From Hennessy, something to ponder over the weekend:
As the park moves through its General Management Planning process, a couple of people have suggested that we consider changing the name of Jackson Shrine–the farm office on the Chandler Plantation where Stonewall Jackson died on May 10, 1863. The question arises from the simple fact that most people driving along I-95 who see the sign, “Stonewall Jackson Shrine,” have no idea what it we’re talking about. A grotto in a garden? A statue? Is it really a shrine? Some have suggested something more literal and descriptive–something more useful. That raises a whole new question. If it were to be renamed, what should it be called? Fairfield–The House where Jackson Died? (Though what survives is a farm office, not a house.) The Last Days of Jackson Historic Site?
The name Stonewall Jackson Shrine dates to the the early 1900s, when the land was owned by the Richmond, Fredericksburg, and Potomac Railroad. The RR removed all other surviving structures from Chandler’s Fairfield Plantation (including the Big House–on the left in the photo below; the farm office is the building nearest the camera), but retained the farm office where Jackson died and, in an era of intense affection for Jackson and the Confederacy, called it the Stonewall Jackson Shrine. The site passed to the NPS in the 1930s; as far as I know, there has never been serious thought given to changing the name.
So, what say you? Change it or abide tradition and leave it? If you were inclined to change it, what would you call it?
Would the public welcome something that makes more clear what the site actually is as you zoom by on I-95, or would the public rebel at a change to the site’s traditional name?
Bear in mind that by some measures, the Jackson Shrine is our most popular site. A survey a few years back revealed that while more visitors go to Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, and Chatham, visitors to the Jackson Shrine spent about 50% more time there compared to other sites around the park. This is surely due to the excellent, often one-on-one interpretation they get from the staff there. It can be a powerful place.
Here, by the way, is a our web site and a short video on Jackson Shrine done by Chris Mackowski, author of the Last Days of Jackson.