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Slavery museum files for bankruptcy
Slavery Museum files for bankruptcy

 The slavery museum's garden in Celebrate Virginia has been neglected as its financial state has declined.
FILE/SUZANNE CARR ROSSI/THE FREE LANCE-STAR
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Date published: 9/23/2011

RICHMOND

--Former Gov. Doug Wilder's U.S. National Slavery Museum has filed for bankruptcy.

The museum filed for Chapter 11 protection in U.S. Bankruptcy Court here yesterday.

The petition, signed by Wilder as the museum board's chairman, lists $3.2 million in unsecured debts alone, and says the museum, which was going to be built in Fredericksburg, doesn't have the money to cover those debts.

Chapter 11 is typically used by businesses to reorganize, not liquidate. It's unclear what the purpose of the bankruptcy is for the slavery museum.

However, today is the first day that the law firm representing the city of Fredericksburg could begin taking several steps necessary to sell off 38 acres of property the museum owns in Celebrate Virginia.

The museum owes the city more than $215,000 in unpaid taxes, and efforts to recover the money so far by the city have been unsuccessful.

The petition declares the approximately $3.2 million in debts to nine unsecured creditors. The two largest are more than $1 million each: The museum owes $1.6 million to Lexington Design and Fabrication of Arleta, Calif., and $1.5 million to Clark Construction of Bethesda, Md.

In April of 2010, a New York Court awarded Pei Partnership Architects $5.17 million in a lawsuit against the slavery museum. C.C. Pei, the company's principal and a son of famous architect I.M. Pei, had designed the museum, although construction has never begun. It's unclear whether the Pei company has been able to collect any of the debt.

Neither Pei nor the city are listed as unsecured creditors, but both are on a list of addresses attached to the bankruptcy petition.

Wilder chose Fredericksburg as the museum's site nearly a decade ago, and launched fundraising efforts that involved the likes of comedian Bill Cosby. But while land was donated and a "Spirit of Freedom Exhibit Garden" installed, no building was ever started.


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