Charles Town, WV
A living monument to our nation?s past, Charles Town is home to a number of unique and historic buildings. The Jefferson County Courthouse, built in 1857, is still functioning as a courthouse today. It suffered a great deal of damage during the Civil War and was restored in 1872. The Jefferson County Museum houses collections of Civil War artifacts and memorabilia. Additional exhibits celebrate the Native Americans who inhabited the area. The Flagg House was built in 1798 for the son of Charles Washington. Happy Retreat was built in 1780 by Washington himself. Sheetz House ? built circa 1797 ? was the location of Washington?s office. Locke House is one of Charles Town?s oldest stone buildings.
In contrast, Charles Town Races and Slots offers entertainment the likes of which our forefathers would not have dreamed. More than 2000 slot machines and thoroughbred horse racing, along with live entertainment and exciting promotions, provide glitzy drama as fortunes are won and lost.
Shepherdstown is also deeply rooted in the nation's history. The townspeople watched their sons march into battle in the Revolutionary War and later witnessed the bloodiest day in the Civil War at the Battle of Antietam (the site contains a memorial and cemetery today). The town watched as James Rumsey demonstrated his steamboat on the Potomac in 1787, 20 years before Robert Fulton developed his steamboat. Today, the Rumsey Monument overlooks the Potomac. A half-scale replica of Rumsey's steamboat is often taken out, steaming under its own power, for special occasions such as the Rumsey Regatta in July.
The Shepherdstown Museum, housed in the Entler Hotel, recreates the feel of a hotel prior to the Civil War. The museum also contains Civil War memorabilia and local antiques. Shepherds College, founded in 1871, was started as a private institution in a building that served as the courthouse when Shepherdstown was the county seat. Today the public institution offers a unique blend of classroom education and local living history. German Street, Shepherdstown's main street, is a showplace of 18th- and 19th-century homes and shops now housing specialty shops, boutiques, bookstores, antique shops and restaurants.
Thomas Jefferson declared Harpers Ferry in 1783 as being "... worth a voyage across the Atlantic---to survey these monuments of war between rivers and mountains which must have shaken the earth itself to its center." Little did he realize the war between men that would occur in the very area that amazed him with its natural beauty. Harpers Ferry was considered a key location in the Union Army?s defense of Washington, D.C. In a decisive battle in 1862, Stonewall Jackson captured the federal garrison in Harpers Ferry and took 12,500 Union soldiers as prisoners.
Harpers Ferry today is home to Harpers Ferry National Historical Park. The Chesapeake and Ohio Canal runs nearby. The canal towpaths (now enjoyed by bicyclists) are 12 feet wide for the mules that once pulled the boats along the nearly 185-mile canal. Rentals are available at The Outfitters at Harpers Ferry, just a few steps off the Appalachian Trail.
Ridgefield Farm and Orchard is located near Harpers Ferry. Visitors can harvest apples, pumpkins, and Christmas trees among other items dictated by the seasons. Fresh fruits and vegetables are also available at the Farm Market.
Harpers Ferry National Historical Park sits at the confluence of the Shenandoah and Potomac rivers. Part of the Civil War Discovery Trail, the park encompasses 2300 acres divided into three areas: the Lower Town Historic District, Maryland Heights and Virginius Island. The Lower Town Historic District was the site of a federal arsenal and armory. Many of the rifles and muskets used in the Civil War were built there. Hiking trails are found throughout the park. One trail leads to Virginius Island on the banks of the Shenandoah River, and another to Maryland Heights at an elevation of almost 1500 feet.
Harper House, built in 1782, is the oldest building in Harpers Ferry. Today it showcases an armory worker?s apartment.
Nearby Shenandoah National Park is one of the highest and most scenic portions of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The park's nearly 200,000 acres have more than 500 miles of trails, including over 100 miles of the Appalachian Trail. Shenandoah National Park is a wildlife sanctuary, providing refuge for about 50 species of animals, including deer, black bears, and wild turkeys. The Shenandoah River flows through the Shenandoah Valley to the west, and Massanutten Mountain stands between the river's north and south forks.
The Appalachian National Scenic Trail meanders over the ridges and into valleys of the Appalachian mountain ranges, covering almost 2200 miles from Katahdin, Maine to Springer Mountain, Georgia. The trail crosses the Potomac River at Harpers Ferry on a footbridge built onto a railroad bridge. The Appalachian Trail Conference Headquarters are located uphill from Harpers Ferry National Historical Park.
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