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Virginia’s historic Natural Bridge is for sale

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Print this page By Paula C. Squires

Natural Bridge, one of Virginia’s most famous historic landmarks, is on the market again.

Principal owner Angelo Puglisi has retained Roanoke-based Woltz & Associates to market and sell the 215-foot-high bridge, the 150-room hotel, Natural Bridge Caverns and about 1,600 acres. 
"A lot of people probably don't even realize the Natural Bridge, one of the natural wonders of the world, is privately owned, and it is a great honor to be entrusted with this treasure," Jim Woltz, president of Woltz & Associates, said in a statement.

Puglisi and a group of other owners, all reportedly in their 80s, first put the property up for sale in April 2007 with an asking price of $32 million, but there were no takers.

“It’s a much more favorable environment now,” Carl Carter, a spokesman for Woltz, said in an interview with Virginia Business.

Also, the owners are willing to sell the property in pieces. “There’s a good possibility that it will go to multiple buyers. We’re going to offer it in a configuration that gives people the most flexibility,” Carter said.

The property will be marketed aggressively in the U.S. and internationally, he added. “We’ll be carrying out a very extensive campaign with advertising to the tourism and hospitality industry.”
Richard Lewis, public relations manager for the Va. Tourism Corp, said in an email that the state's tourism agency "would have no interest in buying the property but we have and will continue to be active in promoting it as a Virginia attraction."

According to Natural Bridge, 200,000 people visit the arched 90-foot span in Rockbridge County a year. The history behind the arch is a big draw.

In 1774, two years before the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson purchased the Natural Bridge from King George III for 20 shillings, It attracted visitors from all over the world in the 18th and 19th centuries. The bridge -- 23 stories of solid rock -- was named a national landmark in 1998.

Before Jefferson purchased the property, it is believed that George Washington visited Natural Bridge in 1750 as a surveyor on business for Lord Thomas Fairfax. Some people believe the initials GW carved on the bridge wall were the initials of the first president of the United States.

Beneath the bridge are the Natural Bridge caverns, a tourist draw in their own right. The Natural Bridge Wax Museum offers scenes of Washington, Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin and other historical figures.As many as 150 employees work at the attractions during the peak summer tourist season.

“Together, these significant attractions and the hotel, coupled with the surrounding 1,600 acres … create a very unique opportunity for investors, hotel/attraction operators, conservation easement buyers and state and national parks,” said Woltz.

Woltz noted in his remarks that Puglisi, a resident of the Washington, D.C., area, “has been a wonderful, caring owner of this property for over a quarter of a century. He has set a goal to find a new, trustworthy steward of the bridge for the generations to come.”

According to Woltz’s chronology, Puglisi’s father immigrated from Italy to the U.S. in 1901 and settled in D.C. When the opportunity to purchase Natural Bridge presented itself in the 1980s, Angelo bought a major interest in the property “with reverent respect to Thomas Jefferson and the founding fathers, who helped create the land of opportunity where he himself had his beginning.”

Carter said about half of the sales for the Woltz real estate firm comes from listings and the other half from auctions. “We do a lot of properties with historic significance, but I can’t think of anything that’s been in this class.”

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