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Spotsy Civil War museum closes
Civil War Life museum makes quick move out of Spotsylvania County

Date published: 11/24/2009

By DAN TELVOCK

The doors are closed at the Civil War Life museum at the Spotsylvania County Visitors Center off U.S. 1.

Terry Thomann closed his museum in Southpoint I on Nov. 14, which has created friction with members of the Spotsylvania County Board of Supervisors, which has financially supported the U.S. 1 location.

On Saturday, Thomann opened a store at 829 Caroline St., formerly Fredericksburg Historical Prints. He said he will sell Civil War souvenirs, books and other items.

"The store reflects our Civil War Life theme," Thomann said. "We have a great book section, lots of interesting historical toys and books for children and many historical gifts that both locals and tourists will love."

Thomann said he expects to have a Mort Kunstler gallery soon. Kunstler is a well-known painter of Civil War themes. Thomann also wants to start an authentic Civil War wet-plate photography studio,

"That will take a few weeks to get up and running," he said.

The closing of the Spotsylvania museum happened before Thomann could change the Civil War Life Inc.'s official Web site, which still mentions plans to showcase his artifacts at a to-be-built museum in the Courthouse Village development in Spotsylvania.

Thomann said he decided to move to the city because county officials and supervisors told him there was no money in the budget to assist him with his expansion plans.

Thomann wrote last week by e-mail that he did not want to discuss his relations with the county or the U.S. 1 museum closing at this time.

Thomann started a foundation two years ago to raise $12 million for a museum at Courthouse Village, an idea that now appears dead.

He informed County Administrator Doug Barnes on Oct. 30 that he would be moving to the city. He gave 60 days notice, which is required in the lease.

"We will remove all of our property from the premises by Dec. 30, 2009," Thomann wrote.

Thomann now has a three-phase plan to open a museum store, national museum and a research center, possibly all in the city.

Thomann's decision concerned Spotsylvania supervisors. The county paid the rent for the 3,800 square feet of space at Southpoint I, including $61,995 this fiscal year.

The Board of Supervisors met in closed session Nov. 10 to get legal advice about the museum lease. Supervisors did not comment about the situation after they exited the closed meeting.

The lease says the museum would have to continue an exhibit at the visitors center if it were to relocate "elsewhere in the county," but it makes no mention of what happens if the museum moves out of the county.

"The agreement certainly contains the expectation that if Civil War Life Inc. relocated its museum, it would be within the county," said County Attorney Jacob Stroman. "I anticipate there will be some additional conversations between the county and the Civil War Life museum."

Dan Telvock: 540/374-5438
Email: dtelvock@freelancestar.com