Wednesday, January 16, 2008

My, How You've Grown Part two: Ghost Park

And, no, I don't mean like "ghost tours". I'm referring to the physical evidence that remains on the field of how this park has grown and evolved over the years.

One year ago I posted on this subject:
( or just click on the title of this post.

Here are some photos of Antietam National Battlefield that allude to those past configurations of the park that we know so well today. Lots of clues remain of a smaller, less defined, and much less interpreted National Park. Traveling throughout the park this deteriorating evidence remains. Here is some of what I've found, much of which you may recall from your own childhood journeys to Antietam.

Antietam National Battlefield started out with just forty acres, and now is comprised of over 3,000 acres. Fifty percent of this expansion has occurred over the past dozen years. Many non-historic roads and structures have been removed or allowed to be reclaimed by inevitable natural processes. Let's take a look at some clues of how things used to be.

In the left foreground (just above the road) near the 124th PA monument on Starke Avenue you can still see the well-head which served the old Superintendent's house before it was demolished a few years ago.

An old and rusting boundary fence post serves as a line of demarcation between Philadelphia Brigade Park and what used to be private property.

Here are the tumbled-down remains of a chimney of a former house along the Hagerstown Pike.

The landscape scar to the left of the cedar tree is the old road that led up to Branch Avenue. I remember driving up this steep incline as a 14-year old with my father.

Cars used to drive between the stone walls back when the park property was restricted to the road right-of-way.

The rotting remains of that abandoned stretch of park road, slowly being reclaimed by nature.

A War Department signpost reminding us that the park used to consist of merely the road right-of-way, back when visitor's attention was directed 1,950 yards distant (my how trying) to land not, at that time, owned by the park.

It's been many a year since this chicken coop just east of the Hagerstown Pike (near Philly Park) saw any hens. This 20th century structure is slowly and inexorably turning into mulch, surrendering to the ground that Sumner's Second Corps fought through.

One of the old War Department fence posts that delineated the Park from private property back in the days prior to the National Park Service. These old concrete sentinels have themselves, become historically significant.

Confederate Avenue just east of the Hagerstown Pike. With an old War Department fencepost in the foreground this abandoned stretch of non-historic park road is slowly being reclaimed by nature.

Confederate Avenue returning to nature.

Once upon a time automobiles drove along this now unpaved portion of the old Confederate Avenue which runs parellel to the current Hagerstown Pike and is part of the new West Woods trail at Antietam National Battlefield.

Here is a graphic reminder of the fact that the original park was a mere 40 acres. Note that at Antietam most of the monuments and tablets are right on the shoulder of the road. The road right of way and the National Cemetery were all that comprised the park back in the early days. Tablets and monuments were convieniently placed for motorists.

Next time you find yourself driving south on Dunker Church Road toward the Visitor's Center, take a moment to notice this old powerline leading into the West Woods...

to end where a house once was. about six years ago.

Finally, this marooned War Department tablet is an eloquent testimonial of park preservation. The Hagerstown Pike used to roar through the battlefield. In the 1960's a bypass was routed around the battlefield leaving this tablet somewhat stranded on what used to be the shoulder of the road.

Another evocative pentimento of former habitation on the battlefield are the daffodils that sprout every spring along Bloody Lane, irrepressible reminders of the house and refreshment stand that stood near the intersection of the Sunken Road and the Roulette Farm Lane back in the 1950s.

For as much as the park has grown over the years its nice to know that none of this park expansion relied on "eminent domain". This park has always prided itself in being a good and cooperative neighbor.

Looking for clues, just north of Sharpsburg,

Ranger Mannie


Eric Wittenberg said...

Tremendous post, Mannie, just chock full of fascinating information. It just goes to show you how wrongheaded the War Department was when it elected to do things the way it did, and how much less costly and easier it would have been to just buy the land in the first place....

Thanks for sharing.


King Cas said...

A very enjoyable post. Will you give special tours based on this information? I think the development of the land from the time of the battle to the present would make an excellent book. I know I would buy it.

Tim Maurice said...

Mannie, Thanks for a great post. The photos and your captions were outstanding.

Tim Maurice

Anonymous said...

some of the shots came to mind after I watched the History Channel presentation last night about the earth after people are gone...but the process is nothing new as old civilizations are being dug up now after the population died off or left town.

Jim T.
Orleans County, NY

Anonymous said...

Have you any information regarding the elderly couple, the Lomans, who maintained for years a little refreshment stand at the western end of the Sunken Road?

Mannie Gentile said...

Contact the park historian, Ted Alexander for information on Lomans.