By Mark Wineka, Salisbury Post
Salisbury historian Ann Brownlee, trying to keep the state Department of Transportation from disturbing Trading Ford's historic landscape, scored a recent victory that could have an impact on where a widened and realigned Interstate 85 crosses the Yadkin River.
Brownlee and other preservation interests have persuaded the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation that an independent review of the Trading Ford area is needed before the N.C. Department of Transportation proceeds with its $160 million road project.
"Finally, we're going to get a fair hearing," Brownlee said last Wednesday. "... I think this is a biggie."
In a letter dated June 25, Don L. Klima, federal agency programs director for the advisory council, calls for the Keeper of the National Register of Historic Places to conduct a separate review of four sites within the road project's area.
"... The number of interested organizations who have contacted us," Klima said, "and their strongly stated views that the Trading Ford area is of historic significance and should not be disturbed, leads us to believe that an independent review from the Keeper of the National Register is warranted."
Klima has called on the Federal Highway Administration to submit the information it used during a Section 106 review for the project, along with supporting documentation that the State Historic Preservation Office and other parties have supplied.
Klima said the National Register keeper will then make a determination of eligibility to the National Register and "hopefully help resolve this outstanding issue and help FWHA (the Federal Highway Administration) and N.C. DOT move forward to complete the Section 106 review process for this undertaking."
Because federal dollars will be used on the project, the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation plays a role in making sure it complies with Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966. Section 106 requires states to take into account what effect their road-building will have on properties listed or eligible for the National Register.
If the Trading Ford sites were ruled eligible, for example, the DOT might have to alter the location of a new I-85 Yadkin River bridge and its approaches or find some ways to mitigate damage to the historic sites.
Brownlee, president and founder of the Trading Ford Historic District Preservation Association, asked that the four sites in question be evaluated against "Criterion A" of the National Register Criteria for Evaluation.
Criterion A makes properties eligible for inclusion on the National Register based on their association with events that have made a significant contribution to the broad patterns of the country's history.
Here are the sites under review:
n The Trading Path used by Indians dating back to prehistoric days, early explorers and settlers.
n The Yadkin Ford Ferry site and its approaches. The ford itself dates back to Native American use, and the historical references to the ferry go back as far as the1780s.
n Revolutionary and Civil War battlegrounds. This area is where Gen. Nathanael Greene and his American troops, in 1781, crossed the river and successfully avoided the pursuit of Cornwallis' British soldiers, changing the course of the Revolutionary War.
At the Battle of Camp Yadkin on April 12, 1865, Confederate troops held off a federal calvary raid during a six-hour bombardment of Fort York, a defensive site above today's U.S. 29 and I-85. The battle occurred three days after the Confederate surrender at Appomattox and is thought to be one of the last staged battles of the Civil War.
n The Trading Ford roadside monument erected along Old Salisbury Road in 1929.
In late March, Brownlee sent a 14-page cover letter with two boxes of supporting documents to the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation and asked for its assistance in making sure the Section 106 review process was being carried out properly.
The Advisory Council on Historic Preservation also received letters in the same vein from the Historic Salisbury Foundation, Rowan Museum Inc., the LandTrust for Central North Carolina and Lawrence E. Babits, an East Carolina University professor who made his own investigations of the Trading Ford landscape at Brownlee's invitation.
Brownlee and these groups fear the I-85 widening at the river could be the final blow in destroying a historical and cultural landscape important to Rowan and Davidson counties. The N.C. Department of Transportation contends that its road project, set for a bid-opening in December and the start of work next year, will not affect any historic sites.
Brownlee said she is encouraged that the National Register will review the sites because it will not be trying to keep things off the Register that meet its criteria. She has questioned the state's review process from the beginning.
Last year, N.C. Transportation Secretary Lyndo Tippett informed Brownlee that his department was satisfied it had done the investigations necessary to comply with Section 106. The Department of Transportation's Architectural and Archaeological units recommended that the 1924 Wil-Cox Bridge (part of U.S> 29) and the archaeological remains of Fort York be recommended for the National Register.
They would not affect the I-85 project.
Tippett said neither the Trading Ford monument nor several Native American sites qualified. He wrote that no visible remains or specific features of the Yadkin Ford Ferry, the Trading Path or additional remains of the battle at Fort York were identified during field surveys and investigations.
Tippett concluded that intrusions such as High Rock Lake, Interstate 85 and U.S. 29, the railroad, utilities and the Buck Steam Plant altered the area so much that it no longer reflects any historic context.
Unless an extension is granted, the Keeper of the National Register has 45 days to make a ruling.
Brownlee said she is not sure of the logistics involved in the National Register's review. She has disputed some of the state's archaeological conclusions related to the Civil War battlefield, for example, and says a history the Department of Transportation compiled for the Trading Ford area was full of errors.
Brownlee said the DOT is not allowed to spend money on the project until the Section 106 process is complete.
"They need to get this handled," she said.
Brownlee personally would like to see the state widen I-85 over the Yadkin River where it is instead of building a new eight-lane bridge and section of highway farther east (down river) and through the Civil War battlefield.
Building some of the additional lanes up river also could save the Yadkin Ford Ferry and approach roads, she says. The Trading Ford monument could be preserved by leaving access to Old Salisbury Road as is, she adds.
Last year, county commissioners in Rowan and Davidson counties passed similar resolutions supporting a "compromise" with the state "to preserve the Trading Ford District and span the river with the interstate in a manner so that the area and its historic sites can remain eligible for the National Register."
The highway project in question is part of the continued I-85 widening from four to eight lanes from China Grove to the river and beyond. The Yadkin River crossing will be part of a 5.6-mile section from north of Long Ferry Road to I-85 Business.
Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263 or salisburypost.com.">email@example.com.