Guilford Courthouse
Administrative History
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NPS Land Acquisition Program

More or less protected from encroachment on its eastern and southern boundaries by the Greensboro Country Park and the Forest Lawn Cemetery, Guilford Courthouse National Military Park remained vulnerable on its northern and western approaches. Problems developed on both of these fronts in the spring of 1940.

Acting Superintendent Brandon's Narrative Report for April 1940 (6 May 1940) noted that the Richardson Realty Company, a branch of the Vick Chemical Company and owner of two key tracts along the park's contorted northern boundary, planned to build a residential subdivision on these holdings. This could have been very serious because Richardson's eastern tract encompassed the scene of the heaviest fighting of the battle's last stage, while the western tract's boundary was barely one hundred feet north of the park's new administration-museum building.

Three days later, 9 May 1940, Brandon submitted "A Land Acquisition Program For Guilford Courthouse National Military Park." This proposal recommended the acquisition of five small tracts, about forty acres, to round out the park's boundaries. Included was a five-acre tract with a small house and outbuildings located immediately north of New Garden Road and west of the courthouse site, the property of Minnie H. Webb. Immediately west of the Webb property and running to the eastern terminus of the main body of the park was the twelve-acre eastern tract owned by Richardson Realty. Possession of these parcels would unite more securely the courthouse area with the balance of the park, block potential development of a key portion of the battlefield, and would permit the removal of the existing anachronism that was home to the Webbs.

The third parcel recommended for acquisition was a protective strip measuring two hundred by 1350 feet, running along the south side of New Garden Road from the main park body to the eastern end of the courthouse site, terminating at Hillsdale Road (later renamed Lawndale Drive). Two hundred linear feet on the western end of this tract was under easement to the city as part of Lake Caldwell, the northern-most Country Park lake. The balance belonged to Charles O. Martin, whose reputation, Brandon reported "is that of a man who takes almost any opportunity to make and realize [profit] upon an investment." Brandon characterized this area as ideal for "small home development," and clearly felt the park needed a buffer to protect its property from the rapacious Mr. Martin. Within a few years Brandon's evaluation of C.O. Martin would be amply confirmed.

Two remaining tracts ran along the eastern periphery of the original line of U.S. Highway 220. South of the Holt Avenue entrance, between the highway and the tracks of the Atlantic and Yadkin Railroad, successsor to the CF&YV, was an "open field," part of two undivided estates. The southern tip of this property terminated at the Joyner Memorial Church, roughly a quarter mile from the park boundary. Brandon recommended the purchase of six to twelve acres of this property to match the line of park holdings on the west side of U.S. 220. This would extend park holdings in the area occupied by the left wing of the second American battleline, and would block development at one of the primary park entrances.

Immediately north of Holt Avenue was the property that Brandon identified as the park's foremost land acquisition priority. Less than one acre, this very small tract contained a two-story frame house with outbuildings and pig sty, the country store and domicile of merchant Dick Woods. Brandon described this place as a "distinct eyesore" that gave visitors using the Holt Avenue entrance a miserable initial impression of the park.

Conspicuously omitted from Brandon's list was the Richardson Realty property one hundred feet north of the administration-museum building. Historically, this tract was occupied by part of the right wing of the second American battleline; but Brandon characterized it as "unsuitable for acquisition." He did not elaborate, but this judgment was probably based on the presence of a railroad siding that contained several petroleum storage tanks. This facility was shielded from the administration-museum building by intervening forest. Federal acquisition of this property would not have extinguished the railroad right-of-way, and the presence of the oil tanks made it undesirable as a site for subdivision. For these reasons Brandon likely concluded that purchase was inadvisable and unnecessary. [1]

Conservative as was the recommendation that forty additional acres be acquired, Brandon's plan would have increased this small park's area by one-fourth. It took many years but most of the recommended sites were eventually incorporated into the park. A few more unlisted acres were also obtained, but Brandon's plan remained at the heart of park land acquisition programs for almost a quarter century. In spite of persistent local demands that it be expanded, it remained unaltered until changes were compelled by events outside of the park's control.


1 William P. Brandon, "A Land Acquisition Program For Guilford Courthouse National Military Park," 9 May 1940, 602-01, GUCO, RG 79, National Archives, microfilm.

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Last Updated: 10-Feb-2003