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Wilder setting a fast course
Former Gov. L. Douglas Wilder plans to have part of the National Slavery Museum open in Fredericksburg next year

Visit the Photo Place

Date published: 8/12/2002

Part of local museum projected to open next year

Former Gov. L. Douglas Wilder has set an ambitious timeline for his proposed National Slavery Museum in Fredericksburg.

Wilder, who first proposed a slavery museum in Virginia during a 1993 trip to Africa, hopes to have part of it open in the Celebrate Virginia tourism development by next year.

That would be much faster turnaround than similar museums planned in Charleston, S.C., and Cincinnati. The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati hopes to open in 2004, 10 years after it was first proposed. The National African American History Museum in Charleston, which was proposed two years ago, has set summer 2007 as its goal.

The Fredericksburg City Council pledged $1 million toward Wilder's project. The city has already paid $750,000 and is scheduled to make the final payment of $250,000 next month.

A contract between the museum and the city that stipulates uses for the $1 million requires the museum to establish and staff an office in Fredericksburg by October.

Wilder and chief museum consultant Michael Neiditch could not be reached for comment last week on the status of the office search or other plans for the museum. E-mails to the National Slavery Museum's America Online account were returned as undeliverable.

H. Louis Salomonsky, a Richmond developer and architect who is serving as Wilder's adviser on the project, said last week that the museum is "still in negotiations with some people" about office space. He refused to provide more details about the museum's plans.

Salomonsky and Wilder visited Fredericksburg in April to look at several office suites downtown. Mary Katherine Greenlaw, a Realtor with Sullivan Properties who showed them offices that day, said Salomonsky contacted her Thursday and is actively searching for a place.

City Manager Marvin Bol-inger and Economic Development and Tourism Director Kathy Beard were unavailable for comment last week on their correspondence with museum officials. And Mayor Bill Beck said he hasn't heard anything about the museum in months.

Wilder has been busy with other issues. He was named in January by Gov. Mark Warner to lead a 13-member commission tasked with finding waste in state government and making its services more efficient.

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