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Residents Fight Plan to Build Supermarket on ‘Uncle Sam’ Home.

October 25, 1990

TROY, N.Y. (AP) _ Residents are fighting plans to build a supermarket near the homestead of Samuel Wilson, the Army meat inspector during the War of 1812 whose name, legend has it, gave rise to the term Uncle Sam for the United States.

Opponents of a planned $8 million supermarket near the remains of Wilson’s home claim the store would spoil the historic site and destroy the only wilderness park in one of the nation’s oldest industrial centers.

The four acres the city wants to sell are a wooded area unique in Troy, a city about 10 miles north of Albany on the Hudson River that was a pioneer in the U.S. steel industry.

″There’s a lot of people who grew up near there who use the park as a relief from the city, a place where nature rules instead of man,″ Jim Lewis, who organized a protest against the supermarket in August, said Wednesday.

State and federal officials last week rejected Troy’s plan to sell the land to Hannaford Bros. of Maine, which wants to build a Super Shop ‘n’ Save there.

City officials and Hannaford are still seeking approval of the sale.

Hannaford already owns four nearby acres that include the foundation for Wilson’s home. Supermarket spokesman Stephen Culver said Hannaford cannot build without the city’s four acres.

Wilson was an inspector who stamped the initials ″U.S.″ on barrels of salted meat. Legend has it troops claimed that stood for Uncle Sam, and the name caught on as a symbol of the Army and then as a national nickname to counter that of England’s John Bull.

The state Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation office denied the sale because of the visual and environmental impact the supermarket would have on the park, said Gus Thompson, deputy parks commissioner. The state will reconsider if the city and Hannaford revise construction plans, he said.

The supermarket would be built next to the Uncle Sam house, and Hannaford has promised to spend $100,000 to beautify the historic site. About 30 acres of parkland would remain next to the supermarket.

But architect Doug Bucher said a huge retaining wall for the supermarket would hunker alongside the Uncle Sam site.

″As an architect involved in visual sorts of things, visually what that supermarket is going to do to that area is outrageous,″ he said.

Of the harm to the Uncle Sam site, he said, ″It depends on how historically significant you consider Uncle Sam. He was a real character who has taken on a lot of meaning over the years.″