A statewide historic preservation group says a site in Albemarle County is in danger of destruction from the Route 29 Western Bypass. Preservation Virginia announced the Jesse Scott Sammons farmstead off Lambs Road is one of its 2013 endangered sites.
Preservation Virginia announced their 2013 endangered sites list at Union Ridge Baptist Church in Charlottesville on Monday – and the Sammons house and family cemetery made the list. The Virginia Department of Transportation has already promised the site will be saved - but there are still concerns about specific details surrounding the preservation process.
Jesse Scott Sammons was a well-known name in Albemarle County after the Civil War.
"He was a principal of the school, he was a politician, he ran for public office," said Erica Caple James, Sammons' great-great grandniece.
His house - and the adjacent cemetery where he is now buried - represent a story of success for newly freed slaves.
"With the house, what's amazing about it is it's probably one of the most charming little places I've ever seen and it would just be a tragedy from a perspective of design to destroy it," said James.
Preservation Virginia says the proposed Western Bypass Project will have an impact on the property.
"What we have not seen is the final design - what the full implications of that are for the entire farmstead, cemetery and the community," said Lois Malon of Preservation Virginia.
VDOT committed to realigning the road in order to save the cemetery in March, but descendants say they have yet to see an outline of those changes.
"I'm cautious because from the way that this project has proceeded to date, there has been an incredible lack of transparency in some ways and also a dismissal that there are even families or descendants that would care," said James.
James says she will continue to fight to protect and preserve her family's history.
"It's hallowed ground for us and the history that the persons who were there represent is unique, I think, in this area," said James.
In a statement to NBC29, VDOT re-emphasized their commitment to saving the site:
"The Virginia Department of Transportation recognizes and respects the interests and concerns of the Sammons family descendants and other interested parties in preserving the Sammons family cemetery. In that spirit, VDOT has committed to ensuring that the Sammons family cemetery remain in place and not be disturbed by the project.
While additional design work will need to be done to determine the roadway alignment in that area, VDOT is confident that the cemetery can be preserved intact within the right of way and outside the construction limits. VDOT will provide access for the family to the cemetery following construction; those details will be determined during final project design.
VDOT and Preservation Virginia share the objective of reaching a solution to this matter that ideally is acceptable to all interests, both preservation and transportation.
For the full list of endangered sites on the 2013 list, click here.
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