tv National Park Service 100th Anniversary CSPAN August 25, 2016 10:00pm-12:01am EDT
now conservation and preservation challenges. 100 yaears ago, president woodrow wilson signed the law. this was a uniquely american idea of the concept's of the nation's beautiful. it is their right to visit these spaces. places like the grand canyon and yellow stone and the statue of liberty, they became familiar to us and many are known around the world. president obama on a visit to yosemite water falls told the crowd it is like the spirit of america itself is right here. today there are 84 million acres and 410 sites including 59 national parks and 128 historical parks and 10 nationals seashores. last year some millions of
people visited the national parks. when people think of national parks they think of the every glaze. the national park service tells the american stories. the lincoln memorial and the washington monument and president's park which surrounds the white house are all part of the narrative. this submission was carved in the stones of mount rushmore by the sculptor who wrote the purpose is to communicate the american's stories. the national park service taking the lead and reconcile story lines of many historic sites across the country. it is an example of that effort. it is the park's system most visited historic home. today, visitors learn several story lines connected to this 19
century. they learned about the enslaved people who lived their lives and whose legacy lived on, on their descenda descendant. tonight, we'll visit arlington house as a way to learn more of the park easter vis 's servicess of history. coming up first, we'll hear several presidents talk about the national park and we'll hear from the director of the national park service, jonathan jarvis and president obama at yosemite national park. >> we have to have faith in the future to do what it takes to protect our parks and our planet in generations to come. that's true for our leaders in washington. that's what lincoln did when he set aside this realm for all prosperity. that's what our generation has
to do. we got to sum up that same vision. we make good strives and jump started clean energy and presevering landscapes and rallying the world to tackle private change together. we got to do a lot more and on this issue unlike a lot of issues, there is such a thing of being too late. the good news is i know we can rise to the challenge over the last seven years, we proved it and if we keep at it, we are not just going to save guard this place, we'll protect our community's rising seasons and brutal droughts but we are also going to protect our children's lungs from breathing dirty air and baltimore people from displacements, prenotect our national security. we'll build on that legacy of all those who came before us who
stood in these parks of more than a century ago talked about america that lasts through the ages. i was telling the head of system here of my first visit when i was 11 earlie-year-old. i was living in hawaii and i traveled through the mainland and i came to california and we went to chicago and arizona and ended at the yellow stone national park. i remember being an 11-year-old kid for the first time, the first time i saw a moose. the first time we drove over a hill and suddenly there was a field full of deer. first time i saw a bear and a
cub. that changes you. you are not the same after that. i want to make sure every kid feels that. studies have shown that just five minutes of time in a green open space brings your stress levels down, makes your heartbeat goes down and makes your whole body feeling better. makes your spirit stronger and cleaner, we got kids all across this country who never see a park. there are kids who live miles from here, who never seen this. we got the change that. because the beauty of the national park system is, it belongs to everybody. it is a true expression of our democracy. the notion that we all look after ourselves and our family and we work hard and we make
money and we have our own homes and apartments and cars and televisions but then -- then there is this park that's apart of us and apart of everybody, something that we have in common and something we share. a place that we connect with each other and something bigger. what an incredible idea. what a r worthy investment, let make it happen. >> it is fitting on labor day that we meet. besides the harbor and the water, i should say, the eyes of m miss liberty on our gathering. on the air bridge harbor that
twins city framed. through this golden door under the mother exile has come millions of men and women set foot right there on ellis island so close to the statue of liber liberty. these families came here to work and build and others came to america in different ways from mother lands under different and often harrowing conditions. this place symbolizes what they all managed to build no matter where they aim from or how they came or how much they suffered. they helped to build that magnificent city across the river. they built other cities and towns and incredibly productive farms. they came to make america work. they did not ask what this country could do for them but what they could do to make this, this refuge of the greatest home
of freedom of history [ applause ] they brought with them courage and ambition and the values of family, neighborhood work, piece and freedom. [ applause ] we all came from different lands but we share the same values, the same dreams. i want more than anything i ever wanted to have an administration that will through its actions at home and the international arena. let millions of people know that miss liberty still lives here land besides the golden door. [ applause ] through our international
broadcasting nation, the voice of america, let us send loud and clear the message that this generation of americans intend to keep that land shining. that this dream of the last best hope and this nation under god shall not perish from the north. [ applause ] we'll instead carry on the building of an american economy that once again holds for real opportunity for all. we should continue for a symbol of freedom of the internal values that so inspired those who came to this board of entry. let us pledge to each other that we can and so help us god. we will make america great
las vegas nevada where the president speaks at the convention center. here are some of the remarks he made atlas vegas. [ applause ] i came to this trip to see the united states. i can assure you there is nothing more empowering. for any of us who work in washington and to have a chance to fly across the united states, and drive through it, and see what a great country it is and come to understand some what better. how this country has been able for so many years to carry so many burdens in so many parts of the world. my trip was conservation. i include in conservation, first
our human resource and our natural resource. [ applause ] you know how much the atlantic coast is available for public use purposes? about 8%. >> 92% of the whole atlantic coast and the same for the pacific. before it is too late, take these areas of the country of all of our people and let we set them aside now for it be too late. there is not much we could do today that it will -- build for us of this great dam and lake that i flew over today. our task of the task of
propelling a clear way of conservation in the united states, following that of theodore roosevelt and franklin roosevelt is to make science a conservation and of new programs of land that'll enable us to presere f this green environment which means so much to all of us. [ applause ] he came to the town. he enjoyed it. it was not until he went toup tup the coast and the first time he saw the pacific ocean, he was in awed. when he arrived at yosemite, that's when he really understands what this
entertainment is and what the church is all about. he was be dazzled and very poetic and writes letters and all these kinds of things and summing up his feelings. that was for him seeing the great outdoors and getting away from the city and politics and arriving in nature. that was really when he understood the beauty and majesty of california. roosevelt became president in 1901 and an election in 1904 and never having been to the west coast, roosevelt took this opportunity to come out and show up some votes and pushes the agenda and all that. beyond all of that and march of that year, he writes june mural a letter and he makes a request to go to yosemite with him just he and him in the woods. he had an opportunity to force
his friendship with the man. he's been around for a while and he's well known and famous as a naturalist. roosevelt use the trip as an excuse and bond. john was getting concerned because as much as he wrote and worship the oyosemite and other areas, he was seeing, you know, a lot of lodging that was taken place. and even when you have real federal protection, it does not get you out of the woods. he knew it was a start. i think that's why when roosevelt reached out to muriel, he was going to be in europe at the time. he knew this opportunity was the chance to address to these concerns. and so you know he saw that coming and he sees the
opportunity and changed his trip and did not go to europe and met with roosevelt instead. it was four men, teddy roosevelt and john muriel and two guys/cooks. they were the only two men present. there were no press or nothing. as a result of that, a lot of the memories of the trip comes from those two guys that would haul gear and plop the course. these men paid close attention and able to observe the background and eavesdropping in the discussion and getting a sense of what was happening. i think the observations of the two guys withere interesting. they saw the initial meeting is being kind of struggling of two
egos of two powerful and accomplished men had to find common grounds to begin with. the most interesting was -- one of the guys observed, getting in roosevelt's face a little bit. i think it is fascinating that roosevelt accepted that criticism and heavily acted on it as well. it is interested for roosevelt. he comes here and tells you that he's got to give up a real passion and he's open toed the idea of it. the trust that roosevelt was given muriel in a short span. that revelation, really stands out, monumental. all of a sudden he was not going to hunt just to hunt.
clearly, he was giving muriel the ability to affect his point of view. the first night, a beautiful grove of voyagers and fairly simple camp experience, not rugged or anything. that would happen on night two where they go on horse back at glazer point and five feet of snow and here is the president of united states riding on horse back with john muriel and completely avoiding the press or any guests. night two is a big challenge, getting to glazer point and camping. it snowed over five or six inches on top of what was already there. it is an interesting night for those men and rugged and peeure.
it pushed them closer together because of what the weather did to them. night three came down in the valley was more like night one. and that was a chance to sort of talk about the night before, how crazy it had been but also talking about future plans and what roosevelt might do to help muriel. muriel is there as a lobbyist. he has the leader of the free world all to himself for three nights and he takes good advantage of those opportunities. roosevelt had information of why these forces need protection and it is not just enough but when you have the power to do so, it is important to preserve as well. conservation was something that roosevelt thought to a small degree. but, i think it requires a catalyst to kind of step in and get him fired up and helping him to understand that there were risks and there were a lot of logging taking place. roosevelt had never been to
california and led alone yes, sir at tyosemite. he did not have somebody mike him to focus it down and making it a topic. he became actionable and he goes back and okay, we need to do this and this. it ma when roosevelt leaves yosemite, the next speech roosevelt gives in sacramento, he's talking about yosemite. he's already within days of this meeting, he's already reeling in a passion. he goes back and soon after within a year or two, we are seeing, you know, forests being considered, you know, national landmarks and things like that. over the course of roosevelt's presidency as the process goes on, roosevelt is formable. he lets it be known that he wants it done.
it is a result of that church. when he comes back it is within a couple of years that you got hundreds of things being signed and little push back. people understood that roosevelt was walking like he talks. with john muriel, everybody understood that these were men that's serious about this. we are commemorating here on america history tv. join us live from arlington house and arlington national cemetery at 7:00 p.m. eastern time this evening. first, you will hear from our national parks service director, jonathan jarvis. >> how is the national park service difference from the 2 2016. most of the natural parks were out west.
so in a famous story, fdr was coming back from a trip over in shenandoah. and he was talked into transferring all of the civil war battlefield sites to the national park service at the time. that is sort of the responsibility of the national parks service to tell america story through his or her stick sites. since that time, we added a significant number of places that represent complexity of the american story. >> about two third of the parks are historical in nature. how do you balance your responsibility to history and as well as natural places. >> both natural places and cultural sites have a story to be told. we tell stories through places. we have great partners like
smithsonian. yes, s in a place like gettysburg, you can tell not only the physical activities on the civil war but the meaning behind it such as the release and freedom over 4 million africans that became american citizens. >> what is the most changed in the last 250 years? >> at one point, i don't think we have changed that much. we have public service to the american people and that's been a strong continuity. i think broadening the story and filling the gaps of american experience, it is not one narrative, it is multiple narratives. using strong scholarships and working historians to better
understand the complexity of it is how the parks have changed. >> how has it change the visitor's experience. >> i am a proponent, i believe technology provides the tount the deep opportunity to deepen the experience. i think it allows us to provide the content of the national service had in a new way. we are sort of a content rich and so you can go deeper and i think particularly with the millenial generation, they're going to bring their smart phones and devices with them and there is a certain expectations they can utilize in the park. certainly on the south side. >> what would you say the single greatest challenge of the next 50 kbreyears. >> i think climate change. it is affecting the resources
whether it is glazers or fires burning or species moving. it is also directly affecting our culture assets, places like forge jefferson sits right at sea levels. we have to make some triage decision of what we keep and let go. >> what is the role of priva private -- >> big parts of -- and a large section of the virgin islands. there is a long tradition of those who's done well and david
rubanstein falls into that. philanthropy -- gives us a margin of excellence that sort of bright line doing where things we could not do. >> you talked about the national par park services being the nation's story teller, what do you mean about that? >> it is an inheritance responsibility of the national park service to remind americans of our responsibility to each other and to this nation. when you think of the places that we have a responsibility and not only to protect but in terms of the statue of liberty and the lincoln memorial and these are not only physical places, they are ideas and they are embedded in the our constitution and the civil rights movement. our job is to tell that story in a non judgmental way as a reminder to all americans that
we have high ideals of this nation and we are striving together. >> is there a new emphasis on telling difficult stories in the parks and how does that connect in building an audience. >> we sort of assess the inventory of the national parks and inventory of natural landmarks and there are large gaps. there are gaps of women and minorities of this country. we have launched a initiative to fill in those gaps. we commission some scholarly studies on asian americans and latinos and lgbtq as well. we go out and finding those places and adding it to our system. harriet taubman, all of the
relevance. >> there is a new park in the system, how does it fit in your mission? >> well, we realized that the civil rights stories is not just limited to african-americans. the lgbt community was discriminated again of the turning point of the gay rights movement in new york city. we began working with the city and the community to understand how we can tell that story and what place really is the place to do it and the stone wall and christopher park and street, that area where there was a police raid on this bar and a mob run bar in the 1960s resulted in a push back by the gay community, the event which is a turning point, it was not just for the specific gay community. this was a major turning point
in the way we recognize this community's civil rights in this nation. it spreads across the country. so, it is the place where the national parks should be interpreting this story. >> you started out as a ranger in 1986 of the bicentennial center. >> that winter, i worked with the jefferson. >> do you have a favorite site? >> with 412, i love all my children. >> thank you very much >> thank you.
you are looking at a live picture of arlington house of the robert e. lee memorial. this is the national park services most visited historic site. this was on this day president woodrow wilson signed a legislation that created the park service here this evening at arlington house to talk about the art service and its history. we'll learn more of the special house of the people who live here and how it is being interpreted. we are joined by our robert staton. and our director here. >> stat ton, let me start a story of how the national park service began. >> it was authorized by an active congress.
that legislation came about of the conservation of the civic leader throughout the country. we are proud to have it with us. >> was it at all controversial at the time it was signed into law? >> it was in the sense that there was sort of a misunderstanding in terms o of -- maybe imposed by having fun to administer on that park. i think the american people had the development and understanding appreciation of the parks. there were 35 parks that were established before there was a national park. it was an educational process and at the time of 1960, the
american public had an understanding of what the parks were about and what their responsibilities would be. >> who was th the earlyist president to preserve it? >> although it was federal ownership, it was transferred to the state of california. then after a period of time, areal return to the jurisdiction and the federal government and today we know it as yosemite national park. brandon bosh says this particular house is an interesting one because it merges our history of the first president of george washington and robert e. lee who was the leader of the
confederate army. i am surprised to know that these two had a relationship through marriage and i would like you to tell us that story and how it happened. >> arlington was built by a gentleman named george washington park custus. he was the grandson of martha washington. gorge and martha as his parents and his father died when he was young and he was raised in mount vernon and saw george washington and martha washington, his parents he built this home in 1802 as a memorial and a home, it is really to our nation's first president. he had one daughter who survived, mary, that daughter married a young u.s. army
officer, robert e. lee. >> there is so much more that came on here. >> when i came to this town, i always refer to this the lee's mansion. >> it was known at some point for quite sometime. it was established as a memorial and historic home in 1925 by congress that became apart of the national park service in the 1930s, it was an act of congress in 1955 that wallaccomplished t further at the robert e. lee memorial. the reason it was a memorial to him but what he did after that. >> a pretty spectacular view. washington dc was really -- it was a big swamp. it was not a wonderful place to
look at. george washington really felt it was important to over look the federal city. he knew there were great things to come here and it is an incredible view that that view that i thinked a litt changed a little bit. >> stat on, this is the house on the hill where john f kennedy-his grave. >> in the front, you can see from that location. but it is a prominent location. and, trust me enough that if estate, i think included 11,000, acres and now, under the park service, i could not believe it of 19 acres. the cemetery is situated on
land, it was originally owned by the lee's family. >> that was not really accidental. i am going to have you tell story about how this property which was owned by robert e. lee at that point and you became the great soldier during the war. it is a fascinating story because when it became a cemetery, it was deemed to be owned by the government. it was in his wife's name and mary's name. of course, the lease had to flee here at the beginning of first robber and then the rest of the family left of may of 1961. as the war went on, general montgomery sees may had a very realish issues on hands which w what to do with the thousands of soldiers that were dying in the hospital here. >> arlington house had actually
by then confiscated. in the early part of the war that requires certain people to pay their taxes in person and there was really no way for mary lee, wife of a famous general to come here and pay the property taxes. the property was confiscated by the federal government and it was government property at that time. 186 1864, this is the place where they began to start burying those bodies. >> when people think of the national parks service, they think of these beautiful parks around the country. really there is a lot more inventory that are historic place like this. can you talk about how that merger happens of the big outdoor spaces. >> the first national park were
primary lilo kated in tily loca. >> they were created out in legislation and subsequently by the president. but, in that situation continues until 1933, to transfer the historical culture area. >> they did in fact approve with the lessons of congress and reorganization. through that, roughly a 60 years. it immediately transferred to the jurisdiction of the parks service, including the revolutionary war sites, statue of liberty and it was
transferred to a lead of state and transferred. >> this was the time of the civilian controversy. did american societies go back to work? >> i am not sure of the work college here. certainly, if you were to visit, chris williams or go to the camp davis. >> you can see the extra work that was performed by the cdc in the late 30s and early 40s. >> by 1943, what would be the most critical part of the service history of today? >> the most critical part i is -- i mean we went you through significant changes. the 50th anniversary of our national park service, what we
call a missing 66 times period. >> new centers that were built and influx of money that went in. i would say the mission was significant. >> i would fully con cure wicur that. >> it was authorize by congress. >> a major rehabilitation of all of the park areas. it was known from my colleague from 1966 to 1956. one of the things we must recall that some of the -- a major jurisdiction. we showed the world war ii
followed by the korean war. as soon as the nation's resources, we'll direct it towards the war efforts and the park did not have the kind of resources of the quality of care. this was a major happening right after the korean war to rehabilitate the park through this family and all of us that we are seeing. >> lets bring it up to today because now the park service says 413 sites as of this week. >> times are always tight. how is this centennial year being used by the national park service to help advance their mission. >> there is a number of ways, one way we try to advance our location is increasing and not just the number of people that goes to the national parks. we are really, really trying to reach a younger and diverse generation. we have seen leading up to san
antonio and trying new technology and reaching out to different group and trying the get a representative population of americans into this national parks. that's the big trust for us of by centennial. >> no question about that. >> unfortunately, there are some communities that are not truly connected with the university. a number of that has continued. i might add that congress of this administration have given the park service some tools to achieve those projects. one was through importance of young people and of youth conversation core that was authorized in the 1970s.
as the 75th anniversary congress enacted a bill signed into law. transporting to his own or donated a resource and young people from neighbor community into parks and educational and recreational services. again, making those connection and those generated relationship relationships. american history to have is coming to you live from arlington house. robert e. lee memorial. it is one of the moers visited in store sites. coming up next, a ranger is going to give you a little bit of this tore. we'll be back in ten minutes. >> here we are in the mean hallway. the center hall was designed to
impress. >> origin washington -- he had the house designed like a galli to be monument and impres am am -- learning more about george washington. the original architect of the mansion was the name john edenfield. >> to do design work on the nation's capitol, the capitol building. >> so george hand fill was once of the most prominent architects. his house had a great history in architecture in the history of the country as well. it is not just because people live here but the structure itself had great meaning. it is one of those places where they have a house or structure, it takes out the meeting because of tp events that happens who
live there. this house was built to be consensible. >> you can see the uniform or the dress on display. 24-year-old robert e. lee married the 22-year-old. >> this was not the only wedding that took place here. in fact, it was not only the first wedding. the first wedding took place here ten years earlier where a woman here married charles
syphax. maria and charles were enslaved here. >> maria was a woman. and, this is forcing us in many ways to re-examine how we interpret the history. here we have the story of slaves and this place represents the founding ideas of this country and this whole built mary tonner george washington to celebrate. the values and police and the father of the country, how house itself built by slaves. then you have the families as well of the relationship. washington park augustus in essence had two daughters.
>> one was, fight was. both great granddaughters are from washington. >> gorge washington put discu discuss -- he spent 55 years of his life promoting and celebrating through that. and the civil truth of it, the first family of this country was by racial. so we recently reenacted that with descendants of the family in atentendance. there was also another wedding that took place here and that was the wedding of celina norris. celina norris made in the house
and thornton gray who worked in the mansion as well. this was an arranged wedding that took place. selena gray and her family would live in the one or two historic slave quarter. it is still existed and being restored as a big of the project. >> you can see this room is empty of furnishing and that's representing the fact that right now we are in the process of removing and furnishing from display so by the end of the year, we'll begin the proz. all furniture had to be remove before we could do that so you can see the boxes in place and preparations being made. >> as we walk outlinedown the h you see empty places down the hall. there is numerous portraits hanging in this hallway, family
portrait of historical. however, some of those had been removed but at the same time there are fools in our collection. our new respiration project through this generous donation by david rubernstein, so that we can represent the true appearance of this house as it was when it was. there will be examples that we'll leave like this. this plaster on the wall, this plaster was, it is not just something we close to leave expose for no good reason. what we kis discovered during a respiration project where we strip down paint and repainted
different rooms. we found writing and graffiti. and some of this writing is hard to see. it is very fake on the walls. some of the graffiti we have in the house is civil war related, left by union soldiers. some of this predates the civil war and goes back to the earliest construction of the house. and so it's something that we're leaving exposed because it is representative of that history. and we wanted to be able to preserve it and perhaps in the future find a way of even interpreting it. we're not exactly sure what the writing says. so it is a mystery that is going to be left to us to solve in the future. we at arlington house are very excited that our recent donation and our ability to restore the mansion and create new exhibits
is not only possible but that it coincides with the centennial of the national park service. it gives us an opportunity to examine and reexamine what this place meant owe the last several decades, since the national park service first took it over in 1933, and what it means moving into the future. because as a country, we always need to examine and reexamine our history in order to decide where we want to go forward. and arlington house is an amazing place to be able to do that. so we can examine the meaning of the civil war. we can examine the meaning of the life of robert e. lee, his family, the impact his decision made on history, the lives of the enslaved people here, the consequences of that war,
surrounding this mansion arlington cemetery was created a means to honor the dead but again as a means of gaining revenge or justice perhaps, if you want to call that, against robert e. lee. but how do we as a country view the events of that war and its aftereffects. the period of reconstruction. well, arlington house is determined, and the national parks service is determined to seize the opportunity to move forward and perhaps lead the nation here in an effort to come to terms with that period in time and to make more of it. to make something of it that can help us move as a nation and as a culture into the future. the theme here is division and reunion. well, division perhaps is easier
to define. but reunion, what does that really mean? we know the country was reunited north and south, but culturally and racially and many ways this country remains divided. and so what can be learned here at arlington house, the robert e. lee memorial, that will help americans and people from other parts of the world, too, to examine that, examine their own beliefs, and see what they can make of it moving into the future. >> arlington house, one of the national parks service properties on this centennial of the park service, we are talking about tonight live from this most visited site here overlooking washington, d.c. our two guests for the live program tonight. and the full tour of arlington
house, if you've never been fortunate to get here will follow the live program tonight. we're going to talk about that last thought about learning and interpreting what you see in a second. but i want to give some statistics to our audience. this is from "the wall street journal," part of what we're learning about our park service on its anniversary. estimated market value of nps, the lands and properties $62 billion. and there's 84.6 million total acres, $2.85 billion is the congressional appropriation for this year, total revenues the parks take in from sites $591 million, there are 22,000 employees and 221,000 volunteers. and you're both nodding about those volunteers and how important they are to the work of the parks service. and as we said earlier, the parks service is responsible for 413 sites as of this week. the president announced a new one in the inventory. so bob stanton, over the course
of our lifetimes, the last part of the last century, americans became more aware of the need to not sanitize our history, to tell the complete and complex story. and that job fell largely on the parks service to do that at our historic sites. how did that evolution of telling the story happen inside the parks service? >> it happened inside in terms of employees understanding that they need to be more factual with respect to telling the full dimension of the american experience, drawing upon scholarship from, as an example, college universities, independent scholars, using the best of scholarship to reveal the full story of the events of the individual involved with that national park. but i must tell you also that
the american people felt that it was time to really reflect upon all of the circumstances that brought us into the 21st century in terms of the liberties and the freedoms we enjoy today. and as a result, through the efforts of the american public, congress enacted bills signed into law by presidents given the park service responsibility to commemorate areas that reflected some of the difficult of the controversial period in our history. so it has been really is response to the american people, a wanting to know what is the american experience in its totality. >> so that's twofold, acquiring new properties that help tell the story differently but also rethinking about the properties that we already have. so what's an experience that you've had where you've had to rethink and reinterpret for the public a site that you worked on? >> well, here at arlington house is a fascinating example.
we're very fortunate because of a donation by david rubenstein that we have a chance to look at the interpretation and how we tell the story. many generations who have visited here, especially early on, they learned about certain occupants and certain people who lived here. they learned about robert e. lee, george washington parke custis, their wives and children. this is a place where 80 people lived. and the majority of them, at least 63 on this plantation were enslaved african-americans. and we have to do a better job telling that story, that inclusive story about what it was like for those people, what their experiences were like and how the groups lived and worked together. you can't just tell one story. you can't just tell the lee and
the custis story inside the house and tell the slave story and the black story out back. they were all both places. it's really important for us that we tell that story all as one story of everyone together impacting everyone. >> one thing people may not know is how much scholarship really goes into the work of the staff and the volunteers who work at these sites. can you talk a little bit about the training that people go through before they meet the public in places like this. >> sure, absolutely. you're absolutely right. as much as some people like to, don't want to go on the first day on the job and talking to the public. it's good of to have some experience, shadow park rangers. we have an extensive library, hundreds of books here on every subject imaginable. but we have a dozen or so must reads that most of our staff and volunteers look at so they can
be well-versed of the occupant and the history that went on. we have folks who are doing the research for us. sometimes it's staff. but we have great relationships with certain universities around here, howard university, where we have ph.d. candidates and folks coming in spending a great deal of time and effort helping us perform the ground breaking research. we've worked with the park service a lot over our 37 years and you often meet rangers with masters degrees and ph.d.s who are spending their life helping americans learn their history. >> they're doing a fantastic job. and they recognize they need to stay abreast with new scholarship, as it were. and there have been many more use of primary materials that are revealing, some unknown or some untold stories. and historians and interpreters and preservationists stand fully abreast of those changes. i might just add -- this is a
philosophical view. there have been many areas added to the national park system within the past three, four decades that really commemorate some very difficult periods in our history. but i liken that unto the maturing of a people and a nation in that we can recognize and hopefully learn from some of the grievous mistakes that we've made. and we're not ashamed to tell the story, that we made some mistakes. brown versus board of education, little rock central high school, tuskegee airmen that we fought as a segregated military. we tell those stories in hope that we would gain from the -- and i would just conclude, we were very fortunate in the park service to have the volunteer leadership and contribution of one of america's most historians, the late dr. john hope franklin. and he observed that those
places that commemorate difficult chapters in our history is not places that we could allow ourselves to be wall low in remorse but rather be moved to a higher resolve to become better citizens. that's the bottom line. >> one specific question about this place again, over the past couple of years we seem to be in another period where we're examining as a nation as we feel about the people who fought in the civil war on the confederate side. there he's been the big debate in south carolina about the flying of the confederate flag. memorials are coming down, statues are coming down. but here we have a place recognizing robert e. lee. help me understand how you're in the midst of something that could be quite controversial and helping people learn. >> i first do want to clarify. we get that question a lot. why is there a memorial to robert e. lee. he lost. he was a traitor. and again the reason is because of what he did after the civil war in reconciliation,
reunification, ending the war, telling former confederates to embrace the union again and make the country great again basically. he really felt strongly about that. in terms of telling that story, we hope this can be a place for dialogue with a lot of new exhibits and interpretive opportunities here we want people to ask those questions. we want to hear what people think about these symbols and what they mean to them because they mean different things to different people. and we hope that -- here in the parks service we want to provide the context and create the dialogue for people to really be able to continue that conversation. it's a constant conversation. right now today it's the confederate flag. it could another thing in another five or ten years. >> i might add that in 1966 congress passed a bill signed into law by president johnson authorizing the national historic preservation act. the first time to have a comprehensive national program
to address the caring for or collective heritage resources, but also in caring for them is to tell the full dimension of the american experience. and by the way, we're celebrating the 50th anniversary of the national historic preservation act. it's a great opportunity for the american people to sort of reexamine where we've come in 50 years and where we'll be going in terms of the preservation and the interpretation and the understanding of our collective heritage. >> we often hear this is a uniquely american idea to preserve these spaces. is that really true? when you travel to other countries, which i know you've done extensively. >> it's attributed to an outstanding writer and philosopher. wallace stagner said the national park is the best idea one can debate. but what set the parks aside are different from other countries in that these were public parks
open to all who could come. where parks maybe had been established for a select audience. but these were the people's park. and that was the whole intent when congress first set aside yellow stone as our first national park. and subsequently yosemite came back to the federal jurisdiction. >> speaking of dialogues, we're hoping to have one with you in our program. we're going to open up the phone lines. eastern and central time zone viewers with 202-748-8900, mountain and pacific time zone viewers, 202-748-88901. dial that carefully so you get to us and not someone else. tweet us at c-span history or you can go to our facebook page, facebook.com/c-spanhistory. the dialogue is about the national parks service on its
centennial, any questions you might have about it, if you want to tell us about your favorite park that you visited and why it's important to preserve it. and if you have specific questions about arlington house, we're here to answer those as well. we're about to hear about charles syphax just briefly as we go into this bit of tape. who is he again? >> he was one of the enslaved african-americans here and was kind of one of the head housekeepers or butlers, if you will, keeping the house. and he's very significant long other things for who he married in that story here at arlington house. >> we're going to hear from stephen hammond who is very much involved in telling the story of his family members and also the others who worked here to put this whole place together, some 60-plus people for the lee family and we're going to learn more about how that history is
being preserved next. >> my name is steve hammond. i'm a retired department of interior employee. i worked for the u.s. geological survey for about 40 years. the geological survey is a sister agency to the national parks service. in my work there i actually was the deputy associate director for natural hazards, dealt with earthquakes, volcanoes, landslides, a variety of national disasters. my connection with the syphax family is an interesting one. my grandmother's brother was charles syphax who was a slave here. and we go way back in terms of their connection to mount vernon and the local area here. charles was a dower slave at martha washington's estate at mount vernon.
we believe he was born about 1791. he basically became kind of a support footman for george washington parke custis. he was living on the estate with his grandparents and he inherited arlington estate once martha died in 1802. about 1802 we believe that he actually had relations with a slave, airy carter, another dower slave at mount vernon, and together they had a daughter name mariah carter who ultimately married charles syphax here at the arlington estate in 1821. it's interesting that they both grew up here. charles, i think, as a young man had an affinity to watch mariah grow up who probably worked here at the house once she became of
age. interesting enough george washington parke custis allowed the couple to marry here at the house in the parlor which is unheard of in regard to a slave family that is actually owned. not too many times has that happened. they were married in 1821. shortly after that they began to have children. first child born in 1823, a second one in 1825. and shortly after the second child was born, william syphax w. george washington parke custis decided to sell mariah. the folklore in our family suggested that he simply freed mariah an her children and gave her 17 acres of property. but in the last several months we've found documents in the alexandria circuit courthouse that select that george
washington parke custis sold mariah and her two children to a quaker. quakers were really abolitionists in terms of war and slavery. it was their goal to free the slaves in the area. from the deed that we have here, in 1845 from william stapler, we know that they actually freed mariah and all of her children. but this deed dates back to a previous deed that her -- his father, edward state her who was the apothecary shop owner in alexandria and george washington parke custis struck in 1825 to actually free them. it's interesting because in the laws of the state at that time were such that if you were freed and you couldn't support yourself, you needed to leave the state in terms of being a freed slave. but george washington parke custis wanted mariah to be close by.
so if you follow my story here, her husband, charles syphax, was not freed. he continued to be a slave but mariah and her children were freed but were given 17 acres of property at the south end of arlington estate where they lived free for the rest of their lives. and as a result of having following children, all of them were born free as well. there are a couple of children that are very prominent in the family. one these children were freed, they had an opportunity for education. one of the prominent older children, second child, first son of the syphax is william. we know he was probably educated in alexandria arlington area as well as georgetown. he ultimately went to work for the department of the interior in the 1850s. he worked for a number of secretaries of the interior. and actually became a head
messenger for the department of the interior. and went on to become the first president of the colored trustees of the colored schools in washington, d.c. there are a number of ancestors and descendents of these folks, the syphaxes that have made a prominent impact on our country. one example is this tuskegee airmen. we had a number of women that went on to teach here and around the country. we have 30 that we know that attended howard university. several of which turned around and became teachers at howard university. we have a well-known surgeon, mickey syphax, who died a couple of years ago near the age of 1007 who was a prominent surgeon, professor teacher at howard university. and we have julian dixon who was
a congressman from california who passed away in 2000 but served in the u.s. congress for close to just over a decade. they have a long legacy here at arlington estate. in the 1860s, when the civil war began, the lees left the property. robert e. lee left, departed, became general in the virginia army. and his wife also left fearing that there would be problems with the federal government. arlington estate was taken over by the u.s. army. it was considered a strong hold, a way to protect washington, d.c. and so it was overrun by a number of u.s. army soldiers. the lees when they left this property asked the slaves to tend it, believing that they would return here after the war. had no idea how long the war would last but they felt that they would return.
as a result of that, several years later, the u.s. government modified the tax codes stating that owners of property needed to pay their taxes in person. well, mrs. lee could not pay her taxes in person. and as a result, the property was taken by the u.s. government as a result of taxes not being paid. in addition to that property being taken, the syphax property at the southern end of the estate was taken but there was no proof that they owned that property. so years later, about 1866, the syphax's oldest son had the opportunity to work with congress to make a plea to have the property returned. by the late -- mid-1866 the bill was taken up by the congress and
to this day we know that a bill was approved and signed by the president andrew johnson, i believe, in june of 1866, which returned 17 acres to mariah syphax to live there in perpetuity. so that's a big deal to the family knowing they had this compound but they couldn't prove that they owned it. but now we had congress to prove that this was their property. i've been doing family history for close to 40 years. it's really something that's a passion of mine. it's been something that my ancestors passed down to me in terms of understanding a little more about our history. and it's been really important to me and my cousins to basically pull together with the parks service, with the research staff at mount vernon, with the leadership of the white house historical association as well as with the new african-american history museum in washington, d.c. being opened by the
smithsonian just a month or two to work together to try to help tell a more clear, fully laid out story about the african-americans, and particularly the syphax family here at arlington. i believe that, while the story of robert e. lee and george washington parke custis is important, there are so much richer story in terms of the enslaved people that lived here. our goal is to really try to help inform the public about what actually occurred there. one of the things that we would like to do as a result of the land being taken away is to really recognize the lives and the efforts that people put into this. you know, one of the goals that i have for this is that one day we would be able to -- in the tours that we have here at arlington, to be able to say, this area over here is where they lived. they had a role along with many other enslaved americans who are free and have done things for
our country. >> on this 100th anniversary, we are live from arlington house, overlooking washington, d.c., talking about the park system and how it interacts with the american public to tell the american story. our guest, bob stanton, former director of the park service and brandon buys who spent his career in the national park service and is charged with reinterpreting this house, a big project over the next year. we will learn how he will do it. what an interesting story about the syphax family. we heard about how many family members and the community were part of re-telling the story. how much does that happen in other sites around the country where descendents are wanting to be part of retelling stories? >> it's a critical part of the story that's been told at a number of sites throughout the country. as well as sites that represent major events. for instance, take the tuskegee
airmen national historic site in tuskegee, alabama. many of the men who fought in the military as tuskegee airmen have been interviewed. they visit with the public there at the historic site, at many of the sites in which we have the commemoration of american indians, many of the indian tribes participate in the preservation and youth outreach program at those sites. it's something that we did not do -- i still say we, having spent 35 years with the park service. we did not do on a large scale scale many years ago but it's an important feature of how we interpret these stories in these areas. >> we have asked people to send us messages by facebook. we're going to start taking telephone calls. i wanted to mix in a couple of our facebook apps. how can the national park service better serve and engage
the public? here is a comment, for example. the national park service, says michael turenski, does a great job engaging americans at both kinds of parks. if americans better supported by lobbying the representatives and getting funding, those parks might be better maintains, and sustained and be better to visit. that's music to your ears. what is the relationship like with congress and in a time of tight budgets does the park service get its due? >> is someone i can defer this question to? >> you are retired so -- >> right. the question of budget is always a point of discussion. and one has to recognize that the national park service is a bureau within a department of the interior and within the executive branch.
and each department, each bureau within the department have to compete for discretionary federal funding. so it's incumbent upon the leadership of the park service with the support of the secretary and the president's office through office of management and budget to make the best case for its need. whether it be rehabilitation of the bridge which has been in the news recently or the preservation of the fragile ecosystem in the everglades, the magnificent structures at mesa verdi in colorado. all the parks have needs. the federal budget can be spread so far. it's incumbent upon the park service, secretary of the interior to make the best case for an increased budget. >> here is the flip side of that from sandra lamott who wrote, the park's management must recognize parks are for everybody, not just upper income and make access easier and less expensive.
as congressional support declined, fees have climbed to a point where one-third of the americans cannot afford the lodging or the campgrounds. a $20 or $25 entry fee is keeping people out of the parks. >> economic circumstances certainly has to be weighed in terms of trying to achieve full accessibility for all americans, all america. recognizing that congress, too, has attempted to give the park service new authorities. for instance, all recreational entrance fees that are paid by the visiting public now are retained 100% by the national park service to be used for resource preservation, enhancement of educational and recreational programs. so there's a direct benefit of the fees that the public pays. but also there's a recognition that some individual may not ever have the resources to travel from washington, d.c. to
grand titon. new areas have been added to the national park system in close proximity to urban centers. take for an example, gateway national recreation area in new york. santa monica in los angeles, in many cases those parks are within walking distance of a large, significant population. as a result of the american people saying we need to have parks to meet our outdoor educational, recreational needs and congress again representing the american people have responded by adding those areas to the park system. >> it costs money to visit arlington house? >> it does not. there's no cost to visit here. in fact, within the district of columbia, which we are just outside, no national parks charge fees for entry. i would say that i believe the majority of national parks, as in over half of them do not
charge fees. >> that's correct. >> so there should be a number of parks close to hopefully many, many people that they can visit with no fees. those parks that do collect fees, the fees do pay a critical role to the infrastructure in that 80% of the fees stay within the park to go right back to things that can help the visitors, new facilities, new trails, new exhibits. >> the other 20% is applied or made available to the parks that do not have the benefit of fees. >> we are wrapping up our first of two hours talking about the national park service on its centennial. it's time to mix in your phone calls. first one is from calvin in georgia. welcome to our conversation. >> caller: thank you. thanks for taking my call. this morning i was torn by the betrayal -- i think it was the
april 16 celebration of the 100-year of the national park service and i learned a heck of a lot about the national park service. but also my basic question is, is there an effort to capture volunteers for the national park service? i would very much like to be engaged in such as a retiree. i'm an avid fan of parks. i visited the cumberland park down on the coast of georgia. it's really on a barrier island and also the natural area here in atlanta in which i used to run a lot there and whatnot. my basic question is, is there an effort to capture volunteers for the national park service? if so, how can that be accomplished? >> yes, sir.
>> yes, sir. >> lots of head shaking. >> i am -- i want to commend you on your offer to be of service. yes, the national park service has the benefit of over 200,000 individual volunteers as well as many groups that make substantial contribution of their own skills and talents to the parks and enriching the visiting experience. if you have a particular park -- you mentioned chatahoochie, call the chief ranger or e-mail them or walk into the office and say, i want to volunteer. they will gladly accept your services. it's a question of how best to match your interest and your skill with the wide array of functions for which the park service is carried out in a given park area. >> if you go to the website nps.gov, you can search for a park by state. you can look at a map, get a list by state. look at those parks that are near you.
click on any park that's near you. there will be a contact page there. you send a message in there. i guarantee, you will get a response, because we are thirsty for volunteers. >> next up is will in tulsa. you are on our program. welcome. >> caller: thank you very much. i would like to say, happy centennial to the national park service. i have had the lovely experience of going to the grand canyon. i wasn't able to spend as much time as i would like. my question is, osage county, next to tulsa, native american lands, is there any prospect or hope that perhaps some of the prairie in the midwest can be saved for national park designation? i know it's boring, see a bunch of tall grass. the heritage is such that i would be interested.
thank you for the question. >> thank you. there is, in fact a tall grass prairie park. but obviously, it's a small representation of the vastness of tall grass throughout the midwest. there may be some areas that might warrant study to see whether or not the good could possibly be preserved either by the federal government, the state or by private interests. >> this is not always hearts and roses though. when a parcel of land -- when the government has its eye on one for preservation, you get into state issues and private property issues. how does that all get worked out? >> yes. it's interesting to note that there's two things that the national park service cannot do through its director. it cannot create a national park nor when a park gets created to divest its interest in preserving that park. parks are created through two
primary sources, through an act of congress, to pass a bill, sign into law, creating the park. or the president can exercise his authority under the act of 1906. it's an act which has been used extensively by president -- i think president roosevelt, one of the conservation legacies -- legends have used it in 19 times. i believe president obama used it. i was a member of clinton administration. president clinton used it i think 19 times. it has to go through that process. but interestingly enough, congress has enacted legislation that the park service can expend up to $25,000 for a reconnaissance-type of study to determine whether or not an area should be considered as an additional to the national park system. but only through an act of
congress can an official study be authorized to spend x number of dollars to do a feasibility, suitability study. >> we have a tweet here from a viewer called ska city. we will use it as a jumping off point for the broader topic. asking, have there been any confirmed mountain lion sightings on the appalachian trail in the past couple of years? is that something either of you would know? >> i could not -- >> let me ask you about the intersection of wild life in the parks and the people coming to see them. how you both keep the public from being in danger at the same time preserving and conserving the species that's part of the mission of the park service as well. >> it's a continuing challenge. the way to really counter, if you will, native animals and
people contact or conflict is to really acquaint the american public with what is expected of their conduct as a visitor to the park. parks are not zoos. and they are not tame animals. they are wildlife. in their own habitat. the american public has to be respectful of that. and through this educational orientation process, there has been a continual reduction in terms of the conflict between wild animals and people who really want to enjoy the wild animals in the habitats. >> now that everyone has cameras in the cell phones -- last time i was in yellowstone, i was amazed at people getting out of their car and getting what looked like awfully close to some of the wildlife that are not there for photo ops. >> that's true. we discourage -- i say we. the national park service discourages that. we understand that there is a tendency to get as close as possible to get the right shot
and say i saw a bison or elk in the native habitat. it's not encouraged. >> a lot of the examples people think of western parks. even here in the urban areas we have encounters. we had owls and foxes and we recently have coyotes confirmed on the property here just overlooking washington, d.c. in cases we have animals that get sick. we need to educate our visitors that the park service typically does is we allow the natural processes to move through. that's what's best for nature. we try to inform people of that and let them see things. but not rush in to save the day if there's a sick animal or something like that. >> david is watching us in new orleans. you are on, david. welcome. >> caller: hi. my question has to do with what you all refer to arlington house.
my question is, number one, when was it built? who built it? i've never been there personally. but from the images on television, it appears to be a monumental greek temple. i mean, where did that come from? >> thanks. we did tell a bit of that history which clearly you missed. if you could briefly tell us that. >> absolutely. i'm thrilled to take that. the house was built over a period of 1802 to 1818 by george washington park custis. it was built by a sizable number of enslaved african-americans as well as other laborers. it was designed by george hadfield who was an early designer of the u.s. capitol building. it is made to -- the greek revival style. it's a massive property. the room we are in is 18-foot ceilings. it was really made to look almost like a temple-like structure as a memorial monument
to george washington. >> washington, as you said, was a swamp at the time. how did the family survive the summers here? >> yeah. it was pretty hot. but they would sometimes, especially down by the river he sometimes the river was a blessing, but sometimes it was a curse. there could be cool breezes but also if you went down there was a lot of swamps and mosquitos. it was not always a pleasant place. they didn't have air conditioning back then. up here on this hill, there's a nice breeze sometimes. you open up the doors and windows in the front, the doors and windows in the back and you did the best you could. >> the family was connected to mount vernon. george washington was the step grandson of the first president. how long distance is it between here and mount vernon? how long would it take to travel there when he lived here? >> we're probably 15 miles or so north of mount vernon from here. there would have been accomplishable in a carriage
ride over a few hours. it wouldn't have been like it was today. but you could probably do that trip in less than half a day or so. the family, when they lived here, frequented alexandria, now old town alexandria, took carriages there, went to church there and so that's really probably about an hour carriage ride away from here. >> how long did martha washington survive the president? >> a year. >> she would have had been passed away and he wouldn't have been -- >> correct. by the time he began construction here in 1802, martha washington had passed away. >> julia is in california. you are on. >> caller: hi. thank you so much to the national park service for all of the wonderful things that they have done for all of us. i am so fortunate and a lot of times we look past the gifts that we have closest to us, that i live in colorado and we're approximately an hour from sequoia national park and kings canyon national park. i was there for my birthday.
this past weekend. ten years our city has had a shuttle for $15, you can go round trip from our city up there to sequoia national park where general sherman tree is. one of the challenges everyone faced up there was when the park service made the determination that they needed to go back to the natural state, because the giant sequoia trees, the root system was being threatened by the building and markets and the cabins there. they did an incredible job moving out -- it's a 24 acres of asphalt and buildings. so my question is, first of all, to thank you and happy birthday. we just had our 75th anniversary and 150th sequoia and kings national park. my question for you today is, i wonder what challenges face the national park service in the next 100 years. >> great. thank you for that question. don't spend too much time.
we will talk about that in more detail later on. what's the biggest challenge to the parks? >> i think we have alluded to on several occasions is that while we could argue that one of the challenges is budget, additional staff, invasive species and other adverse impacts on the preservational resources, the biggest challenge is to first recognize that we are a nation of over 300 million citizens of all walks of life, all backgrounds. we have the obligation to connect, at least provide opportunities for those citizens to connect with their heritage known as national parks or the national park system. there are many gaps in that connection. and that is a great challenge. it's ultimately the salvation, if you will, the park through individual citizen carrier. if we don't create that opportunity for them to have that connection with their own
parks, they will not be ultimate supporters or stewards of the parks. that is a continuing challenge. >> a tweet from yolanda paris who wants to know once they have a property, how do you figure out trails and allowing the trail system so that people can enjoy it and preserve the environment? >> the park service is given the responsibility to develop a park to meet the needs of the visiting public. and obviously has to be very sensitive to creating trails and other facilities that respect fellow citizens with disabilities. but any facility that is to develop in a park is subject to a planning process in which the american people, through the established procedures, have an opportunity to comment on the merits of that given area. in many instances, it might require an environmental assessment.
to some degree, it might require an environmental impact statement to reach a sound decision. and the public, if they're not satisfied with the decision reached through that process, can go to the courts. there have been many cases in which the american public, through their own right, have taken the park service to court saying that we do not believe it's an appropriate way to develop the park. but it's a public-involvement process. i cannot underscore enough the importance of public involvement in that process. >> we're going to go back to touring this house, arlington house. by the way, we should explain, this actually gave rise to the city that's right here, the name of this place. arlington came from? >> we believe it came from england originally. there's a town in england called arlington. there was the earl of arlington. that was the basis for the name of a plantation on the eastern shore. that was established many, many
years before this arlington when george washington park custis built this house here. he took the name, he borrowed the name from that arlington plantation on the eastern shore, brought it here, called it arlington, that then turned to arlington cemetery, arlington city and everything we call arlington here. >> a thriving area across the river from washington, d.c. we will go back to touring this place. matt will tell us more about the interpretation of robert e. lee's life here. let's listen. >> here we also have the one portrait of robert e. lee in the mansion. it shows him as a young officer. it's not the version most people expect. most think of robert e. lee at the great general. what arlington house represents is his life before the civil war. his family life, that he married his wife here, that six of their seven children were born here.
that this was the place he sacrificed to make the choice he did at the beginning of the civil war to side with virginia. to fight for a larger concept of what he considered to be his home and family. and that was virginia. but it came with a very knowing sacrifice. and while robert e. lee would be in the minds of many during that war and the years to follow, somewhat of a villain in history, labeled a traitor to his country by the u.s. government and still a controversial figure, many during his lifetime, including many officers and soldiers who fought for the union, respected lee in large part because of that sacrifice he was willing to make. and in fact, it was lewis crampton, a congressman from michigan whose father served who first proposed the legislation that would dedicate this house
as a memorial to robert e. lee. such was the respect given to him even by many of his enemies. as we come into here, this is the morning room. this is one of the oldest rooms in the house. also one of the most significant. it was built in 1804. and it was in 1811 that robert e. lee and his family first visited arlington. he was 4. mary custis, his future wife, was 2 1/2. so we like to think that this might have been the room when they first met. as children, as young children. there is a story and family tradition that suggest they were childhood sweethearts growing up. that as teenagers, they became romantic. but he suffered a number of tragedies in his early life. his father died when he was quite young.
his mother died right after he graduated from west point. he didn't inherit wealth, property. and so he had in many ways to take life very seriously from a young age. and devote himself to a career in the army. and so he went to west point, graduated second in his class. but following that, he turned his attention once again to miss mary custis at arlington and courted her and married her and became a part of this family. now this room then in many ways perhaps is the best room that symbolizes how he was connected to this place. almost his entire life. arlington meant something important to robert e. lee. almost all of it revolved around the relationship he had with his wife mary. now, mary and her father used this room in different ways. but especially as a painting studio. they were both passionate
artists. she did two of the paintings that you see next to the window over here to the left. but here is also where you see some of george washington park custis' important revolutionary war scenes. all of these paintings done to represent washington as the great hero of the revolution, the indispensable man. you see him on his white horse at the front of the army. literally within just a few feet of the lines of the british or germans in this case at the battle of trenton. these paintings glorified washington. and that was the purpose of his life. but it wasn't just to glorify washington. it was also to promote washington and his beliefs, his ideals and his values. when this country was first created in the years following
the american revolution, it was deeply divided. between the followers of the thomas jefferson who believed in limited national government, states' rights, the right to leave the union, the right of nullification, the right of armed rebellion of the government and the followers of washington who believed the opposite of those things. washington, a true nationalist, who believed this was a perpetual union. when custis started building the house in 1802, man who was president of the united states, thomas jefferson. so some believe he built this house on this prominent hill in this greek revival fashion out front almost as a way of thumbing his nose at jefferson across the river. that may be something of an exaggeration. but he definitely meant this place to make a political statement. he declared this house a federalist house. this was to represent all the beliefs and ideals of george
washington. and that included, once again, the idea that this nation would exist forever. and that no state had a right to leave it. so how ironic is it that that man's daughter would marry robert e. lee who became the great confederate general and perhaps the man who came closest than any other man in history to destroying the nation that was created in the american revolution? and it was in the room just through that doorway that robert e. lee made that choice. he made that decision to side with virginia, to leave the union. he was a u.s. army officer, 32 years. he spent four years at west point. he spent his entire adult life in the service of the united states army. he loved his country. and he also believed in preserving the union.
but when virginia left the union, he could not fight a war against home and family. that's how he stated it in letter after letter after letter. he had great conflict in his heart and his soul over making this decision. but in the end, that was the only choice he felt he could make. but one of the aspects of that decision that made it so consequential was that lee was first offered command of federal troops. president lincoln wanted him to command what would become the union army. the army that would cross the river, suppress rebellion in virginia and save the union. and lee turned it down. that decision would be in many ways a great pivotal moment in american history. many historians believe if lee
had chosen to accept president lincoln's offer the war would have been shorter. certainly, hundreds of thousands of lives would have been spared. at the same time, the great political change and cultural change, social change that occurred in this country because of that war and including the obolition of slavery might not have happened or happened differently. we will never know. it's one of those unanswerable questions. but it's very clear that the decision robert e. lee made in that room had a profound influence on the course of american history. he did not know that. he had no way of predicting that, of course. but one thing he did know that was very clear, because that view out front, he knew the union army had to take over arlington to defend washington. arlington may have been one of the most important properties in the entire country, because whichever army controlled it the heights here at arlington controlled the fate of the
nation's capitol. it had to be held at all costs by the united states army. lee knew that. and so he expected when he left here two days after resigning that his family was likely to lose their home. his wife had hopes that they would be able to return here once the war was over. but by the end of that first summer, when most americans became more and more aware of the fact that this war was not going to be short, it was going to be terrible, it was going to be long, it was going to be bloody, the lees became more and more resigned to the fact that they would never live in their home again. and they never did. >> you are hearing the story of the robert e. lee family who were the occupants of this house. lost it during the civil war. thanks for being with us on american history tv. our special guests for this two-hour live program from arlington house overlooking washington, d.c. are bob
stanton, former director of the national park service. spent his life in conservation of american history. even though he is retired, you are still involved in all this. >> i'm working on it. >> and brandon bies, with the national park service and has the task of restoring this place. someone walked in now, it looks a little ragged around the edges. one day david rubenstein, co-founder of the carlisle group, is very wealthy man who has become a philanthropist in washington, walked in here and what did he do? >> he walked in here and saw the same thing. fortunately for us, he contacted the director of the national park service and said, this is a significant historic home for america. the stories that it tells. how can i help? ultimately, he wanted to make this place perfect and asked us what did we need. so we were incredibly fortunate that we were able to really tailor our specific needs for all kinds of things for museum
objects and for the physical fix, not just to the building but to the grounds and gardens. we were able to present that and he very generously donated $12.35 million to make that happen. >> over $12 million. which time frame? how long did you have to do this? >> so we're hoping to get started with work in early of next year. most likely in the springtime frame is when we're going to get started with the work. we have been working for the last year or so going through the planning process. i know that never sounds like fun. but in a very sensitive historic place like this, you can't just run in right away and start with the construction. you have to go through reviews, consult with historians, go through various commissions and approval processes. so we're in the midst, we're finalizing that right now. we're hopeful in may of next year is when we're going to get started with the real bricks and mortar construction. that's going to take about a year. then after that is done, we will
start to reopen the site. but there's more work to be done once the bricks and mortar work is done. we have to put in new exhibits and new outdoor signage and things like that. when this is all said and done in another year or so, it is going to completely transform this place. >> you talked about one of the major tasks is going to be better interpreting the lives of the enslaved people who were very much a part of this history. what about the lee family itself? what point in time will you choose to tell their story? >> that's a great question. our enabling legislation actually directs that. that's one of the things when congress establishes national parks, when they established arlington house, they should it should be restored and interpreted the period just before or on the eve of the civil war. so this house will look like the paint colors, the rooms, the objects in the rooms, will -- it will be that period really on the eve of lee's resignation. that will be the period the house will look like. but we have that difficult task of telling the story of what
this place was like and people who lived here in some cases 60 years before that. >> we have moved a lot of it. thank you for letting us do that. there's a lot of furniture in the house. one of the neat things when you read about the history of this place is that a lot of the people who took objects from the house returned them to the national park service when you began to try to tell the story. can you talk about that? >> absolutely. many objects disappeared over time. keep in mind, so many of the objects in this house had their ties to mount vernon. that's where the washington treasury as we call it, the bed washington died on, very significant pieces, china from mount vernon, during the civil war, this area was occupied for the entire war essentially by union soldiers. for souvenirs, they took things. we have many instances in the years after the war and more recently where people found in their family collections objects that were taken from arlington house or objects that maybe they
had had -- we have examples of objects held by the families of the enslaved african-americans who were here who have -- we have been able to bring back to this place. that's one of the things we're excited about during this restoration project is having the funds to locate and potentially purchase some of the original objects and bring them back to this house. >> our phone lines are open. we will be here for half an hour more. we would like to hear questions or comments about the national park system, what your concerns are about how it does its job of interpreting our american story. or if you want to tell us a story about a park you visited, we will listen. there's a conversation going on facebook about your favorite park and why and/or what the park service might do to better engage with the american public. to that end, i want to read this facebook posting. the young people of today want to touch, feel and interact with history. seeing doesn't satisfy their needs. do more interactive programs.
>> we're going to do that. one of the things we're planning -- we can accomplish that in a few ways. we're going to be putting in somewhat we call tactile exhibits. these are places where people can touch either reproduction items or can see a sign and maybe feel a model of what the plantation looked like. we're even talking about putting a map on the ground here that will be a colorized map outside in the rear yard of what this plantation looked like. there will be opportunities for people to interact and to also be able to leave a little bit of them here. again, we want to facilitate that dialogue. we want people to come here and have the opportunity to maybe leave a little video of themselves or a note or something that talks about what this site means for them. another way that we're going to facilitate is through online exhibits, the ability to see parts of arlington house that maybe you can't physically get to but you can use an ipad to zoom in on an object in a room. we can't have people touching
some of these objects. but we can use ipads for people to hold on to and zoom in close to see details. >> beyond the work done here, ian says i would love virtual reality recordings that give a flavor of the attractions allowing millions of us that will never be able to visit them for various reasons. is the park service getting involved in allowing people to experience it virtually rather than going to parks? >> yes. but perhaps not to the scale that we all are seeking. and to use today's technology, particularly connecting with new audiences, particularly with our youth. we have the responsibility to maximize the use of technology. one would not subject, however, that we will not continue to encourage to the extent possible, all people visiting their national park nearby or at a distance, but to compensate
for that virtual reality, the use of modern technology is a measure towards that end. >> i want to talk to you about private philanthropy. over the course of the history of the national parks, what has been the role of not just in this age but in earlier ages of private citizens and helping the mission of the national park service? >> it has been integral to the acquisition, development and operation of national parks. one would think initially about the rockefeller family making substantial donations of land and grand titon national park, gray smoke and another park where i had the opportunity to work, virgin islands national park, a substantial contribution of land there. but in addition to that, here in
the nation's capitol, the -- i think of two major example. the frederick douglass home. located on a 14 acre estate was entirely donated by an organization founded by his second wife. think about wolf trap farm park for the performing arts. the land and construction costs for lane center was donated in full. so there are many classic examples in which many of the parks that we enjoy today came to us from private individual or from organizations that had a civic approach to conservation and preservation. >> do you get checks from people who don't have a lot of means? small donations from people as well? >> no question about that. i don't know what the dollar level is, but the federal government and the park service in particular is authorized to
accept donations unilaterally. also, congress in 1967 established the national park foundation which is the arm of the national park service. it has raised and continues to raise substantial sums of dollars. i think the target during the centennial year is for foundation to raise from the private sector from individuals and various organizations i believe in the neighborhood of $350 million that will be used by the national park service for preservation, interpretation, education. donations, major gifts have been integral to the park system. i think that will continue. >> how do you balance access and protection? we said this is the most visited of the historic houses.
when you think about redoing it and the numbers of people in this place, how do you balance those? >> it's really tough. we want people to see these places. 650,000 people a year, we can do a million. we know we have well over a million people walking around the grounds here. at the same time, this is a 200-year-old house. you really have to balance that. we're looking at bringing people into certain parts of the house that can handle more foot traffic. but then do special guided tours to certain areas or having virtual tours available for certain areas, because we really have an issue we call a caring capacity. that stands in historic homes but also for trails and places like that where it's an issue across the park service. we don't want our parks to be loved to death. we want people to be able to come and enjoy them and not -- people need to be able to see the treasurers. >> how frequently do you have
timed visitations? that's another way of controlling crowd access. >> that's correct. i think that's in place at the washington monument now. you are pre-ticketed for the washington monument. that was the case in terms of visitation to the white house. there are a number of parks that have a structured process of how to effectively and efficiently move people through that park. the interesting point i would like to make about visitation and about impact is that that there are many parks not widely known but yet they are a significant aspect of our heritage. it's incumbent upon the park service to make information available on the park and to encourage people to visit lesser known parks. also if you have a park such as yellowstone -- everybody going to yellowstone wants to go to old faithful. notwithstanding yellowstone is 2.2 million acres and roughly
90% of that don't see many people. you try to encourage people, well, maybe not old faithful this year, why not this part of the park? it's an educational and encouragement process. >> next is leslie in california. >> caller: hi. i have a memory story for you. was the arlington house known as the lee mansion? i believe i was 9 and my family and i came from buffalo, new york, and saw washington and went to the lee mansion. and i believe -- i think i saw it as i'm sitting here watching the program -- there was a doll in a little girl's bedroom upstairs in the cradle. >> wow. what a good memory you have. my goodness. why did -- because you were young that doll resonated with you? >> caller: i love dolls. my dad said i had a memory like an elephant. lm