Could Civil War link endanger Ward 4 Wal-Mart?
Stunning news out of the Commonwealth of Virginia today: Wal-Mart has given up on building a store in Orange County, on the site of the Battle of the Wilderness.
The decision means a coalition of preservation groups, led by the Civil War Trust, the National Trust for Historic Preservation and others, triumphed against hard odds in a contest with the world's largest retailer and local officials who wanted the accompanying tax dollars and jobs.
The news might buck up opponents of at least one of the four proposed Wal-Marts in the District, who thus far have failed to rally much support for their cause.
That's because one of the planned stores, on Georgia Avenue NW, is essentially across the street from historic Fort Stevens, a key part of the Civil War defenses of Washington and the site of the Battle of Fort Stevens, a July 1864 Confederate raid famous for being personally witnessed by President Abraham Lincoln.
Last year, the Civil War Trust included Fort Stevens in its list of the nation's 10 most endangered Civil War sites for a second time, citing imminent development threats.
Today a labor-backed group rallied at the John A. Wilson Building hoping to convince lawmakers to put strict restrictions on Wal-Mart before allowing them to do business. But even reliable labor supporters are finding it hard to brush off the thousands of jobs the corporation is offering. But the Georgia Avenue location, unlike the others, has seen a decent amount of neighborhood skepticism.
So perhaps the trust and other preservationists will go to bat to keep low, low prices away from the location of Confederate Gen. Jubal Early's daring assault, now located at 13th and Quackenbos streets NW.
Or will they?
Mary Koik, a spokeswoman for the trust (and, full disclosure, a longtime personal friend), said the battlefield is indeed a national treasure and a high priority for the group.
But it's difficult comparing Fort Stevens, already long since surrounded by residential and commercial development, to the Wilderness site -- in a largely rural area just outside the bounds of a national historical park.
"It's something we have not yet weighed in on," Koik said.
Photo by Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post
| January 26, 2011; 4:05 PM ET
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