The Land Report

Spring 2014

The Magazine of the American Landowner is an essential guide for investors, landowners, and those interested in buying or selling land. The award-winning quarterly is known for its annual survey of America's largest landowners, The Land Report 100.

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58 The LandReport | S P R I N G 20 1 4 LANDREPORT.COM I n 1774, two years before he penned the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson purchased Virginia's Natural Bridge from King George III. Jefferson's goal? To ensure public access to the natural wonder he described as "the most sublime of nature's works." And the total cost to the 31-year-old Virginian? Some 20 shillings. In 2013, Angelo Puglisi (right), the son of Italian immigrants and the owner the Natural Bridge since 1988, donated this national landmark to the citizens of the Commonwealth of Virginia. The estimated value of the 88-year-old Washingtonian's gift? $21 million. Puglisi's noble donation, one that honors Jefferson, our Founding Fathers, and the country that afforded the Puglisis endless opportunities and freedoms, is a stirring story in itself, for the Bridge is no ordinary collection of metes and bounds. It has been admired by presidents, celebrated by artists, and featured in classics such as Moby Dick. Furthermore, Puglisi's generosity required an extraordinarily complex series of transac- tions, ones that tested a team of seasoned pros racing against the clock. For these reasons and to salute a timeless legacy that will be shared by millions of Virginians and Americans in perpetuity, Angelo Puglisi's gift of the Natural Bridge has been selected as The Land Report 2013 Deal of the Year. To the Native American Monacan tribe, it was the Bridge of God, a sacred site, where their forefathers defeated the Powhatans in battle. Centuries later, legend has it that a youthful George Washington surveyed the Bridge while in the employ of Lord Fairfax. The Sage of Monticello was so taken by the Bridge that he bought the landmark and a total of 157 acres from the Crown. Jefferson's description of his purchase bears little improvement: "It is on the assent of a hill, which seems to have been cloven through its length by some great convulsion. The fissure, just at the bridge, is, by some admeasurements, 270 feet deep, by others only 205. It is about 40 feet wide at the bottom, and 90 feet at the top … The fissure … opens a short but very pleasing view of the North mountain on one side and Blue ridge on the other … This bridge is in the county of Rock bridge, to which it has given name and affords a public and com- modious passage over a valley which cannot be crossed elsewhere for a considerable distance. The stream passing under it is called Cedar creek. It is a water of James river, and sufficient in the driest seasons to turn a grist-mill, though its fountain is not more than two miles above." Jefferson built a two-room cabin for his guests, which would include James Monroe, Henry Clay, and Sam Houston. By the end of the 1700s, the Bridge was attracting the curious from America and abroad. In 1833, after Jefferson's heirs sold the site, the new owner erected the Forest Inn to welcome an ever-increasing number of visitors. By the 1880s, the Bridge and the nearby Rockbridge Inn, owned by Colonel Henry Parson, had become a popular resort. By the time President and Mrs. William McKinley visited in 1899, the Bridge was considered one of the Seven Wonders of the New World. In Moby Dick, Herman Melville likened his great white whale to the Bridge. Countless landscape painters, including David Johnson and Frederic Edwin Church (opposite), memorialized it on canvas. DEAL OF THE YEAR 2013 T H E L A N D R E P O R T T h e L a n d R e p o r t 2 0 1 3 D e a l o f t h e Y e a r Te xt by Henry Chappell The Donation of One of the Seven Wonders of the New World Takes Top Honors as The Land Report 2013 Deal of the Year. The Natural Bridge Angelo Puglisi 58-62 [2014.1] Natural Bridge_Layout 1 3/14/14 4:15 PM Page 58

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