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George Washington Foundation unveils four alternatives for future of first president's boyhood home
Date published: 2/7/2013
BY CLINT SCHEMMER
The George Washington Foundation has high hopes for sharing George Washington's early life with visitors to the Washington area.
On Wednesday at the Rappahannock River plantation where Washington grew up, the public got its first peek at those ideas.
During a six-hour open house at Ferry Farm in Stafford County, the foundation informally briefed visitors on four alternative plans for the 105-acre national historic landmark.
The grounds, while rich with archaeological remains, have no Washington-era buildings.
The conceptual plans run the gamut from a "no action" option that would leave the property as it appears today to more intensive changes. The fourth plan would build an interpretive structure atop the site of the Washington family's home. It would add a separate orientation center, and facilities for administration and maintenance while preserving the tract's north end for interpretive activities and future archaeology.
That fourth option, and a third plan, would preserve the home's archaeological site by using foundation piers that screw into the earth, and constructing the interpretive structure--built to resemble the Washington house--above ground.
But David Muraca, the foundation's director of archaeology, took care to explain that the aim isn't to build a full-blown replica.
"We're not trying to build a re-creation here," he said. "We're going to use a very simple binary code that says 'These elements we know, because we found evidence of them.' Other things, which we don't know, would be different.
"They could be painted or not painted, stained or not stained, in a certain way so that when you walk through the house, it doesn't look like a replica of a 19th-century building. It's got this code as an interpretive scheme so people can understand the role of archaeology, and the known versus documentary evidence or 18th-century examples."
The main goal of alternatives 3 and 4 is to bring visitors onto the house site in a way that lets them connect with the 18th-century world young George and his family knew, foundation officials said.
"If you build an interpretive center to the south, visitors never have an 'Aha moment,'" Muraca said. "People want to see Napoleon's hat. This lets them, only in this case, that hat would be George Washington's cellars.