Following the destruction of the historic canal wall, the Oregon Hill Neighborhood Association (OHNA) put forth the following press release. Keep in mind for legal purposes, only the original issuers of press releases are responsible for verifying the accuracy of their content. Oregonhill.net, and its principals, officers and employees disclaim any liability whatsoever for inaccuracies found in the content of the press releases posted on or through the oregonhill.net website.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Venture Richmond damages a portion of the historic James River and Kanawha Canal.
RICHMOND, VA: On Tuesday, Venture Richmond proceeded to damage a portion of the historic James River and Kanawha canal bank and to destroy a century-old brick structural component of the canal.
The Oregon Hill Neighborhood Association (OHNA) has called for the preservation of the 200 year old canal, built largely with slave labor when George Washington was the President of the canal society. The Oregon Hill neighborhood has many connections to the canal, including 601 Spring St, the former home of Samuel P. Parsons, the Canal Superintendent in 1840.
Jennifer Hancock, OHNA President, said, “We are seeing Richmond history disappear before our eyes.”
OHNA finds it disturbing that it is a public/private partnership that is responsible for the destruction. According to the Times Dispatch, Venture Richmond gets a large amount of public funding: $1.68 million from a special city tax on downtown property owners, in addition to $700,000 in public money for the Clean and Safe program.
Venture Richmond’s proposed amphitheater has ample sight lines without damaging the canal.
The Oregon Hill neighborhood has long sought the restoration of the canal to allow boats to travel west to Maymont. But the canal would not hold adequate water to float a boat to Maymont if the banks of the canal are lowered. According to archaeologist Lyle Browning, if the height of the canal bank is lowered below 82 feet above sea level, its current level, the canal will not hold enough water to allow boats to make the trip to Maymont in the future. “Lowering the height of the canal towpath without adequate archaeological investigation of the towpath will irreparably damage a nationally important resource.”
After the media started to pick the story up, Venture Richmond declared they had nothing to do with the tearing down of the canal wall. The Times Dispatch reported that Venture Richmond Executive Director Jack Berry called (the press release)”bogus” and “libelous.”
In response, OHNA released this correction this morning:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
OHNA calls for investigation into the destruction of canal property
Richmond, VA: The Oregon Hill Neighborhood Association (OHNA) acknowledges to Venture Richmond that OHNA made an incorrect assumption that Venture Richmond would be aware of bulldozers and construction crews operating on their own property, and therefore made the erroneous statement that Venture Richmond was responsible for the recent damage to the historic wall and canal.
According to an article that appeared in the October 20, 2012 edition of the Richmond Times Dispatch, “William Roberts, a project manager for J.A. Liesfeld, a Rockville-based contractor, acknowledged the firm was hired by NewMarket Corp. to tear down the wall but would not discuss the project.”
The Richmond Times Dispatch, in October 2011, reported that NewMarket destroyed another large section of the pre-Civil War Tredegar wall, only obtaining the required permit after the fact. http://www2.timesdispatch.com/news/2011/oct/07/tdmet01-richmond-officials-say-newmarket-work-was–ar-1365435/
Last Tuesday, 150 feet of brick wall constructed before the Civil War was demolished by a construction crew operating on Venture Richmond property.
“We request an investigation of whatever entity was responsible for the destruction of this historic property,” said Jennifer Hancock, OHNA President. “Whoever demolished this wall should be required to rebuild the wall.”
The James River and Kanawha Canal was built over 200 years ago largely with slave labor when George Washington was president of the canal society. The Oregon Hill neighborhood has many connections with the rich history of the canal.
Some facts worth noting: NewMarket is listed as a major contributor to Venture Richmond. Two NewMarket executives sit on the Venture Richmond Board, including NewMarket’s CEO Gottwald. NewMarket a few weeks ago gave Venture Richmond the property for the amphitheater where much of the damage took place.
At the same time, according to sources, NewMarket is now contradicting the Times Dispatch to say that NewMarket had absolutely no role in the demolition of the wall located on the City’s property.
Another fact to keep in mind- the City Council 5th District’s boundary was slightly altered earlier this year to include the 2nd Street area.
The City’s new Riverfront Plan should be coming up at City Council very soon. It’s worth remembering that citizens spoke at planning meetings in favor of renovating the Kanawha Canal as a priority of this Riverfront Plan.
Oregon Hill residents have contacted the City’s Commonwealth Attorney to see how the criminal investigation is going. Stay tuned…