- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 9, 2001

RICHMOND A 22-acre tract overlooking the Rappahannock River in Fredericksburg, Va. has been chosen as the site of a proposed national slavery museum, former Gov. L. Douglas Wilder said yesterday.
The museum's board of directors chose Fredericksburg over Richmond, the Confederate capital and Mr. Wilder's hometown. Sites in Hampton and Petersburg were also considered.
The Silver Cos. donated the Fredericksburg land, valued at $10 million to $12 million. The museum will be built within Celebrate Virginia, a 2,100-acre development near Interstate 95 that will include offices, restaurants, hotels, golf courses and other attractions in Fredericksburg and neighboring Stafford County.
Mr. Wilder, a grandson of slaves and the nation's first black elected governor, announced the decision in a brief statement faxed to news organizations and the Silver Cos. He did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.
Michael Neiditch, a former U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum official who has served as Mr. Wilder's consultant, said the Fredericksburg site was chosen in part because of the area's history and its location along Interstate 95.
"All of the proposals we received highlighted the historic associations of their venues," Mr. Neiditch wrote in a Sept. 19 letter to Mr. Wilder recommending the Fredericksburg location. "The Rappahannock site emerged as the location enjoying proximity to the most important historical sites relevant to the story the museum will tell."
Mr. Neiditch noted that the homes of four slavery-era presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Monroe and James Madison are within an hour's drive. Several key Civil War battles also were fought in Fredericksburg and the surrounding area.
The Fredericksburg City Council voted in August to pledge $1 million to the museum if the city was selected for the project. However, that incentive was contingent upon Mr. Wilder making a public presentation about his plans. No presentation has been scheduled, but Mayor Bill Beck said that would not impede the project.
"In a deal this size, $1 million is more symbolic than substantive," he said in a telephone interview. "There's no further city action required. The zoning is already in place."
Larry Silver, chief executive officer of the Silver Cos., said the museum, although part of Celebrate Virginia, will be "a separate campus of its own" in a wooded area on the river's southern bank. The structure will be clearly visible from I-95, he said.
"For the United States and for Virginia, I think it's going to be a wonderful facility," he said. "It will be convenient for millions of people, located within a day's drive for half the population of the country and very accessible by air, rail and highway."
The site is 42 miles south of the District, which is served by two major airports. The tract is about 21/2 miles from the Greyhound bus station and five miles from the Amtrak station.
Mr. Wilder, governor from 1990 to 1994, got the idea for the slavery museum during a trade mission to Africa.
Richmond, the Confederate capital, offered a 22-acre site near the James River Canal valued at $4 million to $5 million. City Manager Calvin Jamison did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.

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