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Fort Germanna to change hands

The Fort Germanna site in Orange County, which is home to the Enchanted Castle, the 18th century home of Colonial Governor Alexander Spotswood, and portions of multiple Civil War battlefields, will have new stewards.

The University of Mary Washington, which has owned the property since 1990, has approved transfer of the land to the Memorial Foundation of the Germanna Colonies in Virginia with an 8–3 vote by the board of visitors Saturday.

Prior to 1995, classes from the historical preservation department at UMW worked on the site regularly.

But due to a lack of resources and shifting priorities, UMW archaeological work ceased in 1995. To take the archaeological work further would have required professional staffing and significant funding. Since then, UMW has paid to have the site Bush Hogged regularly, but has done little else with the property, according to the board.

The three members who voted against the property transfer, Jud Honaker, Mark Ingrao and Dan Steen, cited a lack of control for the future of the site.

Carrie Nee of the Attorney General’s Office, who is helping UMW with the transfer, said, “This is a very interesting piece of property, and we’ve been talking for two or three years about negotiations with the foundation. The proposal is that they will take title, do fundraising and then do archaeological work.”

Nee said the original title needs to be changed to reflect more recent boundary changes to the parcel before the transfer can take place.

The Virginia Department of Historical Resources would enforce the use of the property only for historical and archaeological purposes, she said.

Steen asked the rest of the board whether they were content handing the property over to a foundation who has not been able to do any significant fundraising for the project so far and does not currently have a chief officer.

However, Nee said the lack of fundraising is a consequence of not owning the property.

She also said that if the foundation does not complete what they intend within a certain time frame, the property will revert ownership to UMW.

UMW president Rick Hurley defended the foundation, saying he knows individuals involved and is confident they will be able to achieve their goals in archaeology and setting up a museum on the site.

He also pointed out that the contract stipulates that UMW faculty and students are regularly involved with archaeology at Fort Germanna.

Hurley also responded to concerns from Honaker that the property might be devalued and be unusable if the school ever wants to do something other than the historical work there.

“Preserving it is the right thing to do,” Hurley said.

Lindley Estes: 540/735-1976

lestes@freelancestar.com

 

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