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Chatham may get 'friends' group
Residents propose tax-deductible nonprofit to raise money for improvements, programs at Chatham Manor, headquarters of Fredericksburg-area national park

Date published: 9/26/2011

By CLINT SCHEMMER

Lynda Baer admits she fell in love with Chatham at first sight.

The beauty of the estate's physical setting, the elegance of its great house and the fascinating tales from the 18th-century home's long history worked their magic on her, starting years ago.

Now, the Fredericksburg woman wants to help ensure others who visit Chatham Manor for the first time can have that sort of magical moment, and feel a connection with the place.

Tomorrow evening, Baer and other longtime area residents are inviting people to the Stafford County historic site to toss around ideas and organize a group to help the National Park Service care for the old plantation--the only home in America to have hosted George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln.

"It's a 'witness building' built before the American Revolution. That's amazing to me; just think about all of the people who have walked across its floors," Baer said.

"The Park Service and volunteers do a great job in interpreting it and keeping it open to the public. But these days, Chatham needs a little more TLC. It needs more money."

That's where a Friends of Chatham group could be vital, she believes. A private, tax-deductible entity could fund costly and out-of-the-ordinary repairs, upgrade exhibits and finance special programs, Baer said.

"I got to thinking, 'Wouldn't it be fun to start a nonprofit friends group to raise money and give the buildings and grounds a real shot in the arm?'"

That was more than a year ago. The thought took Baer to Mount Rushmore and a national conference where she met people from across the country who are doing all sorts of things to support national parks in their communities. Back home, she roamed all of the Fredericksburg-area Civil War battlefields, talked to friends and neighbors, and consulted local history-minded groups about the work they do.

A few weeks ago, Baer and five others--Jane Conner of Stafford, Charlie McDaniel of Fredericksburg, Jim Padgett of Stafford, Sara Poore of Stafford and Scott Walker of Fredericksburg--wrote history-minded people proposing such a group. Tomorrow's meeting starts at 7 p.m.; everyone is welcome.


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