Designing guidebooks for virtual battlefields

The South Mountain story (posted earlier today) reminds me of that problem which "virtual battlefields" pose for flesh-and-blood tourists. How do you visit them?

Virtual battlefields evolve out of deals made by Civil War battlefield preservationists (and governments) who buy easements - restrictive covenants on land use - instead of the underlying battlefield land. The result tends to be a patchwork that can be made to look like a battlefield on a map but which cannot be visited by tromping around on private property.

Furthermore, preservationsists, very confusingly, tend to run down their finances by buying easements near battlefields to preserve open space. This is certainly an interest of Civil War Preservation Trust, if you read their literature closely, and the Franklin Country Club controversy smacks of this kind of cart-before-the-horse activity.

Well, leave it to architecture buffs to point a way through the easement mess. The houses they want to visit are private property, often in inaccessible places. Terry Teachout notes that William Allin Storrer’s The Architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright: A Complete Catalog contains "illustrated entries for all 433 pieces of 'built work' by Wright, plus road maps showing how to find them. The maps are legible and accurate — I can vouch for them. In addition, they clearly indicate which buildings can be viewed from "publicly accessible property" (i.e., they can be seen from the street).

That's the missing piece - and with that bit we can write the definitive guide to virtual battlefields. "Stand on your car roof or hood and look along a 27 degree azimuth until you see a large sycamore tree about 200 yards off the road. The brush under and around that tree roughtly conforms to Captain Jones' last known position."

Heritage tourism can still be served. Thank you, William Allin Storrer, for showing us how.