An Evolved Understanding: An Examination of the National Park Service's Approach to the Cultural Landscape at Chatham Manor, Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park

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Chatham Manor became part of the Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park in December 1975 after the death of its last private owner, John Lee Pratt. Constructed between 1768 and 1771, Chatham Manor has always been intertwined with the landscape and has gained significance throughout its 250-year lifespan. With each subsequent owner and period of time Chatham Manor has gained significance as a cultural landscape. Since its acquisition in 1975, the National Park Service has grappled with the significance and interpretation of Chatham Manor as a cultural landscape. This thesis provides an analysis of the National Park Service’s ideas of significance and interpretation of the cultural landscape at Chatham Manor. This is done through a discussion of several interpretive planning documents and correspondences from the staff of the National Park Service, including interpretive prospectuses, a general management plan, and long-range interpretive plan. In addition, the influence of both superintendents and staff is taken into consideration. Through the analysis of these documents, it was realized that the understanding of cultural landscapes is continuing to evolve within the National Park Service. In the 1960s and 1970s Chatham Manor was considered significant and interpreted almost solely for its association with the Civil War. That changed for a time in the 1980s as the cultural landscape was defined by the National Park Service in 1982, and the 1920s Colonial Revival Garden was restored at Chatham Manor, headed by Superintendent James Zinck. A shift to refocus on the Civil War occurred in the mid- to late-1990s when the staff of Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park developed a long-term goal to restore Chatham Manor to its 1860s appearance to better interpret its Civil War history. Today, there has been a growing understanding of the cultural landscape at Chatham Manor with the execution of the Cultural Landscape Report for Chatham and the draft for the National Register of Historic Places nomination update. Additionally, the significance of the property has been broadened as the 1920s Colonial Revival gardens and associated buildings have been deemed significant. Although the National Park Service has been slow to approach Chatham Manor as a cultural landscape, steps are being taken to consider the property’s evolved significance and interpret its layered history.

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National Park Service; History; Historic Preservation; Interpretation; American history; Chatham Manor; Cultural Landscapes; Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park
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Tomlan, Michael Andrew
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Baugher, Sherene Barbara
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City and Regional Planning
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M.A., City and Regional Planning
Degree Level
Master of Arts
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Government Document
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dissertation or thesis
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