| RICHMOND, Va.
RICHMOND, Va. Feb 6 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
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 (650 hectares). Financial details were
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 the Bridge.
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.
The site was a popular destination for tourists in the 18th
and 19th centuries and ranked with Niagara Falls as a must-see
The Bridge is a Virginia Historic Landmark as well as a
National Historic Landmark.
(Reporting by Gary Robertson; Editing by Ian Simpson)