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City lands slavery museum
Fredericksburg will be the home of a national slavery museum, former Gov. L. Douglas Wilder says.

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Date published: 10/9/2001

Fredericksburg has been chosen as the site for a proposed slavery museum, former Gov. L. Douglas Wilder announced yesterday.

The museum will be built on 22 acres next to Interstate 95 and overlooking the Rappahannock River in the Silver Cos.' Celebrate Virginia development. The development company donated the land, which it values at $10 million to $12 million.

Fredericksburg beat out Richmond, Hampton and Petersburg to land the museum. Wilder, chair of the museum's board of directors, said the local tract is perfect for the facility he envisions.

"You see it and you understand. The land is pristine, unspoiled, and there are no hindrances to building. It's a very imposing site," he said yesterday.

Silver Cos. Chief Executive Officer Larry Silver said the museum will be separate from the rest of the development, with its own entrance and a buffer of trees.

The museum board's consultant, former U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum official Michael Neiditch, wrote in a Sept. 19 letter to Wilder that he considered two major factors in recommending the Fredericksburg location: "finding a site that offers a relative ease of access to those who want to visit the Museum and selecting a site whose physical setting is dignified and worthy of the museum's mission."

In the letter, Neiditch noted that Wilder's vision of including a replicated slave ship would be best realized in Fredericksburg.

He also commented on the attractiveness of Fredericksburg's downtown historic district and the National Park Service's presence here, at the four Civil War battlefields of Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Battlefield Park.

Last week, Richmond offered a 22-acre tract along the James River Canal valued at $4 million to $5 million. But at its meeting Friday to review Neiditch's site recommendation, the museum board voted 2-1 for Fredericksburg.

Secretary-treasurer Ruby G. Martin, who served as the secretary of administration in Wilder's Cabinet, voted against the Celebrate Virginia site.

"I was surprised, indeed shocked and dismayed that the consultant recommended Fredericksburg over Richmond," Martin wrote in a prepared statement.

She alluded to a Jan. 12 letter from Neiditch to Wilder, pointing out Richmond's virtues.

"Now that I have walked the proposed site in Richmond, I can readily see the power that geography itself will give to the museum. The museum must be located at a place where slaves walked in chains," Neiditch wrote.

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