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Friday, February 28, 2014

Plans under way for Lincoln monument at Northern Virginia Community College

A replica of the Lincoln monument.
The effort to have a monument to commemorate President Lincoln’s Grand Review of the Troops in the Bailey’s Crossroads area is back on track and gaining momentum, although there are still a lot of issues to resolve—and a lot of money that needs to be raised—before it becomes a reality.

The Grand Review of the Army of the Potomac was conducted by Union General George B. McClellan before President Lincoln and members of his cabinet on Nov. 20, 1861. One account put the numbers of troops on the scene as about 70,000. Julia Ward Howe, who was also there, wrote “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” the following day.    

The Grand Review.
Maria Elena Shacknies, the driving force behind the monument and the founder of the Lincoln at the Crossroads Alliance (LATCRA), has tentatively found a location for the monument on the Alexandria campus of Northern Virginia Community College (NVCC).

Shacknies reports that Alexandria Mayor William D. Euille supports the monument project, as well as the idea of developing a “Lincoln history trail” highlighting significant spots in Alexandria, Arlington, and Fairfax County related to the Lincoln presidency.

The monument has two parts: a statue of Lincoln about six to eight feet high and a bas relief six feet high and 12 feet long that depicts Lincoln, McClellan, Howe, and the troops.

Before the memorial was finished, the sculptor, Ron Tunison, passed away suddenly last October, at age 66. His son, Trevor, also a sculptor, has agreed to complete it. Ironically, Shacknies’ husband, who had been the original inspiration for a sesquicentennial re-enactment of the Grand Review, had also passed away suddenly at age 66 just as the Lincoln project was getting under way. At that point, Shacknies vowed to proceed with the commemoration in his honor.

In 2011, the alliance hosted a series of activities to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Grand Review, including a ceremony with Civil War re-enactors at Fort McNair, a Grand Ball with period music and dancing at the Hilton Mark Center in Alexandria, a history symposium at the Willard Hotel in Washington, D.C., a Lincoln-themed concert at St. Katherine’s Greek Orthodox Church in Bailey’s Crossroads, a history conference and concert at NVCC, a fundraiser at the Kennedy Center, and an exhibit on the Grand Review by schoolchildren at George Mason Regional Library in Annandale.

LACTRA had initially hoped to stage the re-enactment on Leesburg Pike in Bailey’s Crossroads, but that proved too cumbersome. Also, initial plans to place the monument near Target at the Skyline Center also fell through, but Shacknies is pleased that the NVCC location, although a bit farther from where the actual event took place, will draw lots of foot traffic.

Now that there is a plan for the monument, “we need to secure the land and raise the money for completing it,” Shacknies said. “There are all kinds of challenges that have to be met before it happens.” The whole process has been “one step forward and two steps backward.”

LATCRA will have to raise about half a million dollars to get the  monument completed and installed, which should take about three years. The project has already gotten financial support from the Bailey’s Crossroads Revitalization Corporation, other organizations, and individual donors, and Schacknies is hopeful that the project will draw more contributions and volunteers as the plans move forward. 

Because the NVCC campus belongs to the state, the NVCC Educational Foundation has to request that land for the monument be donated to the NVCC Foundation, she said. That transfer, which has to be approved by the General Assembly, will take about 18 months. The spot proposed for the statute is near the Bisdorf Building and is next to a parking lot where the foundation is planning to build a dorm for international students.

Having the monument as the starting point for a Lincoln trail would be a huge boost for the project—and also could promote tourism and economic development throughout the area. Getting the governments of Arlington and Alexandria involved would attract more support. Shacknies is especially heartened by Euille’s support, as Alexandria has so much experience with history-based tourism.

While the re-enactment and other events in 2011 brought public attention to the Grand Review and Bailey’s Crossroads’ role in the Civil War, the memories of those events eventually fade. Having a monument as a permanent reminder of the history that took place here is crucial, Shacknies said. “I am committed to this and will do my very best to see it happen, even if it takes years,” she said.

1 comment:

  1. Very unfortunate it could not be part of Bailey's revitalization. This County is very shortsighted and is becoming more broke in ideas and finances.