On-line Book
Cover book to Battling for Manassas: The Fifty-Year Preservation Struggle at Manassas National Battlefield Park. [Image of cannon in the battlefield]
Battling for Manassas: The Fifty-Year Preservation Struggle at Manassas National Battlefield Park


Table of Contents




Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

current topic Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11


Appendix I

Appendix II

Appendix III

Appendix IV

Appendix V (omitted from on-line edition)

Appendix VI

Appendix VII

Appendix VIII

Chapter 4
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Park Additions

Historic Houses

As Hanson and Myers addressed land acquisition issues around the New York monuments, they also worked to incorporate the Dogan House and the Stone House into the Manassas National Battlefield Park. Rated second only to the Henry Hill area for purchase in the Bull Run Recreational Demonstration Area's 1937 report on proposed boundaries and areas, the modest one-story Dogan House, constructed of hand-hewn logs covered with weatherboarding, was mute witness to the most bitter fighting during the Second Battle of Manassas. Built before the Civil War, its original structure offered a more direct link to the war than the Henry House, all of which had been rebuilt following the battles. [11]

Recognizing the shortage of funds in the Park Service for acquiring the Dogan House, Hanson displayed ingenuity by working directly with the owners and local area businesses to preserve the building and eventually annex it to the park. He contacted the park committee of the Prince William County Chamber of Commerce and proposed the idea of the chamber buying the house and donating it to the federal government. A local engineer and architect assessed the extent of damage to the house, which suffered from a badly perforated roof that allowed water to enter and decay the interior of the building. Hanson also talked with William H. Dogan, the current owner of the house, and found Dogan congenial to the idea of selling the property for a nominal fee, with the stipulation that the house would go to the battlefield park. Dogan appreciated the historical significance of the structure enough to disregard the lot's high potential commercial value, since it sat at the crossroads of State Highway 622 and Lee Highway. In September 1947 the chamber of commerce purchased the Dogan House, and the retiring Hanson urged the Park Service to continue his work in securing its donation. [12]

Dogan House
Fig. 5. At the urging of Park Superintendent Joseph Mills Hanson, the Prince William County Chamber of Commerce purchased and completed a rough stabilization of the Dogan House, which had sustained bitter fighting during the Second Battle of Manassas, before donating it to the park in 1948. (National Park Service photo)

The Park Service did not have the funding for repairs, and Superintendent Myers feared criticism from the local community if the federal government allowed the structure to disintegrate. Therefore, the federal government delayed acceptance of the Dogan House from the Prince William County Chamber of Commerce to encourage this organization to complete the necessary repairs to the structure. The chamber of commerce completed a rough stabilization of the Dogan House by fall 1948, installing an asphalt-covered paper roof and repairing the walls and foundation. Official transfer of the property was completed just five days before a special 27 August program commemorating the Second Battle of Manassas. [13]

Hanson also laid the groundwork for the acquisition of the Stone House. A solidly constructed two-and-a-half-story structure of reddish brown native stone with a gabled roof, the Stone House has remained a conspicuous landmark at the crossroads of State Highway 234 and Lee Highway. Frequently represented on Civil War-era maps of the battlefield areas, it served as a military field hospital during both Manassas battles. Although considered a key property for its interpretive significance, the Park Service had not placed a high priority on its acquisition because its owner, George H. Ayres, had been friendly toward the park. Upon Ayres's death in May 1947, Hanson determined that Ayres's heirs would need to sell the property for financial reasons, jeopardizing preservation of the building. [14]

Hanson turned to the Virginia General Assembly for support, urging it to appropriate funds for the park's acquisition of the Stone House. Just before his retirement from the Park Service, Hanson and two members of the Prince William County Chamber of Commerce "laid the wires" with the county's two state representatives for obtaining $15,000 from the state. With this backing and the support of the chamber, the self-appointed committee, with Hanson as its spokesperson, went to Richmond to lobby the governor. Feeling ambitious, they proposed a state appropriation of $25,000, which the governor viewed favorably. They were equally successful in presenting their case before the full appropriations committee. In March the assembly agreed to the lesser amount of $17,000, the result of bartering for other projects but still above what Hanson had originally sought. [15]

Supporters of the Stone House acquisition continued to look for funds. Hanson tried to obtain $5,500 in private donations from the local community, but this effort failed. Instead, the Park Service sought authorization to spend Interior Department funds on Manassas. When first considering this idea in 1947, Acting Director Hillory Tolson expressed the opinion that the Park Service could not use the Interior funds because the park had been created under authority of the Historic Sites Act and its legislation did not provide for the eventual inclusion of other properties. Associate Director Arthur Demaray disagreed with Tolson's assessment, noting that the Stone House property had been included in the proposed boundaries of the Bull Run Recreational Demonstration Area. In addition, the Bull Run project was listed in a series of presidentially approved land utilization projects conducted by the Resettlement Administration and later the National Park Service. In light of these circumstances, Demaray felt justified in using Department of the Interior funding, which came available in 1949. [16]

Stone House
Fig. 6. An appropriation from the Commonwealth of Virginia aided the Park Service in its 1949 acquisition of the Stone House, which was later renovated to display its use as a Civil War hospital following both Manassas battles. (National Park Service photo)

Complications arose when the Park Service obtained three appraisals in 1948, the highest of which valued the property at $35,695, or $14,000 below an October 1947 appraisal requested by the owners. Mrs. Ayres agreed to average these two values and signed an option in June 1948 to sell the property to the United States for $42,597. Since the asking price was more than 5 percent higher than the Park Service appraisal, the secretary of the interior had to approve the purchase, which he did in August. On I7 June 1949, with the $17,000 provided by the state of Virginia and the balance from the Department of Interior, the Stone House and associated sixty-six acres transferred to the battlefield park. [17]

The following year, the Park Service initiated an extensive renovation and modernization program at the Stone House. Contracted out for $6,500, the project involved reroofing the structure and installing new electrical and plumbing systems. When this work was completed, the Park Service used the building as a residence for park employees. [18]

The Chinn House, already located inside the park's boundaries, was not so successfully restored. In the first year of the national battlefield park's existence, the relief workers who remained under the recreational demonstration area program had removed the Chinn House's weatherboarding as the initial step in its rehabilitation. With the disbandment of this group of workers in June 1941 and the United States' entry into World War II six months later, Park Service protection of this structure became negligible. Lack of personnel and funding precluded any full-scale restoration effort, so the Service covered the building with tar paper. Exposure to the elements destroyed the tar paper and left the underlying structure exposed. High winds eventually ripped off a portion of the tin roof. [19]

Benign neglect of the Chinn House aroused concern among local residents and forced the Park Service to address the house's deteriorated condition. By 1948 people in the community had shown their active support for historic preservation in the case of the Dogan House and looked to the Park Service to follow suit in protecting resources already under its care. National Park Service historian Francis Wilshin, who was stationed at Fredericksburg and later became superintendent at Manassas, recognized this concern and advised park superintendent Myers that demolition of the building, an idea then under consideration, would "have an adverse effect" on Manassas residents. Still, the Park Service failed to act until early 1950 when inspection revealed that the building constituted a serious safety hazard. By then restoration was no longer an option, so the Service removed the wood framing and left the two chimneys. Within days, severe winds destroyed the east chimney. Knowing that the west chimney would not with stand continued exposure to the elements, the Park Service leveled the structure and capped the chimneys at their foundations. [20]

The Chinn House has since been viewed as the single greatest preservation loss on the Manassas battlefields. Before the acquisition of the Dogan and Stone houses, it had been the only original wartime structure standing within the park's boundaries. An imposing building with architecturally distinctive chimneys, it had featured prominently in both battles and had served twice as a field hospital. Longtime neighbors of the park remember the historic house. Some occasionally point to its fate as an example of the Park Service's failure to meet its mandate. Its story serves as a reminder of the risks involved when park management fails to act forthrightly in preserving its resources. [21]

CONTINUED continued


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