The boyhood home of George Washington, threatened last year with becoming the site of a Wal-Mart, will instead be protected and restored, its new owners said Monday.
The promise was made by Vernon Edenfield, executive director of Kenmore Plantation and Gardens in Fredericksburg, Va. The group has taken possession of the 71-acre property there, known as Ferry Farm.
Edenfield announced the start of a fund-raising drive for the Ferry Farm renewal project in ceremonies Monday, acknowledging a $100,000 gift from Target Stores, one of Wal-Mart’s retail competitors.
After a rancorous, months-long dispute that sparked protests from historians and preservationists nationwide, Wal-Mart withdrew its plan late last year and decided to build its store elsewhere in the Fredericksburg area.
A colonial town on the Rappahannock River 50 miles south of Washington, Fredericksburg was the site of a major Civil War battle. Over the last 20 years, commercial and residential development have diminished the historic character of the region.
Ferry Farm was where the young Washington may have thrown a silver dollar across the Rappahannock - not the Potomac - and supposedly chopped down (but probably didn’t) one of his father’s cherry trees.
The farm occupies a high bluff and runs along 4,000 feet of the river shore.
The farm was originally 600 acres and was Washington’s home from 1738 to 1753, when he moved at age 21 to the Mount Vernon area to seek his fortune as a surveyor and militia officer.
Unlike Mount Vernon and other Washington shrines and sites, Ferry Farm was allowed to fall into disrepair.
Gradually, bits and pieces of the land were sold off until only 71 acres remained in 1990. The main house was pulled down before 1830 but its foundations and some period outbuildings remain.
Last year, the farm’s owners, Samuel and Irma Warren, sold 24 acres of the tract to Wal-Mart in a deal that called for that land to be rezoned for commercial use in return for the rest of the property becoming a historic site.
Historians and preservationists objected when they learned that Wal-Mart, which already operates two other stores in the Fredericksburg area, planned to erect a 93,000-square-foot complex with a 16-acre parking lot on the 24-acre tract.
Wal-Mart, which complained it was being unfairly criticized because of its national reputation for bigness, promised to build the new store in a colonial style and to erect a dirt barrier between the two sections of the property. Still, objections continued.
The Kenmore Plantation then intervened by paying the Warrens the same $2.2 million commercial price and dedicating the entire 71-acre farm as a historic site.