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MARKING THE SPOT
Brand-new batch of historical markers on its way to commemorate big moments in local life


Date published: 3/22/2005

By RUSTY DENNEN

State signs flag area historic sites

SEWAH STUDIOS INC. of Marietta, Ohio, makes them and calls them "History on a Stick."

Most people know them by their more common name: roadside historical markers. The latest batch will be coming soon to a highway near you.

Thirty-five were approved last week, according to Scott Arnold, manager of Virginia's Historical Highway Marker Program.

The only one in the Fredericksburg area this time around will mark the Penny's Tavern site about two miles northwest of Spotsylvania Courthouse.

The idea is to offer a tidbit of drive-by history that might whet the reader's appetite for more:

Nearby stood Penny's (Penney's) Tavern, named for Lincefield Penney who purchased the site in 1811. The tavern catered to travelers making their way to the old Spotsylvania courthouse site (1781-1837), located approximately one mile north of the tavern site across the Po River.

The state Department of Historic Resources and the Department of Transportation oversee the program, which has placed 2,012 of the markers around the state since 1927.

"It's a real tool for community involvement," said Arnold, whose agency gets 30 to 50 requests a year for the rectangular, cast-aluminum signs. The markers have just enough information--about 100 words--to provide a thumbnail sketch of the importance of the land, building or person.

Most of the requests are approved, but a few are rejected.

"Once in a while, we'll get topics that are not eligible," Arnold said, such as a genealogical reference to a well-known local family that may not have any historical context or significance. "Or someone wanting to put a marker where a person never was."

For example, saying George Washington slept somewhere he didn't.

Officially, the markers commemorate events, places and people of national and state significance.

In addition to the Penny's Tavern site, within the past year markers have been approved recognizing other area places and people: Heth's Salient Battle Site, the Third County Courthouse (1781) and a Colonial fort on the Rappahannock River in Spotsylvania; Col. John Jameson in Culpeper County; and Hartwood Presbyterian Church and Moncure Daniel Conway in Stafford County.


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