A Robert E. Lee look-alike attends a Hinton, Va., hearing in August about a Wal-Mart proposed for a site near the Wilderness Battlefield. Preservationists are urging Walmart to retreat from plans to build a Supercenter near the famed battlefield. Also of interest: York scored another first: Wal-Mart’s entry into Pa. and Cracker barrel and Cracker Barrel hold places in York County’s past and Just try to resist studying this memory-tugging Sears photograph.
Wal-Mart is looking to build a SuperCenter near the Wilderness Battlefield in Orange County, Va., sparking preservationists into action to block construction.
This is a reminder to catch up on Wal-Mart’s presence in York County, particularly since the first Wal-Mart in Pennsylvania was built in the York Mall in Springettsbury Township in 1989.
That store is still there, enlarged in fact.
It drew no controversy then because the mall was reeling after major anchors moved to the newly opened Galleria, and Wal-Mart was not generating controversy in those days… .
To bookend that store, Wal-Mart subsequently moved into another aging mall, the West Manchester Mall on York’s west end.
A Wal-Mart went up in Shrewsbury in southern York County. To bookend that Supercenter, Wal-Mart plans construction along Interstate 83 in Newberry Township.
Two Wal-Mart’s grew on opposite ends of Hanover in southwestern York County.
The York area had its version of the Orange County, Va., controversy when Wal-Mart studied construction of a store along Cape Horn Road between Red Lion and Longstown. That Windsor Township store would have stood within five miles of the York Mall store. A group called Citizens for Responsible Development challenged construction, and the Wal-Mart has never been built.
That battle was over quality of life and over development . The land had no known historic significance.
Here are excerpts from the Associated Press (8/25/09) story on the Wilderness/Walmart controversy:
Officials in central Virginia approved a Wal-Mart Supercenter early Tuesday near one of the nation’s most important Civil War battlefields, a proposal that had stirred opposition by preservationists and hundreds of historians.
The Orange County Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 to grant the special permit to the world’s biggest retailer after a majority of more than 100 speakers said they favored bringing the Wal-Mart to Locust Grove, within a cannonball’s shot from the Wilderness Battlefield.
Historians and Civil War buffs are fearful the Wal-Mart store will draw traffic and more commerce to an area within the historic boundaries of the Wilderness, where generals Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee first met in battle 145 years ago and where 145,000 Union and Confederate soldiers fought and more than 29,000 were killed or injured. One-fourth of the Wilderness is protected.
But they could not sway supervisors, who said they didn’t see the threat.
“I cannot see how there will be any visual impact to the Wilderness Battlefield,” Supervisor Chairman Lee Frame said, casting a vote for the special use permit the retailer needs to build. “I think the current proposal … is the best way to protect the battlefield.”
The retailer said construction could begin in a year.
Nearly 400 people crowded into Orange County High School to attend the board’s hearing. Some came dressed in period costume, including a dead ringer for Lee.
Many residents cited three reasons for supporting the Wal-Mart proposal: jobs, tax revenue and a cheap shopping option for the 32,000 residents of this farming community about 60 miles southwest of Washington.
“I know we’ve been referred to as ignorant shoppers,” said Barbara Wigger. “I feel bad about that but I’ll live with it. Let us have our Wal-Mart and let us stop the battle.”
Speakers who urged the board to reject the special permit said they were not anti-Walmart, but simply worried about the sanctity of the battlefield.
“This is a major battlefield,” said Charles Seilheimer Jr. “It may not be Gettysburg but it’s pretty close. The Civil War experts say this is part of the battlefield. I believe them.”
Other posts linked to Wal-Mart:
- From top dog and hot dogs to dogfight and dog days in York County, Pa..
- Just try to resist studying this memory-tugging photograph.
- It’s not striking, but blocky parking garage tells a story of York.
Photo courtesy Associated Press.