In a recent post, I wrote about how the parts of the site of Camp Letterman had disappeared under contemporary development in Gettysburg, PA.
This isn’t an unusual thing. Historical preservationists often fight to save locations important to our history. The press of economics, housing, and other forms of development, however, can threaten to swallow up, tear down, or build over historical sites.
One example of this is Camp Fair Oaks, which had been located on the Flemington Fair Grounds. It has completely disappeared, as have the Fairgrounds themselves. The 51-acre site sitting alongside Route 31 had served Hunterdon County, NJ for 145 years as the home of the Hunterdon County Agricultural Fair. In 1917, the Fairgrounds added an auto race track, to keep up with the times (Hunterdon County Democrat, 2013). I remember going past the race track in the 1970s on my way to and from Rider College in Lawrenceville and in the late 1980s to and from my parents’ home in Maryland from northern Hunterdon County, where I was pastoring a small church. It was part of the scenery. Not any more.
By 2001, the Fairgrounds had been recognized by Preservation New Jersey as one of the 10 most endangered sites in the state. Around that time a group made a plan to turn the Fairgrounds into Fair Oaks Park to save a little of its agricultural history. An article in the Hunterdon County Democrat described what the plan included:
Sadly, the town’s Planning Board ended up re-zoning the property to include commercial development, and this drove the value of the land up from $2.5 million to $21 million .
The area is now a mall with a Walmart, a Loew’s Home Improvement, a Pet Smart, a Longhorn Restaurant, and several small shops. There is nothing there to remind people that the location once had been home to the Hunterdon County Agricultural Fair (which since has been relocated), much less that it had been a recruitment center during the Civil War.
The map at the top of the blog shows the location, taken as a screenshot. I then drew a rectangle to illustrate roughly where the camp had been.
More on Camp Fair Oaks to come.
Hunterdon County Democrat. (2013, May 30). Once among N.J.'s most threatened historic sites, Flemington Fairgrounds is 'Gone Forever'. Retrieved from NJ.com: http://www.nj.com/hunterdon-county-democrat/index.ssf/2013/05/once_among_the_states_most_thr.html
Janet Stafford, Squeaking Pips Founder