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California preservationist petitions to have Danville plantation named a national historic landmark

By Justin Ward, jward@wdbj7.com
Published On: Dec 24 2013 03:08:48 AM EST
Updated On: Aug 14 2013 06:35:48 PM EDT

A California preservationist is fighting to preserve a Danville plantation as a historic landmark. She says the city has ignored history as it prepares to grade the land it now owns for new business.

DANVILLE, Va. -

Danville's economic intentions were good and not that different from other projects.

Clear land for a new industry with potential to bring dozens, even hundreds of jobs to the area.

But what sits on that land is causing a historic controversy.

"There's no reason why history and industrial development can't work together. Unfortunately we were left out of the process," said Anne Evans who grew up in Danville and now lives in California.

Since her move she's devoted much of her time to her hometown's history.

She says she's a descendant of, who is believed to be, the first owner of a plantation, Thomas Fearn, one of the original trustees of Danville. Now only rubble remains on the 158 acres in Southeast Danville.

Historians believe many slaves are buried on the site, but a recent dig from archaeologists contracted by the city found that although the site is historic, there's nothing "historically significant."

The city is working to put a furniture manufacturer and possibly more businesses on the site.

It's a perfect location for business. It's flat and has easy access to main roads.

"Why do we want to ignore history just for the sake of trying to make a quick deal with a foreign company to give the entire site away," Evans said.

Today Evans met with folks from the Department of Historic Resources in DC via conference call.
Evans wants the property to be recognized as a National Historic landmark.
She presented a petition signed by nearly 500 people asking that the plantation's foundation be preserved.

"We're not against development," Evans said. "Maybe build a smaller plant, maybe incorporate nature."

Right now the city is planning a one acre park for the graves and to honor the history using pieces of the buildings.

Until something is built, Evans says she will continue to fight.