State effort underway to buy land near Civil War site
Posted September 23, 2014 4:02 a.m. EDT
Updated September 23, 2014 4:26 p.m. EDT
Durham, N.C. — Officials at Bennett Place State Historic Site in Durham are trying to raise $310,000 to buy a significant tract of land nearby.
The state Department of Cultural Resources says part of the original Hillsborough Road traveled by Confederate Gen. Joseph Johnston to meet with Union Gen. William Sherman in 1865 is for sale.
Deputy Secretary Kevin Cherry says the state's option to purchase the 2-acre site expires Oct. 31 – it was supposed to expire Sept. 30, but the owners decided Tuesday to give the state another month – and the state needs money to buy the land after officials were unable to secure a grant to pay for it.
"We need everyone's help, and every little bit counts," Cherry said. "I am not too proud to ask for money for something as important as this."
The land is near the "Unity Monument," and he says the monument is a symbolic point marking where the nation reunified.
On April 26, 1865, Johnston surrendered all active Confederate forces in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida at a farm house just outside of what is now Durham.
"This, for all practical purposes, ended the American Civil War," said John Guss, who manages Bennett Place for the state. "This was the largest of all five of the major surrenders that occurred across the U.S."
A for-sale sign is already posted on the site, and once the state's option lapses, the land could be sold to developers.
"When you don't have that (land), it really takes away from the educational feeling of going out on these historic grounds," Guss said. "Not only will it threaten the viewscape – the natural viewscape – but also we believe there might me some archeology that could be done there."
Donations can be made to the Bennett Place Support Fund, 4409 Bennett Memorial Road, Durham, NC 27705. For more information, call 919-383-4345 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
"We want to try and preserve what we can and while we can," Guss said.