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Home Working with Section 106 ACHP Case Digest Summer 2003 Maryland: Construction of a New Visitor Center at Monocacy National Battlefield, Frederick
Maryland: Construction of a New Visitor Center at Monocacy National Battlefield, Frederick
Agency: National Park Service
This case demonstrates a thoughtful and sensitive approach to a challenge often faced by national parks: locating a visitor center so that it does not diminish the park’s historic integrity. In this case, the visitor center at Monocacy National Battlefield in Frederick, Maryland, is slated to be replaced by a visitor center that is safer, more efficient, and does not intrude on the park’s historic character.
To help protect the historic integrity of the park, the National Park Service, the ACHP, and other agencies have decided to locate the new visitor center near commercial development along the boundary of the Civil War battlefield park.
In addition, some private property along the edge of the park may be purchased and used for maintenance facilitiesa solution that would alleviate the need to locate such facilities in more sensitive places in the park.
As the site of The Battle that Saved Washington, Monocacy National Battlefield in Frederick, Maryland, features many Civil War-era structures and more than 1,600 acres of peaceful farmland and woods along the Monocacy River.
Union “Living Historian” explains the workings of a cannon at Monocacy National Battlefield, Frederick, MD (photo NPS)
The National Historic Landmark commemorates the site where General Jubal Early led his Confederate troops in a battle with General Lew Wallaces Union forces on July 9, 1864, in an effort to capture Washington, DC. Although the Confederates won the battle, the Union was successful in delaying the Confederates march to the Federal capital. General Wallaces defense along the Monocacy River bought critical time to allow Washington to be reinforced.
Like many battlefields across the country, Monocacy National Battlefield is threatened by development, including commercial areas that line the battlefields boundary and a highway that bisects the park.
In light of these existing threats to the preservation of the battlefield, the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP), the National Park Service (NPS), the Maryland State Historic Preservation Officer (SHPO), and the Frederick County Tourism Council faced the task of locating a new visitor center in the park that would not diminish the parks historic integrity. The battlefields current visitor center is inadequate because of flooding and safety issues associated with visitor access.
The agencies considered adapting existing structures within the park, including historic properties, for the visitor center, but the structures were determined to be unsuitable.
For example, one building considered for the new visitor center was a mid-20th-century dairy barn on the Hermitage, a historic farm that was used to shelter troops from both sides throughout the Civil War. The use of the barn as a visitor center was decided against, however, because the structure would preclude the restoration of the Civil War landscape in the park and its restoration would introduce additional modern elements to the site.
In mitigating the potentially adverse effects of a new visitor center in the park, the agencies arrived at a solution that turns the existing negative conditions into a positive: they plan to locate the new visitor center so that it backs up to the adjacent commercial area. Additional property along the edge of the park may be purchased from private owners for support services such as maintenance, thereby reducing effects of such structures elsewhere in the park.
In May 2003, the ACHP wrote to Secretary of Interior Gale A. Norton, noting that the proposal to construct a new visitor center at Monocacy National Battlefield presents the opportunity to advance the policy and program goals of both the NPS and the ACHP under Executive Order 13287, Preserve America, signed by President Bush on March 3, 2003.
The Preserve America initiative includes the directive for Federal agencies to cooperate with communities to increase opportunities for public benefit from, and access to, federally owned historic properties.
The ACHP, NPS, and the Maryland SHPO are expected to sign a Memorandum of Agreement for the Monocacy National Battlefield visitor center shortly.
Staff contact: Martha Catlin
Updated November 20, 2003
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