Letter: Yorktown windmill not historically accurate
In a few short days, we will be celebrating Yorktown Day—Oct. 19, 2011—and I am thinking about both truth and deception.
The truth of the bloodshed and anguish felt by thousands of patriots to bring about the surrender of British General Lord Cornwallis and the deception of the new "replica" of the 18th century Yorktown windmill now sitting on the beach next to the Watermen’s Museum.
As the psalmist wrote "through thy precepts I get understanding, therefore I hate every false way." (Psalm 119, verse 104)
Surely, falsehood and deception should not be practiced by those making decisions about 17th century Yorktown, whose "preservation" boundaries were set by an Act of Congress on July 3, 1930 when the Colonial National Monument was created. On Oct. 15, 1966, in another Act of Congress, the entire area was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
At the last meeting of the York County Board of Supervisors on Sept. 20, 2011, Mr. Don Wiggins stated that the new windmill should remain at the Watermen’s Museum forever "because it’s good for York County." But our supervisors are in a unique position! Because Colonial National Historical Park (renamed by Congress in 1936) exists within the boundaries of York County, they must also consider what is best for it and 17th century Yorktown.
Some of the protected property is owned by the Department of the Interior, some by the York County government and some by private citizens. All three groups should accept responsibility for looking at what is done here through the lens of preservation.
We have two clear portrayals of the 18th century Yorktown windmill, high on a bluff overlooking the York River—one by renowned 18th century artist Charles Willson Peale and another (a watercolor) by Robert K. Sneden, derived from a 1789 engraving.
Do we honor preservation and historic integrity by allowing a "replica" that looks like neither of them to sit on the beach forever? Recently, Colonial Williamsburg removed its long-standing windmill because "newer scholarship suggests the current site of the windmill is not historically accurate."
When will 17th century Yorktown—the acknowledged birthplace of our nation—be regarded with the same respect for historic integrity and truth?
Sarah Kathryn O’Hara