By BETSY FICKLIN
The effort started in the 1930s when private citizens formed an association to re-assemble part of the old Monroe family farm. Work continued and in the 1970s archaeologists uncovered what remained of the foundation of the home where fifth United States President James Monroe was formed.
In 1999, the Westmoreland Supervisors obtained a $200,000 T-21 Department of Transportation grant to use to construct an entrance road and parking lot and this week anyone driving past Monroe Hall will see the workmen making the site ready for the improvements that will follow.
The Westmoreland Supervisors commissioned a master plan for development of land associated by the former association and then partnered with the Monroe Memorial Foundation to make convert into reality the visions of previous generations.
This week the county government and the Foundation are hard at work. The Foundation is putting the finishing touches on the application it will place next month with the Virginia Department of Historic Resources to have the Monroe birthplace land it leases included in the National Register of Historic Places.
Following nearly a decade of trying to move its portion of the project forward, the county government has initiated the site work. Unable to proceed within the parameters of the T-21 grant award’s requirements, the parking lot and entrance roads are being constructed at local government expense.
In March 2006 County Administrator Norm Risavi told the Supervisors that the local government had unsuccessfully attempted to put the entranceway and parking lot of its Monroe Farm project out for bids ever since the T-21 grant was awarded in 1999.
“The problem,” he said, “is the additional hoops that we’re required to jump through. All we can do is provide the materials and documentation. If we weren’t so far into the project, I’d give the money back and we would do it on our own.”
This spring the county government did what they had only talked of doing the year before, paying a contractor with local funds to move the project forward.
“It’s time to stop following around,” said District 4 Supervisor Woody Hynson. “If we can’t negotiate a remedy with DVOT, we will make the parking lot and entrance road a county project and not waste any more of our county employee’s time.”
The action followed in June, when the Supervisors voted to engage KCB Site Services to construct the James Monroe birthplace entrance road and parking lot. The improvements’ $201,315 cost was made part of the 2007-08 budget.
Efforts are still being made for the local government to utilize its T-21 Department of Transportation grant funding to construct a visitor center with indoor plumbing facilities. KCB Site Services will install the reception center’s concrete pad.
“The site work is moving forward,” said Milton Martin, Westmoreland County Special Projects Coordinator when questioned by The Journal this Monday afternoon. He spoke about the effort to proceed with construction of the visitor center.
“VDOT is still reviewing the building contract,” he related, adding that some of the structure’s cosmetic finishes have been modified in order to reduce the costs.
As the county government moves forward with its portion of the improvements, Monroe Foundation is busy formulating plans to restore the old Monroe family home. The College of William and Mary archaeology team and the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation have been brought on board to ensure the integrity of the Foundation’s work.
April 28 will mark the 250th anniversary of Monroe’s birth. The fifth President lived on the former Monroe family farm until he enrolled in the College of William and Mary at age 16.
The Foundation’s on-site 249th Monroe birthday celebration was marked by a groundbreaking ceremony at the site of the old Monroe family home. The Foundation and the county government hope to turn the property into a tourist destination that properly honors the distinguished career of the fifth U.S. President.