RICHMOND, Virginia (Reuters) — Virginia's
Natural Bridge, a soaring landmark bearing George Washington's initials
and once owned by Thomas Jefferson, has been sold to a conservation
group, a real estate firm said on Thursday.
One of the oldest U.S. tourist attractions, the 215-foot-high
(65.5-meter-high) limestone feature in western Virginia was
purchased by the Virginia Conservation Legacy Fund, which said it
would eventually turn it over to the state park system.
The sale by Washington real estate developer Angelo Puglisi, who has
owned the site since 1988, includes a 150-room hotel, caverns and
1,600 acres. Financial details were not released.
Woltz & Associates, a Roanoke, Virginia, real estate company that
handled the sale, said in November that a tentative agreement on the
Bridge and its surrounding properties had been reached with a
non-profit conservation organization. The accord negated plans to
auction off the site in December.
Under the plan, Puglisi donated the bridge and 188 of the
surrounding acres, valued at about $21 million, to the Virginia
Conservation Legacy Fund. The Fund purchased the remaining land and
assets through a loan. Once repaid, the group plans to turn over the
whole site to the Virginia state park system.
Washington, the first U.S. president, is thought to have surveyed
the site as a young man. His initials are carved into the wall of
Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence and the third
president, bought the property from the British crown and built a
log cabin on it. It has since been in private hands.