil War theme park at Manassas.
    Chris

  2. Michael Lynch
    Mon 11th Jan 2010 at 1:19 pm

    This does seem like a pretty bizarre idea. Williamsburg, after all, is a restoration of pre-existing historic buildings and a reconstruction of buildings that were originally there. Here, though, we have a case of putting old-looking buildings on historic ground, which hardly seems like a good idea.

    –ML

  3. RELCJR
    Tue 12th Jan 2010 at 9:46 pm

    This project is adjacent to the Rappahannock Station battlefield,not on it, nothing is being disturbed, it was previously the site of three shack houses built in the 1930’s. Robert Currier Sr. was a class of 1940 UVA Law School graduate and an officer in WWII. Robert Currier Jr. is a direct decendent of Lord Thomas West, and a distant relative of R.E.Lee. Its a shame to read an article like this, what would your reaction be if your family was attacked like this. Mr. Hall is way off base.The project is being designed under the supervision and resources of the Dept.Of Historic resources, and is meant to exhibit, enhance and attract Civil War buffs worldwide, it will also employ over 150 people, stage reenactments, etc. This is a worthwhile project.

  4. Chris Evans
    Wed 13th Jan 2010 at 12:56 pm

    But I still wonder why not interpret the Rappahannock Station battlefield? Why not build a visitors center interpreting the fall campaigns of 1863 between Lee and Meade? I mean these are very neglected battles and skirmishes between the Army of Northern Virginia and the Army of the Potomac. Build a interpretive center about Bristoe Station, Rappahannock Station, and Mine Run instead of building a fictional Civil War village.
    Chris

  5. RELCJR
    Fri 15th Jan 2010 at 8:35 pm

    please contact me @ 703 231 7244, or e-mail me @ bobcurrier@hotmail.com, love to work with all civil war enthusiasts on this project. This artcle was not written with full knowledge of the project. thanks

  6. Oprah
    Sat 16th Jan 2010 at 6:28 pm

    conservation easement are meant to prevent development right?

  7. RELCJR
    Sun 17th Jan 2010 at 4:20 pm

    This project is not on easement property, in any event, explain Yorktown,Wlliamsburg,& Jamestown, that are huge tourist & educational assets , with buildings to serve the visiting public built recently, on the grounds or adjacent thereto. .
    Then explain all the developement in Brandy Station and Remington at least 99% that are just plain crap, and looks like everyone ran out of money, taste and function all at the same time. Then executed poorly.
    That is why Culpeper Crossing is needed.,, This area and its heritage deserve better,

  8. Sun 17th Jan 2010 at 4:27 pm

    Mr. Currier,

    While I respect that you think that there is some tourist value to what you’re trying to do, you will never, ever persuade me that this particular piece of ground is appropriate for what you propose to do. Trying to put this thing on pristine battlefield ground is an astonishingly bad idea, and I frankly am shocked that Ms. Kilpatrick has given it her approval. She was wrong, and so are you. I beg you to reconsider.

    Eric

  9. RELCJR
    Sun 17th Jan 2010 at 6:26 pm

    That is not pristine property it has been extensively bulldozed, three homes have been built on it, septic fields wells foundations out buildings even a store, there is not one square foot of pristine property there. The terrain has been totally altered by 9 seperate owners the freeway and such. That is why it is the perfect spot. Please call me and visit site, it will help you decide, no matter how you may think afterwards. Thanks love to meet on site.

  10. jim kosik
    Wed 24th Mar 2010 at 9:42 pm

    Attention: Bob Currier,

    I am a 26 year high-school teacher who lost his job. I
    have thought in the past of a similar idea but lack the
    capital to do what you are doing. Please contact me
    at jwkosik@comcast.net if I could be a part of your great idea.
    Sincerely,
    Jim Kosik

  11. J Lowery
    Thu 22nd Jul 2010 at 1:54 am

    I love this idea. I have stood on this very precious piece of American history, (the property which will be near to, but not disturbed by)the proposed Culpepper Crossing project. To stand at this site, is to truly feel the rich history of America, and how richly we have been blessed by so many who sacriiced their lives for our freedom. The trenches echoed the voices of these selfless soldiers. History itself never spoke to me from textbooks. To create an environment which could bring together the pieces of American history that lay seemingly fading only into textbooks or stashed behind velvet ropes, would breathe new life into the younger generations ability to absorb the true history of America. An interactive, attainable attraction for families to explore together, and also enjoy! Its not Disneyland, not fantasy, but the beginning of us. An opportunity to feed the minds of the future what so many of these soldiers desired, for not only themselves, but for generations to come. The attractions will rehabilitate the already disturbed area, and preserve the historical land that Robert Currier, Sr. held so dearly all those years, knowing the value was much greater than a new Superstore or highway.

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