Prince William Historic Foundation Works To Save History

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By Olivia Overman

History abounds in the Prince William area, and we’re fortunate to have stewards of that history. One such steward is the Prince William Historic Foundation, founded in 2003.

The Prince William Board of County Supervisors created the Prince William Historic Foundation in an effort to raise funds to help preserve the county’s historical sites. In an area rich in history, locations such as the Rippon Lodge Historic Site and the Brentsville Courthouse Historic Center receive important financial and human support for preservation from the foundation. Working together, history is being preserved for future generations to learn about and to learn from, so the future can be brighter.

Working Together to Support the Past

The foundation raises funds to supplement the money provided by the Prince William County Department of Public Works Historic Preservation Division for the restoration of historic buildings within the county. Asked why additional funding is required for such sites, Meaghan Reddick, president of the Prince William
Historic Foundation said, “The county has so many competing projects—roads, schools, sports complexes—[and]those projects receive more attention and can be considered much more urgent than historic buildings. The foundation offers to fund projects outside the normal scope of work for the preserving of the county’s historic sites. We offer money for advertising events, creating special exhibits or events.”

The Board of County Supervisors approves the foundation’s list of working projects; the Historic Preservation Division determines what additional funding is needed and the foundation does what it
can to provide support. “We have recently contributed to events/projects such as Brentsville Day, the Rippon Lodge Cemetery Project and the Annual Prince William History Symposium in partnership with the Manassas Museum,” Reddick said.

Most of the funding for the foundation is donated by individuals who want to see specific projects completed. Most recently, the foundation received $1,600 from the Prince William Resolves chapter, the local chapter of the NSDAR (Daughters of the American Revolution), $800 for the Barnes House and $800 for the Brentsville Jail Project. An anonymous gift of $30,000 was also received to fund the Brentsville Jail Exhibit Project. The foundation was able to match this gift.

Brand new levels of corporate sponsorships are available for specific sites and include packages ranging from Patriot Level costing $500 annually, Historian Level at $1,000 annually, and Preservationist Level costing $2,500, all providing sponsor benefits. Sponsorship can be completed on the foundation’s
website at preservepw.org.

Current and Future Projects

Historical properties managed by the Historic Preservation Division, and thus supported by the Foundation, include Rippon Lodge, Ben Lomond Historic Site, Brentsville Courthouse Historic Center, Bristoe Station Battlefield Heritage Park, King’s Highway Heritage Park, Julie J. Metz Neabsco Creek Wetlands Preserve, World Trade Center Monument, Lucasville School, Old Manassas Courthouse and Williams Ordinary. Some sites are open daily for guided tours, and some are open for self-guided tours, while others are open by appointment only.

Current projects of the foundation include the Brentsville Jail Project for which the foundation is currently raising money for museum exhibits and interpretive services for the “Old Jail.” Like the other historical sites in the county, the 199-year-old jail has a rich history that will be interpreted through exhibits the foundation
funds. “We still have around $100,000 to raise for the Brentsville Jail project to finish installing all the exhibits,” Reddick said.

According to the foundation, Rippon Lodge Visitor Center/Museum will house exhibitions that explore the histories of Rippon Lodge and the communities that developed along the colonial Potomac River. The visitor center/museum will be located at the historic lodge and will include visitor service amenities, such as a small theater, a museum shop and restrooms, as well as space for collections storage and staff offices. The completed building will feature an attractive multipurpose room that will accommodate educational programs and rentals. The latter will expand the revenue potential for this picturesque site by providing
a reliable indoor alternative.

In sum, the facility will be a needed entrance or introduction to all of Prince William County’s amazing historic and other pearls. The opening of the Neabsco Creek Boardwalk on June 1, 2019, and Potomac Heritage Scenic Trail, which like the colonial Rochambeau route, goes right by Rippon Lodge, providing further links to the entire county’s natural resources to residents and many visitors. The foundation is hoping to have funding for this project to be included in the 2020 Bond Referendum.

Run by a devoted board of history lovers and community advocates, the foundation is working hard to ensure the county’s rich, exciting and sometimes tragic history is preserved for the future. Board members include Sharon Pandak, former County Attorney for PWC; Earnie Porta, Mayor of Occoquan; Mark Trbovich, president of the Bull Run Civil War Round Table; Michael Johnson, PWC Historical Commission Member for
Neabsco District, and his daughter, VictoriaLynn Johnson, member of the Ladies Oriental Shrine of North America; Stan Contrades, a Ret. Air Force Colonel, who has volunteered his time to help the PWC Historic Division; Deborah Johnson, regional director for state and local affairs at Dominion Energy; Barry Dean, Occoquan Historical Society; and Cornelia Rutherford, founder and president of the Virginia Renaissance Faire.

The Future of the Past

A non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, the Historic Preservation Foundation is not only dedicated to raising funds for the preservation of historical sites in the county, but also to raising public awareness of the county’s rich heritage. It is the hope of the foundation that the recent merger of the Prince William Historic
Preservation Division with Prince William Parks and Recreation will increase tourism, and thus, funding and interest in the county’s historical sites. “The future, I hope for the foundation,” said Reddick, “is one [where]we are more visible in the public’s eyes and our sites become popular destinations for our residents and school groups.”

Additional information, including sponsorship information, can be found at preservepw.org, and on the foundation’s Facebook page.

Olivia Overman ([email protected]) is a freelance writer for both online and print organizations. She earned an M.A. in Journalism and Public Affairs from American University, Washington, D.C.

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