A Revolutionary Home

An innovative land swap protects Valley Forge's historical character.

By Amy Leinbach Marquis

On the surface, the idea of adding a historical museum to Valley Forge National Historical Park in Pennsylvania might not sound like such a bad idea. But when the nonprofit American Revolution Center (ARC) announced plans to build on private, historically significant land within the park’s boundary, NPCA began seeking out alternative solutions.

“We’ve always supported the concept of a museum dedicated to American Revolution,” says Cinda Waldbuesser, senior program manager in NPCA’s Pennsylvania office. “But as proposed, this project would have changed the park’s historic character, created storm water runoff harmful to park wetlands, and paved over important wildlife habitat.”

Almost completely surrounded by national park land, the private, 78-acre parcel within Valley Forge was included in the 1980 boundary expansion approved by Congress. But the park never received the necessary funding to purchase the land. Thankfully, the Park Service and the American Revolution Center struck a creative deal: In exchange for the land at Valley Forge, the Park Service will give ARC about an acre at Independence National Historical Park in Philadelphia, including the building
that once housed the park’s visitor center.

Although no battles were fought at Valley Forge, it served as military headquarters for General George Washington and the Continental Army during the winter of 1777 through 1778, helping to transform a disorganized troop of soldiers into a ready-to-fight army.

“Historians say this encampment changed the course of the war,” Waldbuesser says. “So preserving the landscape not only honors those events, but ensures that visitors can continue to envision what Washington’s army saw more than two hundred years ago. And thanks to this innovative land exchange, they will be able to learn even more about the American Revolution by visiting a new museum in a historically-rich area at Independence National Historical Park.”

This article appears in the Fall 2009 issue.

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