Members of the Sudley Mountain and Stoney Ridge Civic Association were willing to mortgage their homes to save a piece of history.
Homeowners donated from $20,000 to $40,000 apiece to help purchase and preserve a tract of old battleground located between their properties and the Manassas Battlefield Park. They were formally recognized yesterday in the Park, near the land for which they risked so much.
“The most phenomenal thing to me is that none of us in the Civic Association considered this phenomenal in any way,” said Jack Hermansen, a member of the Association. “We thought it was something we had to do.”
The 137-acre plot hosted part of the Second Battle of Manassas, which began 141 years ago Thursday. A plaque was unveiled to commemorate all those who contributed to preserving this spot from development.
A court appraised the land at $600,000, and the Civic Association contributed $100,000. The remainder came from the Civil War Preservation Trust, the Park Service and the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation.
“This was an excellent opportunity to buy land and preserve it,” said Brad Bradshaw, a member of the Civic Association. “There were lots of guys killed on that ground.”
Bob Moler, also a Civic Association member, said even without help, they considered buying it all themselves. “It was so important to buy,” he said.
James Lighthizer, president of the Civil War Preservation Trust, said this couldn’t have come to fruition without the Civic Association’s help.
“Because of you all we have preserved a part of our heritage and history, and some open space in an area that needs all it can get,” Lighthizer said.
Hermansen may have been the most influential person on this project, according to Lighthizer.
“I refused to let this die,” Hermansen said. “This is one of the few parks unobstructed by towers or McDonalds. It truly is hallowed ground and we need to protect it for our children and our children’s children.”
Lighthizer said this action by the residents was truly a miracle. “I know of no other place in the United States where citizens mortgage their homes to save land,” he said.
Staff writer Sari Krieger can be reached at (703) 369-6751.