Housing developers eye Civil War battlefields

Celebration of the conflict’s 150th anniversary is drawing attention to a disappearing part of the nation's history.

By Bruce Kennedy Jan 30, 2013 9:48AM

Home under construction -- CorbisIn Atlanta, just minutes away from city offices and downtown attractions, 14 acres of brush and woods have caught the eye of apartment housing developers.

That in itself is nothing new. But what makes those 14 acres special is this: The prime piece of in-town real estate is also a part of Civil War history. A Confederate army brigade encamped there during the summer of 1864, ahead of what became the Battle of Peachtree Creek -- which soon after led to the decisive and costly Battle of Atlanta. 

The American Civil War divided the country 150 years ago and forever changed U.S. history. And remembrances during the conflict’s sesquicentennial are apparently fueling efforts to rescue and preserve many quickly disappearing reminders of that bloody and divisive conflict.

The non-profit Civil War Trust says nearly 20% of American Civil War battlefields have been destroyed and, of those that remain, only 15% are protected as national parks.

Many of the battlefield sites are now in urban or suburban communities, on valuable land. And there have been some highly publicized skirmishes in recent years as preservation groups fought to keep large companies from developing the sites.

In 2011, Wal-Mart (WMT) ended a two-year struggle and withdrew its plans to build a Supercenter inside the boundaries of the Battle of the Wilderness in Virginia.

And in the 1990s, Walt Disney (DIS) proposed constructing a U.S. history theme park outside of Washington D.C., near the Manassas/Bull Run battlefields. The project was initially praised by Virginia officials for creating further jobs and tourism revenue. But it quickly ran into opposition from preservationists, and was cancelled.

The Civil War Trust says it preserves battlefields by purchasing the land outright or receiving it via donation.

"By acquiring the land outright, we can ensure that it is preserved and that development threats will not destroy it," says its 2011 annual report. "We also protect land through acquiring conservation easements on tracts we do not own, ensuring that these tracts will remain in their current state, and will never be developed.”


The trust also works with local governments like the state of Virginia. Late last year, the state provided a $1.5 million matching grant to preserve nearly 300 acres of land in Gaines’ Mill, site of a bloody fight in 1862. And the trust recently announced it permanently protected 3,735 acres of "hallowed" Civil War ground last year, making 2012 the most successful year in its 25-year history.

In the case of 14 acres of Atlanta woods, the property’s owner wants to break ground later this year on a 236-unit apartment complex. But local residents would like the grounds to be looked over before the bulldozers start their work.

"If there were some archaeological or historic significance to this particular area, I think that would definitely add some value to the neighborhood," Wyatt Gordon, president of the local neighborhood association, told WXIA-TV.

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Tags: Retail
Jan 30, 2013 6:13PM
cazande you rreally think it can get more f 'ed up than now ! We have become a entitlement country, **** homos wanting to get married, 11 million illegal's that we don't kick the hell out liberal dumb thinking gun control will stop stupid people look at our mourn presidents home town overkill gun laws and those stupid people got guns and are killing each other off get some common sense
Jan 30, 2013 12:05PM
Probably a good idea to scour the area first to try to find artifacts. A concerted effort should be made to root out as much of the history as possible, BUT we can't take every patch of dirt every soldier walked across and call it consecrated ground. For one thing, we would never be able to build anything, for another, it demeans TRUE consecrated ground such as the battlefields of Bull Run or Gettysburg.
Shouldn't the republican party be putting their foot down about this???  After all, they are the authority on the traditions that this country is built on! 
Jan 30, 2013 2:14PM
Yeah, let's preserve everything - tear down Manhattan and turn it back into the swamp that it was before the Dutch and English settlers started building a city. Brooklyn, too - it was the scene of major conflict during the Revolution, California? Turn it over to the original inhabitants, the migrants from what is now Mongolia. Bring back the dinosaurs !

Not every piece of land is of more historical importance than life as we know it and want it to become. That said, don't we have enough ugly big-box retailers and pointless amusement parks ripping off tourists, urban sprawl over land that is far more useful to humanity as farmland or just plain open space?

I would rather see two huge skyscrapers more imposing than the Burj Dubai on the World Trade Center site than a memorial to the attack by muslim fundamentalists on our democracy that killed 3,000 innocents and brought about the American Gestapo called the Homeland Security Department.
Jan 30, 2013 1:53PM
If a Repukelican was in charge they would be saying: "DRILL BABY, DRILL"!
Jan 30, 2013 12:22PM
Republican you're funny, if we had little GOPhers running this country, we'd be f*^ked and you know it. All they do nowadays is wave the flag and scream about the deficit and meddle in others lives, and for some reason seem to forget THEY were the ones who left us with this deficit. You know you can't wage two wars and forget to collect the revenues from the rich. According to republican values they shouldn't have to support this country with taxes they owe for living in the greatest country in the world. Yeah, no. When GOPhers grow up maybe....
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