STATEMENT OF DENIS P. GALVIN, DEPUTY DIRECTOR, NATIONAL PARK SERVICE, DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR, BEFORE THE SENATE ENERGY AND NATURAL RESOURCES SUBCOMMITTEE ON NATIONAL PARKS, HISTORIC PRESERVATION AND RECREATION CONCERNING S. 1910, A BILL TO AMEND THE ACT THAT ESTABLISHED THE WOMEN’S RIGHTS NATIONAL HISTORICAL PARK TO PERMIT THE SECRETARY OF THE INTERIOR TO ACQUIRE TITLE IN FEE SIMPLE TO THE HUNT HOUSE LOCATED IN WATERLOO, NEW YORK.

MARCH 8, 2000

 


Mr. Chairman, thank you for the opportunity to appear today before the subcommittee to present the Department of the Interior’s views on S. 1910. This bill would amend the enabling legislation for the Women’s Rights National Historical Park in New York by authorizing the Secretary of the Interior to acquire title in fee simple to the Hunt House in Waterloo, New York.

The Department supports enactment of this legislation, however, it is necessary to make a technical amendment to the bill.

Women’s Rights National Historical Park, established in 1980 through Public Law 96-607, was created to preserve and interpret the important sites associated with the First Women’s Rights Convention held in Seneca Falls, New York, in 1848. That legislation originally identified nine sites that would make up the features of the park. The Secretary was authorized to acquire a fee simple title to six of those nine sites. With regard to the remaining three sites, the Secretary was authorized only to acquire a less-than-fee interest in the sites. The home of Jane Hunt, located in Waterloo, New York, was one of the sites.

On July 9, 1848, Jane Hunt hosted a tea during which Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott and her sister Martha Wright, and Mary Ann M'Clintock decided to hold the nation's first women's rights convention. Stanton and M'Clintock met at M’Clintock’s house on July 14, 1848, to draft the Declaration of Sentiments presented at the convention on July 19 and 20, 1848. The document's preamble declares that "all men and women are created equal."

Richard and Jane Hunt contributed to the development of education in Waterloo by founding the Waterloo Academy in 1844, with Richard Hunt on the Board of Trustees. The Waterloo Woolen Mill, partly owned by Hunt, produced slave-free woolen cloth. When the Wesleyan Methodist congregation determined to build a church where any reform speaker could speak, Hunt supported its construction. The Wesleyan Methodist Chapel, within a year of opening, was the site of the First Women's Rights Convention. The Hunts were active reformers and abolitionists and their home was a likely stop in the Underground Railroad.

When Women's Rights National Historical Park was established, the Hunt House was in private ownership. One family had owned the property since the 1940s. The owners were not interested in selling a less-than-fee interest in their property to the government, nor were they interested in negotiating with the National Park Service to open their home to the public for occasional tours or other special events. In the summer of 1999, the property was put up for sale. The Trust for Public Land and the National Trust for Historic Preservation worked together and purchased the Hunt House to ensure that the property would be available for public use and enjoyment. Their intent in acquiring the property was to hold it until such time as the National Park Service had the authority to acquire a fee simple title to the property and to open it to the public as part of Women’s Rights National Historical Park.

As stated previously, Public Law 96-607 identified nine sites to initially make up Women’s Rights National Historical Park. These sites were identified by name and literally numbered one through nine. Acquisition authority for sites numbered one through six was for fee acquisition while the acquisition authority for site seven (the Bloomer House), site number eight (the M’Clintock House) and site number nine (the Hunt House) was for less-than-fee acquisition. Subsequent amendments to Public Law 96-607 authorized fee simple acquisition of the M’Clintock House (P.L. 98-402) and deleted the Bloomer House from the park’s boundary (P.L. 104-333, Division I, Section 505).

The amendment contained in Public Law 104-333 did not take into account that the numbers in the original legislation corresponded to specific sites that had separate limitations associated with them. In most circumstances this would not be a problem. However, in this case, the paragraphs as they now read are incorrect and confuse the intent of the law. The Hunt House is the only property within the boundary of Women’s Rights National Historical Park which the Secretary does not have the authority to acquire in fee. Section (a) of S. 1910 would remove this restriction by deleting the language that limits the Secretary’s authority to acquire the Hunt House.

Section (b) of S. 1910 would make a technical correction to P.L. 96-607 by reinserting the correct address for the Hunt House that was incorrectly changed in the amendment contained in Public Law 104-333.

The technical amendment that needs to be made to S 1910 would correct the public law cited in the bill. S. 1910 states in Sections (a) and (b) that Public Law 97-607 will be amended. This is the wrong public law citation for Women’s Rights National Historical Park. The correct citation should be Public Law 96-607. The references in S. 1910 to the Statutes At Large and the United States Code are correct and do not need to be changed.

S. 1910 would authorize the Secretary to acquire, without restriction, the Hunt House at Women’s Rights National Historical, the last remaining site in private ownership that the Congress has identified as significant to the story of the park. Acquisition by the Secretary would ensure that the property is open and available to the public to tell the entire story of the First Women’s Rights Convention of 1848.

This completes my testimony. I will be happy to answer any questions the committee may have regarding this legislation.