Guilford Courthouse
Administrative History
NPS Logo

NPS Land Acquisition Efforts And Mission 66

While the Martin Trespass case was the major issue involving Guilford Courthouse NMP in the 1950s, there were significant developments that were unrelated to that case. Locally, most important of these were efforts to obtain property specified in the park land acquisition program. The notable victory in this campaign was the purchase of the one-acre eyesore at the corner of Holt Avenue and Old Battleground Road. The park's premier land acquisition priority since 1940, this property was obtained in May 1957 for $10,500. Its buildings were demolished, the ground seeded, and the area allowed to return to a more natural appearance. [1]

The park's second land acquisition priority also became available at this time. East of and fronting Old Battleground Road for nine hundred feet from Holt Avenue south to Joyner Memorial Church, this ten-acre tract paralleled park holdings west of the road. Obtained by three local businessmen who foresaw the area's coming annexation by the city, the property was bisected longitudinally by the tracks of the Atlantic and Yadkin Railroad, and was zoned for light industry. With easy access to rail and road transportation systems, the owners considered this a valuable site for commercial development. Nonetheless they were perfectly willing to work with the park, willing even to allow an extended grace period to permit programming of funds. Their asking price was $36,000. The park paid for an appraisal that put the tract's fair market value at $35,120. Superintendent McKeown was satisfied with the appraiser's work and strongly recommended that the land be acquired. It was not, essentially because of a divergence of viewpoint regarding the railroad right-of-way. The owners considered the tracks a business asset; the Branch of Lands saw the one hundred foot right-of-way as a liability, limiting the tract's usefulness as parkland. McKeown was authorized to offer $30,000 for the tract. This offer was rejected, the tract was subdivided into nineteen lots, and was sold piece by piece for business development. In 1960-1961 a warehouse and a combination warehouse-office complex were built. There after two additional office facilities and another warehouse were constructed, consuming the nineteen lots. [2]

Ironically, the railroad right-of-way that was so pivotal to NPS decision-making in this case was abandoned in 1982. Before they were removed the tracks actually served as an asset to park interpretive programs when, in association with the American Revolution Bicentennial, the Freedom Train visited the park in 1976, and the Best Friend of Charleston in 1981. The park finally did obtain part of this tract in 1979. A wedge-shaped plat totalling one-third acre located immediately south of the Holt Avenue entrance was bought to allow screen planting. This fraction of an acre was the only part of the park's second land acquisition priority that was added to the area. Its purchase price was $22,500. [3]

Also in this decade a major new National Park Service planning initiative was undertaken. Mission 66 was a ten-year program designed to upgrade tired and over-taxed park facilities in time for the 1966 fiftieth anniversary celebration of the National Park Service's founding. Mission 66 materials are valuable resources for documenting park conditions and priorities in the important transitional decade stretching from the mid-1950s to the mid-1960s.

Major problems identified at Guilford Courthouse NMP were outgrowths of the continuing growth of neighboring Greensboro. Foremost among these were difficulties associated with heavy volumes of automobile traffic on park roads, particularly on New Garden Road. "Non-visitor traffic on park roads has reached such proportions that it is now a distinct hazard to legitimate park visitors." To alleviate this problem a goal was established to close New Garden Road to through-traffic and incorporate the abandoned roadway into a newly constructed one-way tour route, with visitors' vehicles entering from Old Battleground Road (State Road 2340) at the Administration-Museum building. Plans also called for the construction of gates to prevent after-hours vehicular access to the park. This was a direct response to an accumulating toll of damage to park resources caused by vandals and off-road parking.

The other major challenge facing the park was the physical growth of the City of Greensboro. City planning estimates quoted in the preceding chapter indicated that the park community shortly would be transformed from essentially rural to decidedly urban in character. "To be preserved, the battlefield . . . must be protected . . . against encroachment from all sides as its immediate surroundings are developed for suburban and urban use." Developments on the neighboring Martin property were a daily reminder of just how seriously urban encroachment could affect park operations. To protect the park "against encroachment from all sides" Mission 66 planners called for "screen plantings in some [unspecified] areas of the park to reduce as much as possible the intrusion of development outside park boundaries." [4]

In retrospect it is not surprising that problems associated with urban encroachment were identified as the major obstacles confronting the park in 1956. The recommended responses to these problems are a bit unexpected. The notion of closing New Garden Road was rather optimistic given the State's repeated rejections of such proposals offered in attempts to settle the Martin Trespass case. Of course the fact that the park owned the New Garden right-of-way, even though that ownership was being contested in the courts, made closure at least a possibility. But the apparent insistence on receiving the advance assent of the State made this element of the plan seem a bit far-fetched. The other key aspect of the plan, screen plantings to mitigate the effects of urban encroachment, seems unimaginative and anemic. If significant additional land purchases were out of the question, and the community had been assured repeatedly that this was the case, alternative responses might have included efforts to assure compatible usage by obtaining easements. An aggressive determination to work with local zoning authorities might also have been employed to minimize the effects of urban encroachment. A combination of easements and favorable zoning decisions probably would have done more to help the park than any other potential course of action short of expansive land purchases. If all else failed, fencing, in combination with substantial screen planting, would have offered a more formidable buffer and might have enhanced public perceptions of the distinctions of intent and purpose between the National Military Park and its neighbors.

Whatever the merits of this portion of the plan, neither of its major elements were accomplished by 1966. The significant achievements of Mission 66 at Guilford Courthouse were the purchase of a house and lot on Liberty Lane (Green Acres Lane) and the addition to the staff of a GS-7 Historian's position. The Historian's hiring was most welcome to supplement the small staff of four, consisting of Superintendent Courtland T. Reid (assigned to Guilford as of 1 September 1955), an administrative aid, and two caretakers. Superintendent Reid noted approvingly: "Interpretive aspects of Park operations will receive an emphasis not possible when these duties were handled largely by administrative personnel." [5]

The new house was meant for occupancy by the Historian, but funding for the new position was not allocated until August 1961. Until Walter T. Bruce transferred from Manassas National Battlefield Park in October 1961, the house was occupied by Administrative Aid Robert S. McDaniel. [6] Other elements of Mission 66 planning, including the construction of walking trails in the first line, and the second and third line areas of the battlefield, would have to await the 1968 Master Plan revision and the major developments that followed in anticipation of the national bicentennial.

<<< Previous <<< Contents >>> Next >>>
Last Updated: 10-Feb-2003