Life-size replicas of founding documents coming to Albemarle

Published 10:04 am Monday, November 16, 2020

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Fans of American history soon won’t have to leave the county to be able to view the founding documents that helped create the nation.

Thanks to Foundation Forward, Inc., a N.C.-based educational non-profit, life-size replicas of the United States Constitution, Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights, also known as the Charters of Freedom, are in the process of being built in Albemarle. The documents will be engraved on quarter-inch thick bronze tablets in shatter-proof glass and will be located across from the Stanly County History Museum on the lawn in front of city hall.

Foundation Forward, which was founded by Vance and Mary Jo Patterson, has already built 32 Charter of Freedom settings across the country, including 20 in North Carolina. The couple was inspired to bring the founding documents to people around the country after first seeing them in person at the National Archives in Washington, D.C. in 2011. The first Charters of Freedom setting was completed in Morganton three years later.

“There are a lot of people who can’t afford to go to Washington, D.C. or they might have some kind of physical handicap where they can’t make the trip and so this allows them to go and experience it right in their hometown,” said Mike Unruh, director of communications and resources at Foundation Forward.

The organization first approached the city about building the setting last spring, in conjunction with performances of  “1776 the Musical,” a Broadway-quality production, that the group organized at the Agri-Civic Center.

The plan was for construction to start in the summer, but the coronavirus pandemic delayed the operation. Unruh said construction should begin sometime within the next month, with the official dedication ceremony tentatively scheduled to happen in late spring or early summer of next year.

A 14-member steering committee has been set up and includes Mayor Ronnie Michael and Mayor-Pro Tem Martha Sue Hall.

The steering committee is working to educate the community about the Charters of Freedom, including contacting people who could help aide in the development and prepare for the dedication next year.

“This setting in Albemarle is going to be a gift to all citizens in Stanly County,” Unruh said.

The display will be composed of the same brick facade as the city hall. The documents will be enclosed in a permanent setting that is built to last more than 300 years, he added.

Legacy pavers will also be installed in front of the Charters of Freedom setting for citizens to honor loved ones, active duty military or veterans, first responders, businesses or organizations.

The site will also feature a time capsule containing letters from citizens, memorabilia from local groups and a signed list of everyone in attendance at the dedication. A smaller ceremony will be conducted after the dedication for the sealing of the capsule.

People from all across the country donate to the group, Unruh said, so there will be no direct cost to Stanly taxpayers.

“Any funds that get donated, those go into a general fundraising pot to pay it forward so that we can continue building these settings in other communities that may be less fortunate,” he said.

The group’s short-term goal is to place similar displays in all 100 counties in the state, while it’s long-term goal is to place displays in all 3,142 jurisdictions across the country over the next decade.

Hall believes the setting will help bring more people to downtown Albemarle.

“It is my hope that people who come downtown for any reason will just walk and then find their way to the Charters of Freedom, to the front steps of city hall,” she said.

She added that she also anticipates that students studying American history or civics will visit the display.

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About Chris Miller

Chris Miller has been with the SNAP since January 2019. He is a graduate of NC State and received his Master's in Journalism from the University of Maryland. He previously wrote for the Capital News Service in Annapolis, where many of his stories on immigration and culture were published in national papers via the AP wire.

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