STATEMENT OF D. THOMAS ROSS, ASSISTANT DIRECTOR, RECREATION AND CONSERVATION, NATIONAL PARK SERVICE, DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR, BEFORE THE SUBCOMMITTEE ON NATIONAL PARKS OF THE SENATE COMMITTEE ON ENERGY AND NATURAL RESOURCES, CONCERNING H.R. 1012, A BILL TO ESTABLISH THE CARTER G. WOODSON HOME NATIONAL HISTORIC SITE IN THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA

June 10, 2003


 

Mr. Chairman, thank you for the opportunity to present the Department of the Interior's views on H.R. 1012, a bill to establish the Carter G. Woodson Home National Historic Site in the District of Columbia.


The Department recognizes the appropriateness of establishing the Carter G. Woodson home as a unit of the National Park System. The site was found to be nationally significant, as well as suitable and feasible for addition to the system, in a study conducted by the National Park Service and sent to Congress earlier this year. However, we recommend that the committee defer action on H.R. 1012 during the 108th Congress. The Administration is continuing to place a priority on reducing the National Park System's deferred maintenance backlog and wants to ensure that funding is not diverted to pay for the cost of a new unit of the National Park System, which would include acquiring and rehabilitating property along with operating and maintaining the site.

Dr. Carter G. Woodson was a prominent American historian and is generally considered the preeminent historian of the African-American experience in the United States. Born in 1875 to former slaves, Woodson began his formal education at age 20 after being denied a public education in his home town of Canton, Virginia, and earned several degrees from institutions of higher learning. He became the second African-American, after W.E.B. DuBois, to earn a doctorate from Harvard. During much of Dr. Woodson's life, there was little information about African-American life and history. Dr. Woodson's research uncovered history that helped educate the American public about the contributions of African Americans to our Nation's history and culture.

From 1915 until 1950, Dr. Woodson lived at 1538 Ninth Street, Northwest, a Victorian-style row house built in 1890 in the Shaw neighborhood of Washington, D.C. His home was also the headquarters of the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, which he founded. The organization, which was renamed the Association for the Study of African-American Life and History, continued to operate out of the home until 1970. The association still owns the home, but it is unoccupied and in need of restoration. The home was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1976.

The National Park Service conducted a special resource study on the Carter G. Woodson home during 2001-2002, pursuant to P.L. 106-349. The study found that in addition to being nationally significant, the site was suitable and feasible for inclusion in the National Park System. The suitability finding was based on the determination that no existing unit of the National Park System provides the opportunity to present the story of Dr. Woodson and his legacy, or interprets African-American history as a general subject. It was also based on the fact that the home offers the chance to interpret other aspects of the community in which Dr. Woodson worked and lived, which has numerous historically significant resources associated with achievements of African-Americans. The site was found feasible for inclusion, with qualifications. Along with acquiring the Woodson house itself, to make this a viable park unit, the National Park Service would need to acquire three adjacent properties to the north for administrative, interpretive, and visitor service needs, and to meet accessibility requirements. The study estimates that the one-time cost of acquiring and developing the site would be in the range of $5 million to $6.5 million, and the annual cost of operating and maintaining the site would be approximately $500,000.

H.R. 1012 provides authority for the Secretary of the Interior to establish the Carter G. Woodson home as a national historic site after acquiring a majority of the property within the proposed boundary of the unit. The boundary encompasses the Woodson home and the three adjoining houses to the north. The bill also authorizes the Secretary to enter into certain agreements. One agreement would be with the Shiloh Community Development Corporation to redevelop the property. This corporation is a non-profit organization that intends to build senior housing on the same block as the Woodson home; discussions have begun between the National Park Service and the corporation about a potential development partnership which holds the possibility of providing a cost-effective means of restoring the property.

Another potential agreement permitted by the bill would enable the Association for the Study of African-American Life and History to use a portion of the historic site for its own administrative purposes. The bill would also allow partnerships with public and private entities for the purpose of fostering interpretation of African-American heritage in the Shaw area. This provision is intended to facilitate connection of the Woodson home to other significant historical and cultural sites in the area for purposes of promoting education and tourism. These provisions are all consistent with the findings of the study.

Mr. Chairman, that concludes my statement. I would be pleased to answer any questions that you or other members of the committee may have.