CWPT in secret Chancellorsville talks

This preservation story is timeless:

In the 1920s, a group of Kansas City citizens and Civil War veterans sought to purchase the land on which the Battle of Westport was fought for the purpose of creating a battlefield memorial. The widow of Jacob Loose, a local biscuit maker, had other ideas. In 1927 she outbid the citizens group and deeded the land to the city, stipulating that it be designated as Jacob Leander Loose Park. When confronted by a civic leader as to why she would not cooperate with the effort to dedicate the land as a memorial, she is reported to have said, “Sir, the Battle of Westport does not interest me in the least.” (Emphasis added.)

That's the whole dynamic in a nutshell: conflicts of purpose, preservationists underbidding on battlefield land, and the usual after-the-fact preservationist astonishment sitting like a cherry on the finished sundae.

We had a replay of the Widow Loose affair out at Mullins farm in Chancellorsville this year, when Civil War Preservation Trust (CWPT) (assets = $16 million) failed to buy "overpriced" battlefield land on the market ... land that happened to be "right priced" for the Toll Brothers housing developers, who scooped up large tracts of historically significant land. The Battle of Chancellorsville does not interest them in the least, so they were not distracted from calculating and bidding fair market values.

Nothing is simple with CWPT, however, and having lost these hundreds of acres, they have re-engaged Mullins, Toll Brothers, Central Virginia Battlefields Trust, and who knows who else, in murky discussions partially described in this story.

It looks, from this report, as if CWPT is trying to get a smaller slice of the Chancellorsville battlefield, in exchange for allowing more, higher density housing to be constructed on those parts of Chancellorsville Battlefield land that they have lost by underbidding.

It seems this may be another example of heritage groups making things much worse for battlefield land. Greater density means more individual parcels and owners; it becomes more complicated and expensive to get the land away from them in the future; and, of course, there is more digging and building on the land.

I dread seeing what comes out of these negotiations.