One of the projects I’m working on right now entails a closer look at the evolution of the Chancellorsville battlefield over the years. Here’s a photo I pulled from the files as I was working this week. This is the Chancellorsville intersection circa 1975:
Back in the mid-70s, local contractor A.N. Johnston started construction on a ready-mix cement plant on a plot of land he owned along the edge of Fairview. His property, totaling 29.59 acres, was completely surrounded by N.P.S.-owned land. “We came to fear degradation of resources,” Park Superintendent Dixon Freeland told the Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star at the time.
Several attempts to acquire the land failed, but so did Johnston’s attempts to have the property rezoned so he could carry out business. Eventually, the Park Service had the property condemned—with Johnston’s agreement—and it acquired the land through eminent domain. Johnston offered some bluster in the newspaper, claiming he would fight the move “to the highest court in the land,” but informal accounts actually suggest it was a friendly transaction, carried out in the manner it was through mutual consent of both parties because it would be most advantageous to Johnston, who pocketed about $202,000. It’s the only time Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park has acquired property through condemnation.
You can see how disruptive the plant was, even uncompleted. In this shot, you can see the plant on the right (1). The Chancellorsville intersection sits almost at the top of the photo (2), with Fairview across the street (3). Modern Route 3 runs diagonally between them. The Chancellor family cemetery is obscured by the stand of trees just to the bottom of the “3.” A line of trees to protect the viewshed rain along the paved road to the cement plant; the remains of that paved road are still there today. Beyond sit a few canon (4), pointed from Fairview toward Hazel Grove.