Mu­seum cel­e­brates ‘un­sung heroes’

York­town fa­cil­ity opened Satur­day

The Washington Times Daily - - METRO - BY ERIC ALTHOFF

YORK­TOWN, VA. | Vir­ginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe on Satur­day ded­i­cated the Amer­i­can Mu­seum of the Rev­o­lu­tion at York­town, not far from where Bri­tish Gen. Charles Corn­wal­lis sur­ren­dered his forces to Gen. Ge­orge Washington in Oc­to­ber 1781 — pre­sag­ing the end of the Amer­i­can war for in­de­pen­dence from the Crown.

“When we think about the Amer­i­can Rev­o­lu­tion, you think about Ge­orge Washington and the Bos­ton Tea Party, but what you are go­ing to see in this mu­seum is [how] or­di­nary peo­ple you don’t hear about are the un­sung heroes,” Mr. McAuliffe said dur­ing the ded­i­ca­tion cer­e­mony. “They will be [hon­ored] by this great mu­seum.”

The mu­seum of­fi­cially opened Satur­day fol­low­ing a 10-year, $50 mil­lion cam­paign to trans­form the York­town Vic­tory Cen­ter into a state-of-the-art in­ter­ac­tive fa­cil­ity fea­tur­ing ar­ti­facts and ex­hibits about the era be­tween the set­tle­ment of the nearby English set­tle­ment of Jamestown in 1607 and the sign­ing of the Treaty of Paris in 1783, of­fi­cially rec­og­niz­ing the new United States by Great Bri­tain.

“We would not have won the war were it not for the French,” Mr. McAuliffe said in trib­ute to the forces of King Louis XVI, who cast their lot with the colonists against their tra­di­tional en­emy across the English Chan­nel.

Mr. McAuliffe proudly told the crowd he lives in the “oldest gover­nor’s man­sion in the coun­try,” and touted the man­sion’s Lafayette Room, named in honor of the Mar­quis de Lafayette, a cru­cial French ally of the Colo­nial Army and who was present dur­ing the victorious Bat­tle of York­town.

Col. Thierry Casanova, a rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the French Em­bassy in Washington, told the crowd it was an honor to “walk in the steps of so many il­lus­tri­ous French who came be­fore us.”

“Two ar­mies faced each other here, and by the for­tune of war, this coali­tion of our coun­tries won this bat­tle of the Rev­o­lu­tion­ary War,” Col. Casanova said, adding that the two na­tions would later be al­lies in both world wars of the 20th cen­tury.

The Rev. Car­leton B. Bakkum, rec­tor of Grace Epis­co­pal Church in York­town, of­fered a prayer dur­ing the cer­e­mony pay­ing trib­ute to Vir­ginia’s long, com­pli­cated his­tory. Mr. Bakkum spoke of the Amer­i­can In­di­ans who lived in the area long be­fore it was a colony or a com­mon­wealth, as well as the mil­lions of en­slaved Africans whose labors were cru­cial to the build­ing of early Amer­ica. (The mu­seum of­fers ex­hibits on Amer­i­can In­di­ans and African Amer­i­cans who fought in the Rev­o­lu­tion.)

Mr. McAuliffe, a Demo­crat, ded­i­cated the mu­seum in honor of Nick and Mary Mathews, Greek-Amer­i­can im­mi­grants who met in New York and re­lo­cated to the “His­toric Tri­an­gle” area of Vir­ginia in 1944 — Jamestown, Wil­liams­burg and York­town. The Mathews pro­vided sub­stan­tial fund­ing to the Jamestown-York­town Foun­da­tion, and do­nated the land on which the mu­seum sits.

“They were poor, but they were hon­est, hard­work­ing folks,” Mr. McAuliffe said of the Mathews, whose restau­rant, Nick’s Seafood Pav­il­ion, re­mains a York­town in­sti­tu­tion to­day. “They fell in love with the charm of York­town.”

Mr. McAuliffe re­lated how the Mathews were renowned for al­low­ing mil­i­tary per­son­nel to dine for free in their restau­rant, and they were the first nat­u­ral­ized U.S. cit­i­zens to spon­sor a Navy ves­sel, the USS York­town. Mary Mathews was known to wave an Amer­i­can flag as the York­town cruised by on the York River, which would play “God Bless Amer­ica” from the decks as she passed by the Mathews’ prop­erty.

The 29th In­fantry Di­vi­sion Band of the Vir­ginia Army Na­tional Guard per­formed at the cer­e­mony. Mr. McAuliffe noted that Vir­ginia is the first state to have ended mil­i­tary vet­eran home­less­ness.

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