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Wilderness 'friends' win national honor
Orange County group earns national recognition for Wilderness battlefield preservation efforts

 CWPT Chairman John L. Nau III presents the award to FOWB's Zann Nelson and Carolyn Elstner (right).
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Date published: 3/6/2010



--The Virginians who are restoring Orange County's Ellwood Manor and interpreting the historic site to the public have received a signal honor.

Friends of the Wilderness Battlefield, the all-volunteer group that operates the 1790s home as a visitor contact station for the National Park Service, was presented with a chairman's award this week by Civil War Preservation Trust leader John L. Nau III.

Theirs is one of three such awards for education, philanthropy and historic preservation that are made by Nau, a Texas businessman who chairs the trust's board of trustees and is also head of the federal Advisory Council on Historic Preservation.

FOWB is the first organization to receive the award for achievement in historic preservation.

Awards also went to Norfolk residents Mark and Karen Perreault and Maryland teacher Robert Rinehart.

The achievement awards recognize individuals and organizations that have had a tremendous impact on historic preservation in their states.

Nau commended FOWB for its 15 years of work to protect the 1864 battlefield, many interpretive programs and efforts to restore Ellwood to its wartime appearance. The group's members contribute more than 1,000 man-hours each year to open Ellwood to the public, and have raised more than $325,000 to spruce up the antebellum building, which served as a military headquarters during the battles of Chancellorsville and the Wilderness.

Ellwood is one of the two most heavily visited tourist sites in Orange County, along with Montpelier, home of President James Madison and his wife, Dolley.

"Friends of Wilderness Battlefield has been a fearless advocate for the protection of the battlefield, its context and its legacy," Nau said.

Noting the group's objections to Walmart's plan to build a 138,000-square-foot Supercenter in eastern Orange just outside the Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park, he said: "The courage this group has shown in stepping forward should be an example to other advocacy groups across the nation."

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