Battle lines at Valley Forge

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Residents of Lower Providence Township who live next to Valley Forge are feeling like George Washington at the Battle of the Brandywine - completely outflanked.
"It's disturbing how secretive this has been," said Craig Crawford, whose home is next door to the park. "Why wasn't this in a township newsletter? The public is not aware of what's going on, and it seems like it's a done deal."

This anger, verging on rage, is directed at what many neighbors regard as dramatically expanded plans for the proposed American Revolution Center. The privately owned Revolutionary War museum would be the first in the nation to tell the entire history of the war, complete with an extensive collection of artifacts, documents, and other material.

Under the new plan, the complex, to be built on 78 privately owned acres within the official boundaries of Valley Forge National Historical Park, would include a 131,000-square-foot museum, a three-story hotel, a tavern and restaurant, a conference center, a dormitory for visiting scholars, a small campground, and other amenities.

"This is Valley Forge, for crying out loud," said Don Naimoli, a former officer of Girard Trust Bank and a longtime park volunteer. "What went on over there is still a national symbol, and we need to protect that heritage."

Center officials argue that much of the concern is unwarranted because it is based on misunderstandings and erroneous information. No harm is intended, they say.

"We have written an ordinance that allows a museum and the important things that go along with a museum," said Neil Sklaroff, the attorney for the project. "This is not commercialization."

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