Q: The national park with the largest acreage is the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve in Alaska, but do you know which national park site has the longest name?
A: The short—and very long—answer is the Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania County Battlefields Memorial National Military Park, which comes in at a whopping 83 characters, including spaces.
You wouldn’t know this from visiting the park itself or its National Park Service webpage. The much more commonly used name for this Virginia Civil War park is the Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park, a meager 52 characters with spaces.
In an earlier version of this story, I had incorrectly stated that the President William Jefferson Clinton Birthplace Home National Historic Site took the prize. That name, while being the longest listed on the Park Service website, actually falls short by nine characters when it comes to the official agency names, which sometimes have slight discrepancies from what they are commonly called. (We regret the error.)
Fortunately, I learned the correct answer from John Hennessy, the Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania County Battlefields Memorial National Military Park acting superintendent and chief historian—presumably the longest job title in the Park Service. Hennessy pointed out that his park’s official name was indeed the longest, but he said he understood why people might be confused.
“I bet if you polled the 50 [or so] employees of the park, there would be just two of us who could give you the correct name,” he said.
The park uses the shorter version of its name in most of its communications, including some formal documents. Why? “Just because it’s easier,” Hennessy said.
This Virginia park site encompasses four major Civil War battlefields and related historic structures, including the building where Confederate General Thomas Jonathan “Stonewall” Jackson died. The site is so vast that park officials suggest dedicating two days to visit the entire park.
And as far as the park name is concerned, if anything it will become longer before it gets shorter. Hennessy said that neighboring Stafford, Orange, and Caroline Counties routinely ask to be included in the official park name to recognize the larger area’s role in the Civil War. For now, though, Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania County Battlefields Memorial National Military Park is not set to expand its already hefty name.
“We’re obviously not interested in that,” Hennessy said.
About the author
Nicolas Brulliard Associate Editor
Nicolas is a journalist and former geologist who joined NPCA in November 2015. He writes and edits online content for NPCA and serves as associate editor of National Parks magazine.
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