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Civil War Trust to add land to Harpers Ferry park

September 28, 1998|By RICHARD F. BELISLE

HARPERS FERRY, W.Va. - A 56-acre tract of land that a non-profit Civil War battlefield preservation group took an option on five years ago will become part of the Harpers Ferry National Historical Park next month, a spokesman with the group said Saturday.

Elliot Gruber, executive vice president for the Civil War Trust, said the organization bought the 56 acres on Bolivar Heights for $440,000. The land was earmarked for a 180-unit housing development before the trust took out its option in 1993, Gruber said.

He said it took the trust five years to complete the transfer because of time needed to raise the money. The U.S. Department of the Interior also had to officially add the land to the 2,300-acre park.

The tract lies across a valley from School House Ridge, made famous in 1862 when Confederate Gen. Stonewall Jackson captured more than 12,000 Union troops four days before the bloody battle of Antietam.

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The trust bought the 56 acres from Jefferson Security Bank. The bank got the property in a foreclosure against a local developer. The developer ran into trouble bringing water and sewer lines to the property in 1988.

The land will be officially turned over the National Park Service on Oct. 10, Gruber said.

Gruber is one of six paid staffers working for the trust.

It was organized in 1991 in a partnership with the Interior Department to save Civil War battlefields by buying up battlefield sites and buffer zones.

Since then, it has raised more than $6 million by selling special Civil War battlefield coins struck by the U.S. Mint. Congress approved the issue, Gruber said.

The trust has spent $5 million to buy 6,500 acres of battlefield land so far, Gruber said. Included was $100,000 it donated to the group buying the Grove farm at Antietam, he said. It also donated money to buy three parcels at Gettysburg.

Gruber said officials at Harpers Ferry National Historical Park are seeking help from the trust to buy three more parcels.

The trust is the largest Civil War organization in the country, boasting more than 25,000 members, Gruber said.

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