HOUSE IN THE HORSESHOE: Historic site's signature event goes forward as closure threat remains
Featuring yet another element honoring the former plantation's past, the annual reenactment at the House in the Horseshoe State Historic Site is set for this coming weekend. Some fear it might be the last.
The historic Revolutionary War site has been scheduled for gradual closure and partial staff cuts for each of the last three years. Those cuts all eventually have been taken out of the budget, but this year's proposed cut is the largest one yet: It would completely shut down the site.
Yet the state-run Department of Cultural Resources has argued against efforts to shut down this or any other historic site. The department noted that accessibility to locations like the House in the Horseshoe allow experts to "preserve, document and interpret North Carolina's rich cultural heritage to offer experiences of learning and reflection," while also offering "education for young and old alike and spurring the economic stimulus engine for our state's communities."
The reenactment, which will be held Aug. 2 and 3, is considered by historians and the re-enactors themselves to be one of the most accurate ones in the entire country. It's one of few Revolutionary War sites to have survived the test of time nearly unchanged, resting in a horseshoe-shaped bend in the Deep River in eastern Moore County.
The reenactment depicts a 1781 skirmish between the local militia commanded by Col. Philip Alston, who owned the plantation, and a pro-British group who attacked the home and tried to burn it down.
Site director Alex Cameron said in an email that although the site already is one of the most popular in the state, with more than 20,000 visitors a year, he and other supporters are pushing for this year's reenactments to be one of the biggest events ever — as a message to those who want to shut it down.
"With all the threat of closure, this event is vital now more than ever," Cameron said. "We have been trying to [steadily] prove the relevance of this site to all the citizens and continue to grow the event."
The reenactment also has been named one of the top must-see events in the entire southeastern U.S. during the month of August by the Southeast Tourism Society.
The site, which is handicap-accessible, is open to visitors all year for self-guided tours. Next weekend, the reenactment activities will last from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday. The reenactment itself will start at 4 p.m. Saturday and again at 2 p.m. Sunday.
And for the first time ever, the le Marquis de Lafayette Chapter of the North Carolina Sons of the American Revolution will perform a ceremony, at 10 a.m. Saturday, honoring former Gov. Benjamin Williams, an early pro-independence politician and Colonial Army officer who owned the plantation from 1798 until his death in 1814 and is buried there.
The plan to shutter the site only is included in one version of the state budget, advanced by the Senate. The budget plans submitted by the House of Representatives and by Gov. Pat McCrory both would keep the site open. And local Rep. Mike Stone (R-Lee/Harnett) previously has told The Herald that he and his colleagues in the House plan to fight to keep the site open.
"I'll be working diligently to save it," Stone said last month when the planned cut was first announced.
The house costs $150,000 a year to operate, which accounts for about 0.000007 percent of the $21 billion state budget. And even some of the most ardent small-government politicians in the area — including Stone and Lee County Commissioner Kirk Smith, who also is a re-enactor on the loyalist side — say that's money well spent.
"It's the original site," Smith said previously. "It is a key component of our history, and I'd like to see it maintained by the state."
WHAT: Revolutionary War battle reenactment
WHEN: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Aug. 2 and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Aug. 3, with the reenactment itself occurring at 4 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday
WHERE: House in the Horseshoe State Historic Site, 288 Alston House Road, Sanford, N.C. 27330
ADMISSION: Free, although donations are welcome