Battlefield Guide Services

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Spotsylvania Battle Landmark, GONE! Harris Farm House Destroyed!

     UPDATED 12/21/2014! See end of post for recent sale activity on the property!
Additional photos added to the post 9:15 am, 12/21/2014, showing the sad then and now.
Update 12/24/14: Articles from Fredericksburg news sources cover demolition. See bottom.

     It is a sad fact that last week the historically significant Harris Farm House was torn down. I found out early on December 20, but could not get to the site until after dark. Even in the pale remainder of twilight, it was clearly confirmed, the house is gone, along with the adjacent dairy farm buildings on the two acres that had survived after the rest of the property was subdivided years ago. The house itself, built circa 1755, was used as a field hospital during the May 19, 1864 fighting that took the name of Civil War era owner, Clement Harris. There were blood stains on the floor boards in several rooms and the central hallway. My own great-great-grandfather was treated there for a wound received in the action.

     This is a significant loss to the cultural resources of the Spotsylvania battlefield. Although continually on private property, the historical significance is undisputed. In recent years the house had been surrounded by new, high-end houses, some selling for well over a million dollars. The house was on the National Register of Historic Places since May of 2000. It is significant to point out that it survived one hundred and fifty years after the battle.

     I arrived early at the site on the morning after this initial posting, shortly after sunrise, and photographed the now empty lot. See additional image near end of post.

     The following images (first six) were taken by me on March 24, 2010. The next shows the empty lot in a similar view to image six. The last picture is from 1901, the year of the monument dedication on the property.

 The Harris House stands at distant center, down the end
 of the old driveway, surrounded by new construction.
 Approaching the house from an access road into the subdivision.



Then: View of the historic Harris House, March 24, 2010
NOW: Near same view on the morning of December 21, 2014. The historic Harris House: GONE!

The house as it looked from near the same angle in 1901, the year a monument was dedicated on the property to the 1st Massachusetts Heavy Artillery, some of the Union forces engaged against those of Confederate General Richard Ewell, May 19, 1864.



Property had been sold on December 1st, along with 2.48 acres.
Here is a link to provide details on the property. Remember, what you see in the photos is now GONE forever!



34 comments:

Dwayne Overby said...

That's just awful!

Corey Meyer said...

How could it be torn down if it is on the National Register?

johnva07 said...

How sad !

Diane Ballman said...

Incredibly sad. I can't believe this has happened.

Gary Griffiths said...

Whoever has commited this terrible act of vandalism should be hung drawn & quartered. This just would'nt happen here in the UK.

Phil said...

There just are no words to describe my feelings in this sad situation.

jcksnghst said...

Is it on NRHP?that house looks better than any new construction....

Johnny said...

Thanks Gary, you are correct. Here nothing is sacred and zero pride of what we once were.

America the great is fading away. Goodbye, you will be missed

Eric Jacobson said...

National Register status means nothing.

Robb said...

Unfortunately, being on the National Registry provides no protection only designation.

Anne Marie Benedicta Whittaker said...

This was precisely why we fought against Disney in Manassas. Why wasn't this house protected by the National Trust or NPS?

dave402 said...

According to Zillow the house sold on 12/1/2014 for $125,000. What a shame

Jim said...

Listing in the National Register of Historic Places provides absolutely no protection to historic properties. It is a common misperception that the NRHP does. The only way listing might have been effective is if Federal funds, licenses or permits are involved, and even then it can be torn down eventually. The only way to ensure protection of historic properties is to purchase them outright. Having said all that, this is just a complete travesty!! Shame, unending shame, on whoever did this!!

Bobbie M. Bowler said...

Criminal! :-(

Gregg said...

That's just plain Greed.

Pete Payette said...

Corey Meyer, the National Register listings have no teeth. Private property owners may do as they wish. It is still very sad, though.

Anonymous said...

No respect for history or the people who were part of it. Hope the grounds are haunted and no one can rest or sleep.

Allie said...

Why is this not illegal? Did they just decide to do it anyway, pay whatever fine, and then make their money? The place should be confiscated as a crime scene and sold at auction. And those pros with their equipment have to be locals who knew what they were doing. These people stole from the entire nation.

T. Logan Metesh said...

Just because something is on the National Register doesn't mean the owner can't tear it down. That's a common misconception.

TheCoupDiva said...

I would have bought it for that much - didn't know it was for sale...sad someone wouldn't just take the money and fix it up - with the outbuildings that house was a steal.

me said...

Why??? Who let this happen? Seems so fast to be purchased on Dec. 1 and gone by the end of the month! Shame on whoever did this!!!

Caroline Hayden said...

The former Owner Ms. Agnes McGee did not want the property to be included in the local Spotsylvania county Historic Overlay. If that had been achieved, then a public notice would have been required to announce plans of demolition & perhaps a buyer found. Seems $$$ still rules, Sadly

John Heiser said...

Let's face facts. The owners of this farm were not concerned one bit for its significance when they sold off portions of the farm to developers in the 1980's, keeping only the house and outbuildings for their residence until the time was right to unload it. The history of the battle and the blood spilled on that soil by Americans on May 19, 1864, meant zero to them as did the history of this house they let lapse into disrepair. All of the accolades made to the family by NPS staffers and others over the years meant nothing to them. The current owner, likewise, has no concern with an old house when a new brick & frame manor would look "so much nicer". Don't blame those who tried to recognize and maintain the significance of this site- blame those "Americans" whose indifference to our nation's history will be their everlasting legacy.

Aline Urfer said...

Devastating... incredibly sad !!

Anonymous said...

In many states this would be a crime. And they would be forced to rebuild it. Here in PA they would be arrested and fined most likely.

Bri said...

Yes, the loss is so very sad. I just saw the price and that was the ultimate insult (125K for such a place with all the grounds and outbuildings). ---and they tore it down. What a shame.

Anonymous said...

I'm not from the area, so doing a news search online brought no mention in the local newspapers. Don't the residents of the county know or care? Where is the local outrage?

Susan Larson said...

Two stories have been published on
Fredericksburg.Today. They are

Historically Significant Bloomsbury Farm Destroyed

and

NPS Historian Mourns Destruction of Bloomsbury

This is what NPS Historian John Hennessy said, "The loss of a place like Bloomsbury is a loss of part of the timeless fabric of the community that binds us now and binds us across generations."

Todd Berkoff said...

Disgusting. With all of those McMansions on that property, someone really felt the need to bulldoze a house from 1740 and build another house on that spot?! Couldn't they buy an existing house? People have ZERO respect these days. Disgusting.

Michele Schiesser said...

When the property first came on the market where was our local newspaper with their usual feature on historic area homes for sale ? AWOL.

Michele Schiesser said...

Interesting the Free Lance Star article says the owner had it listed for sale for two years, yet the Zillow listing says it was only placed on the market on 3/12/14. Did the paper get it wrong or did the owner misspeak? Something worse?

Ann G. said...

What a shame. You can tell a lot about an area by how their local register works, since the local is the level that can provide some protection. Some places don't allow the listing of single-family homes or listing without the agreement of the owner. Other places allow anyone in the community to nominate and will list over the owner's objections. There's usually still an out that will allow the owner to demo, but at least review will be required.

Anonymous said...

This evening I began more research into my late husband's great great grand uncle Captain Charles McCulloch of the 7th NY Heavy Artillery. Genealogical info revealed he died in the Harris Farm house on 19 May 1864. I continued more research until I found the house had been for sale and was linked to your blog. Utter disbelief and sadness filled me as I read about the careless disregard for an important part of our nation's history. May the ghosts of the fallen soldiers haunt those who built over their graves.

Anonymous said...

Hi - this is aweful!
My husband and I had moved here to Fredericksburg, just for that the history. We purchased an old farm house that was built during Civil War, which we live in, 1865 timeframe. There has been one historical survey done of our property already, and I find things in the ground/gardens all the time. We are preserving this home, added solar, updating some new items to come and improving the grounds. We have old oaks, one of which a tree expert told us is well over 200 yrs old. We are in Spotsyvania country and would like to open, up suggestions in getting it registered.
Any suggestions, all are appreciated.
Patrick and Vickey Monan