For Immediate Release: 06/25/09
Preservation Trust Donates Historic Property at Harpers Ferry to National Park Service
Donation ceremony is part of day-long event kicking-off 150th anniversary of John Brown’s Raid
(Harpers Ferry, W.Va.) – During a ceremony this morning on historic School House Ridge, the national Civil War Preservation Trust (CWPT) announced the donation of 176 acres of core battlefield land to Harpers Ferry National Historic Park. The property, which was first acquired by the Trust in 2002, was the scene of intense fighting on September 15, 1862, during the three-day battle and siege of Harpers Ferry.
According to CWPT President James Lighthizer, who spoke during the news conference, the donation is emblematic of the organization’s mission to see that preserved battlefield land becomes outdoor classrooms, available for the benefit of the American people.
“It has always been our intention to see this land incorporated into Harpers Ferry National Historical Park,” said Lighthizer. “We were honored to serve as temporary owners and stewards of this hallowed ground on School House Ridge, at the very core of the Harpers Ferry Battlefield. Land this historic belongs to all Americans; it belongs in a National Park.”
The transfer ceremony was part of a day-long series of events commemorating the 150th anniversary of John Brown’s Raid and the beginning of the American Civil War. The anniversary commemoration was cosponsored by NPS and the Virginia and West Virginia Civil War Sesquicentennial Commissions.
“The Civil War’s sesquicentennial presents a unique opportunity for us to leave a lasting legacy demonstrating our commitment to protecting America’s historic resources,” said Dennis Frye, who emceed the news conference and serves as Chief Historian at the park. “There is no more fitting tribute to the brave men who fought in that conflict than preserving the fields where they bled and died. Adding such a historic landscape to the National Park System sets an ideal tone for what this commemoration should strive to achieve.”
CWPT purchased the property in 2002 as part of a larger parcel totaling 232 acres. Private donations of $411,000 were matched with federal and state grants to complete the $1.7 million total transaction. After acquiring the property, 56 acres were sold to the National Park Service for $420,000 — the appraised fair market value for the land. CWPT maintained the remaining acreage, looking forward to a time when it could make a gift of the battlefield land to the federal government.
Also taking the podium at the event was Keith McIntosh, representing U.S. Senator Robert Byrd whose health prevented him from attending in person. McIntosh read a letter from the senator, a longtime advocate of historic preservation, and Harpers Ferry in particular, expressing his happiness that the Park continues to grow and thrive.
For many years, Senator Byrd has been among the greatest allies of the battlefield preservation movement. His leadership in efforts to extend the Park boundary at Harpers Ferry and in securing funds for land preservation has been nothing short of extraordinary.
The land sits along School House Ridge, approximately one half mile north of U.S. Route 340. The property is central to telling the story of the Battle of Harpers Ferry. Confederate troops under Maj. Gen. Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson occupied these heights before assaulting the town in conjunction with a massive Southern artillery barrage. The ensuing surrender of 12,000 Union soldiers was the largest capture of U.S. Army soldiers in American history — a dubious distinction held until World War II.
Now that the Park has officially taken ownership of the property, construction of additional walking trails and installation of interpretive markers will soon begin. According to Frye, visitor parking and restroom facilities were previously put in place nearby, ready to greet visitors to the new Park Service land.
Harpers Ferry National Historic Park includes close to 3,300 acres of Civil War battlefield land in Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia. In addition to the 1862 battle, the Park also interprets militant abolitionist John Brown’s 1859 raid on the federal arsenal and the 1906 public meeting of the Niagara Movement, an early cornerstone of the modern Civil Rights Movement. For more information on the park, please visit www.nps.gov/hafe.
CWPT is the largest nonprofit battlefield preservation organization in the United States. Its mission is to preserve our nation’s remaining Civil War battlefields. Since 1987, the organization has helped save more than 25,000 acres of hallowed ground, including 424 acres at Harpers Ferry. CWPT’s website is located at www.civilwar.org.
(For more information about preservation efforts at Harpers Ferry, visit http://www.civilwar.org/harpersferry)