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Home Working with Section 106 ACHP Case Digest Spring 2003 West Virginia: Transfer of Murphy Farm to Harpers Ferry National Historical Park
West Virginia: Transfer of Murphy Farm to Harpers Ferry National Historical Park
Protection Agency and National Park Service
More than 7,000
objections to the proposed redevelopment of historic Murphy Farm in
Harpers Ferry, West Virginia—the site of a critical maneuver in General
Stonewall Jackson’s capture of the town and later where John Brown’s
Fort once stood—undoubtedly helped prevent the 99 acres from becoming
a 188-unit housing development.
A preservation group recently purchased the historic land from its heirs, and the National Park Service has incorporated the site into the adjacent Harpers Ferry National Historical Park and will manage the historic property—saving an important cultural and economic asset to the State of West Virginia and the Nation.
Considered a contributing element to the cultural landscape of Harpers Ferry National Historical Park in West Virginia, Murphy Farm was the temporary location of John Browns Fort, seized by the radical abolitionist in a famous effort to free American slaves.
Members of an 1896 pilgrim party from the National League of Colored Women, Murphy Farm, Harpers Ferry, WV (photo courtesy of Historic Photo Collection, Harpers Ferry National Historical Park)
The site became a place of pilgrimage and inspiration for W.E.B. DuBois and other members of the Niagara Movement, a civil rights organization that was instrumental in the founding of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
Murphy Farm, which borders Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, is also famous as the site where General A.P. Hills division of 3,000 men marched to and deployed on the night of September 14, 1862, a critical flanking maneuver of the Battle of Harpers Ferry in which General Stonewall Jackson invaded and captured the town in 1862.
In 1999, developers seeking to purchase the farm from its heirs requested authorization from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to construct a sewage treatment plant for 188 housing units that would be constructed on the 99-acre site.
At the urgent request of historic preservation groups, the ACHP requested in April 2001 that EPA evaluate its Section 106 responsibilities, which brought to EPAs attention a congressional appropriation for purchasing this and other Civil War battlefield properties associated with Harpers Ferry National Historical Park through the National Park Service (NPS) Land and Water Conservation Fund program. EPA decided to exercise its prerogative to require Federal review of the permit.
As part of the Section 106 review process, EPA met on the proposed project with the ACHP, NPS, the West Virginia State Historic Preservation Office, the Harpers Ferry Conservancy, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the National Parks Conservation Association, and the town of Harpers Ferry. The group helped EPA identify affected historic properties and map a course for future actions toward full consideration of such properties in EPAs permit review.
With the prospect of losing the site's historic integrity forever, members of the public and organizations lodged more than 7,000 objections to the proposed development. Those protesting included members of the West Virginia and Jefferson County Chapters of the NAACP and the Civil War Preservation Trust, an organization that was working simultaneously to preserve several other key parcels associated with the Battle of Harpers Ferry, and elsewhere, through passage of the Civil War Battlefield Preservation Act. The President signed the act into law December 17, 2002.
Such public interest in Murphy Farm undoubtedly helped change its fate. Using funds from the Land and Water Conservation Fund program, a preservation group called Trust for Public Land purchased the farm from the Murphy heirs in October 2002, for transfer to NPS.
The historic property became part of Harpers Ferry National Historical Park on December 31, 2002. Once the land transfer replaced the EPA permit as the Federal undertaking subject to Section 106, no further Section 106 review was required because all NPS acquisitions of land for park purposes are covered by a 1995 agreement among NPS, the ACHP, and the National Conference of State Historic Preservation Officers (NCSHPO).
The group arranged for NPS to manage the historic property, which became
part of Harpers Ferry National Historical Park in December 2002. Pursuant
to a 1995 agreement among the ACHP, NPS, and NCSHPO, Federal acquisition
of land for park purposes does not require further Section 106 review.
Staff contact: Martha Catlin
Posted August 15, 2003
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