Wilderness Wal-Mart: Celebrating Small Victories

It was announced today that the Wal-Mart company has withdrawn their special use permit to build the proposed 240,000-square-foot Wal-Mart Supercenter near Wilderness Battlefield. The fight to stop its construction has been long and drawn out, where preservationists, Civil War enthusiasts, and local business owners have banded together to bring national awareness.

The Wilderness Battlefield in Orange County, VA was the site of one of the most significant Civil War battles. The proposed Wal-Mart Supercenter would have been located a quarter mile away from the main entrance to the Battlefield National Park, and is well in sight of the Battlefield itself. The fight to relocate the store has been a major focus of the Friends of the Wilderness Battlefield and other support organizations for almost two full years.

Earlier in the week an update article was written for the Richmond Times Dispatch, and our own Professor Smith was quoted, “this case is pretty heart-wrenching for everybody.” Even in our own Introduction to Planning class in the Historic Preservation Department, we have debated this issue, and each year, there has been no clear answer or winner of the debate.

Orange County had zoned the area of the proposed Wal-Mart Supercenter as commercial and industrial, and is quoted in an article written for the Freelance Star as “ ‘stunned and disappointed’ with Wal-Mart’s decision.” The county made the decision to allow Wal-Mart to build and, according to this morning’s article, stood firmly behind the building of the Supercenter. Development of the Route 3 corridor has been a goal for the county, and Wal-Mart’s decision to withdraw their special uses permit is a blow to their goals.

On the other side of the Wilderness Wal-Mart battle, the Civil War Trust is relieved with the news. “We have long believed that Wal-Mart would ultimately recognize that it is in the best interests of all concerned to move their intended store away from the battlefield,” James Lighthizer of the Civil War Trust is quoted by the Freelance Star.

As a victory for preservationists Wal-Mart’s decision is a positive one, but this small victory is only the first step in a battle to keep sprawl away from the Wilderness Battlefield. Wal-Mart still owns the land, and since the County is pro-growth in the Route 3 corridor, something will be built there eventually. As Professor Smith was quoted in saying, “It’s a really challenging case,” she said, “I don’t think there’s a bad guy here. It’s a situation where you’re putting different interests opposed to each other, and they’re [both] valid.”

– Emily Morton ’11
UMW Historic Preservation Student Aide

For more information, please follow these links:
Original Resolution by Orange County
National Trust’s Links and Involvement
National Trust’s Announcement on the Cancelation
Freelance Star Article and Links
Update Article Interviewing Professor Smith


  1. Daniel Messplay says:

    HAHAHAHAHA that picture….. Great article!

  2. Similar to the Battle of the Wilderness of 1864, it sounds like this battle is a draw.

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