Preservation Virginia Names Arlington Cemetery as “Most Endangered”

Preservation Virginia Names Arlington Cemetery as “Most Endangered”

At a press conference at Arlington National Cemetery today, Preservation Virginia announced that the cemetery’s cultural landscape was one of eight historic places on its 2013 “Most Endangered Historic Sites” list.

With representatives from Preservation Arlington, the Arlington County Historic Preservation Office, the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), and others in attendance, Preservation Virginia Executive Director Elizabeth Kostelny raised concerns about the planned 27-acre Millennium Project expansion, which threatens a 12-acre section of Arlington House Woods as well as its old growth hardwood forest and historic boundary wall, to make room for more interments.

Here is the text from Preservation Virginia’s “Most Endangered Historic Sites” release:PreservationVirginiaAnnouncement

The Arlington National Cemetery Cultural Landscape, one of our nation’s most solemn and iconic places, is the final resting place for thousands who performed military service. As currently designed, the planned 27-acre Millennium Project expansion threatens to disrupt the cemetery’s significant surroundings and destroy a 12-acre section of Arlington House Woods as well as its old growth hardwood forest and historic boundary wall.


In 2001, Congress transferred those twelve acres of Arlington Woods with the following provisions: “The Secretary of the Army shall use the transferred property for the development of the in-ground burial sites and columbarium that are designed to meet the contours of Section 29.” (Public Law 107-107, Section 2863). By adopting this legislation, Congress recognized the significance of designing a project that would maintain the contours of the natural woodland as the contextual setting for the Arlington House and Arlington National Cemetery.


Preservation Virginia respects the mission of Arlington National Cemetery to provide for military interments, but along with other partner preservation organizations believes that there is a better way to create additional burial space while also respecting the significant contributions of Arlington House Woods and the existing, historic boundary wall to this sacred place. Preservation Virginia is concerned about the current preferred alternative because of the amount of soil being moved, the extent of the new retaining walls to be constructed, and the road to be built across a stream that is likely to irreparably alter the topography and run counter to the objectives of Congress.


Preservation Virginia urges the Army Corps of Engineers to revisit the Environmental Assessment and to seek an expansion alternative that respects the historic significance of Arlington Woods, protects its historic landscape, and provides for additional burial space.

In a statement, Joy Oakes, NPCA’s Senior Mid-Atlantic Regional Director, said that Millennium Project planners “have discussed, but have yet to analyze, an alternative design that would site part of the access road on lands that today are open space, and would use the edge of the woods for columbaria and the remainder of the access road….Moving forward, all parties concerned should continue to work towards a design that respects the values of the national park and honors those who are, and who will be, interred at Arlington.”

What You Can Do: Write to Senator Tim Kaine, Senator Mark Warner, and Congressman Jim Moran today. Tell them that you are concerned about the impacts of the cemetery expansion on the historic cultural landscape around Arlington House and this rare stand of old-growth forest, and encourage them to call for a full environmental assessment that includes an alternative that would better protect the site’s historic context.

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