Proposed slave museum site in Virginia becomes baseball field


Minor league baseball will be played at the Fredericksburg site where former Virginia Gov. L. Douglas Wilder once envisioned an impressive state-of-the-art slavery museum.

Wilder, Virginia governor from 1990 to 1994 and America’s first elected Black governor, first envisioned a national slavery museum in 1992 after a trip to Africa.

Also a former Richmond mayor, Wilder was never able to raise the money to develop or even pay architect I.M. Pei the $6 million for the design. The project has been in limbo since 2008 when fundraising halted.

The Smithsonian’s $500 million National Museum of African-American History and Culture, scheduled to open in late 2015 in Washington, D.C., competed with Wilder’s efforts to create his museum.

Wilder’s 22-year-old dream of building the $100 million showcase center to tell the story of enslaved Black people officially ended Oct. 21. That’s when Mr. Wilder and Pei Partner Architects, the chief creditor of his proposed U.S. National Slavery Museum in Fredericksburg, agreed to sell the 38-acre site along Interstate 95.

Museum still possible
The buyers: The Hagerstown Suns, the Class A affiliate of the Washington Nationals major league team, and Diamond Nation. Fredericksburg Treasurer Jim Haney has postponed the auction of the museum site for 150 days to allow the parties to finalize the deal. The auction was to have taken place this week, Oct. 31, to allow the city to recoup unpaid real estate taxes.

Under the deal reached, the city of Fredericksburg will be paid the $450,000 it claims to be owed in back taxes, penalties, interest and attorney fees by the national slavery museum organization. However, the total price the baseball group is to pay for the land has not yet been disclosed.

Wilder could still try to build a museum, but on a far smaller scale, under a separate agreement. Silver Cos., which owns the Celebrate Virginia development where the original museum was to be built, has committed to provide Wilder’s organization 2.5 acres in the development if the organization ever obtains an approved site plan from the city for a scaled-down museum.



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