Guilford Courthouse
Administrative History
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A Bridge Over Troubled Waters

Consistent with the Mission 66 proposal, a Master Plan Revision, approved 28 August 1958, called for "the discontinuance of New Garden Road" through the park. As a concession to local traffic patterns a replacement road was to be constructed beyond the park's northern boundary to carry the heavy volume of east-west through traffic away from the park's center. This plan was blocked by the inability of the Service and Richardson-Merrill Corporation (successor to various Richardson family holdings, including Richardson Realty Company) owner of two tracts along the park's uneven northern boundary, to reach agreement as to the location of the by-pass. Richardson had aspirations to develop this property, and although willing to sell 17.84 acres required to complete the circuit, insisted that the by-pass be located on or within the park's northern boundary so as to leave them no unusable property. The Service was equally determined that the by-pass be carved entirely from the Richardson holdings. Without agreement on this point, the land transaction and the by-pass proposal failed. Without the by-pass, the State refused its assent to closing New Garden Road. [1]

Then providence intervened. In this case providence assumed the form of hurricane Gracie, whose accompanying torrential rains breached the Lake Caldwell Dam on 16 October 1959. As New Garden Road ran across the top of the earthen dam, the road was washed out. To some this was a welcome occurrence. The National Park Service may have been unable to close New Garden Road, but an act of God had done the trick. From Greensboro to Washington, NPS officials viewed this as a rare opportunity. They had no intention of repairing the damage until the State agreed to the construction of a by-pass and the permanent closure of New Garden Road. [2]

Among those least likely to applaud this decision were the extended family of C.O. Martin and their advocate, James G.W. MacClamroch. The Martins had essentially won their long-contested case against the Government, and attorney MacClamroch was not inclined to see their victory vitiated by the Service's refusal to repair New Garden Road. Telephoning Sixth District Congressman Carl Durham he confidentially requested that repairs be expedited. When he was informed that the Park Service was not willing to restore the road, MacClamroch cleverly enlisted a new champion with a more altruistic interest in New Garden Road: the Battleground Volunteer Fire Department (BVFD).

This agency provided an essential service to the community and to the National Military Park as well. Fire represented a serious threat to the park's wooded acreage and its small staff would be quickly outmanned in an emergency situation. Fortunately the BVFD was located nearby, so a fast response time for a park fire emergency was assured. The BVFD station was on Lawndale Drive in a building owned by Raymond F. Farrar, operator of the Park Drive-In Theater, and son-in-law of C.O. Martin. In spite of the protection the BVFD offered the park, Superintendent Eugene D. McKeown cynically asserted that Farrar had built the fire department building as a ploy "to prevent the closing of New Garden Road." If so, this ostensibly public-spirited action was shrewdly calculated and utterly effective.

Congressman Durham soon heard from the president of the BVFD who pleaded that the bridge provided access to half of the department's fire district. Attorneys engaged by the fire department traveled to Washington to make their case to NPS officials that repair of the bridge was a matter of public safety, and as such was an urgent necessity. Back home in Guilford County, Raymond Farrar began circulating a petition expressing community support for the fire department, and impatience at the inconvenience occasioned by the road's closure.

The Service could not resist these representations, particularly the public safety arguments pressed by the fire department's attorneys. Reversing their position, they announced that in the interest of public safety a temporary bridge would be erected and New Garden would be reopened to traffic. A sectional aluminum bridge was installed and the barricades removed on 2 August 1960. It was emphasized that this was not a permanent solution and that the NPS would continue to seek alternatives that would allow the permanent closure of New Garden Road. [3]

By assuming a stance that was interpreted as constituting a threat to public safety, the National Park Service once again had been out-manuevered. Unable to close New Garden Road, unable to construct a by-pass, unable to forestall the construction and use of the garish recreational facilities on the Martin property, unable even to close the trespass road that accommodated these establishments, the isolation of the courthouse area from the balance of the park acreage had been magnified. It looked as though this alienation might become even more intense when the city chose not to refill Lake Caldwell. Held under easement for use as a lake, the property reverted to its owner, C.O. Martin, whose history suggested a future of further unpalatable developments for the park. [4]

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Last Updated: 10-Feb-2003