Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Natural Bridge to Become Virginia State Park

Natural Bridge, a 215-foot-high stone bridge once owned by Thomas Jefferson and a centuries-old tourist attraction, has been sold by its private owner, Angelo Puglisi, at a fraction of its value to a conservation group and is destined to become part of Virginia's park system. Once the Virginia Conservation Legacy Fund repays the loan it used to pay Puglisi, the attraction will be transferred to Virginia as a state park. Angelo Puglisi donated the 215-foot limestone arch, valued at $21 million, to the newly formed Virginia Conservation Legacy Fund and received conservation tax credits estimated to be worth about $7 million along with $8.6 million in cash for the balance of his Natural Bridge holdings that encompass more than 1,500 mostly forested acres. For Puglisi, entrusting the historic structure to the state offers the assurance that generations to come can stand in awe of Jefferson’s bridge on property surveyed by George Washington and hear the story of the nation’s founding. That could occur as early as 2015.

Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence and the third president, bought the property from the British crown and built a log cabin on it. It has since been in private hands. The site was a popular destination for tourists in the 18th and 19th centuries and ranked with Niagara Falls as a must-see attraction. The Bridge is a Virginia Historic Landmark as well as a National Historic Landmark.