In 1997 the National Park Service and the Smithsonian Institution began to develop a proposal at Manassas National Battlefield Park to mitigate the loss of wetlands resulting from the construction of the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, a National Air and Space Museum facility at Washington Dulles International Airport. The two agencies selected a heavily disturbed area here near Stuart's Hill, the site of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee's headquarters during the Second Battle of Manassas in August 1862. A development company had graded nearly 125 acres for a proposed mixed-use project, but public outcry led the U.S. Congress to pass legislation in the fall of 1988, seizing the property and saving it from further development.
A 1993 study by the University of Georgia School of Environmental Design proposed restoring the land and its vegetative cover to 1860s conditions. Without funding for implementation, however, the study remained shelved for nearly a decade. Consultants for the Smithsonian used these earlier findings to refine plans for restoring the landscape and its wetlands. With funding from the Commonwealth of Virginia, restoration work began in 2003. Environmental Quality Resources, LLC, re-contoured more than 100 acres and restored drainage patters, forming about 30 acres of emergent wetlands, 15 acres of forested wetlands, and native warm season grass meadows. The resultant project, completed in November 2003, represented a unique fusion of history and science meeting the resource management needs of both the Smithsonian and the park.