Rose Hill Re-enactment
The Rose Hill re-enactment in Frederick, MD, features living history, encampments and hands-on activities
Here’s a chance to combine great travel destinations with equally compelling events in our region’s history, including the Civil War, natural areas, coal history, the arts and more.
As spring ripens into summer, festivals bloom across the mountains, offering colorful displays of folklore and heritage. Naturally, too, warmer weather marks a grand time to discover the time-honored arts of quilting, painting and pottery, often passed along through the generations in places like Townsend, Tenn., or in Abingdon, Va., where a new art and cultural center – Heartwood – now rises in the meadows of the Virginia Highlands.
This year means milestones, like the 75th anniversary of Ave Maria Grotto, consisting of more than 125 miniature reproductions of famous churches, shrines and buildings in Cullman, Ala. The Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest near Robbinsville, N.C., also celebrates 75 years in 2011, with an anniversary event on July 30 at Rattler Ford Campground in Graham County, N.C.
What must command attention this year, obviously, is the 150th commemoration of the dawn of the Civil War – with events being staged from Maryland to Alabama. Here’s a glance at more new developments and highlights of heritage, history and culture.
It’s been 50 years since the Russell Cave in the mountains of northern Alabama became a federally protected site. Still, one half-century ranks as hardly a hair on the head in the history of the Russell Cave National Monument – a natural landmark that stretches seven miles beneath Bridgeport, Ala.
“Continually, people have lived in the shelter and used it for over 10,000 years,” says park ranger Keena Graham. “And they left behind a lot of their stuff – bric’a’brac, pottery, bones, spear points.”
The Russell family held onto this cave until the 1950s. Long before, the cavern had been a home to human habitation.
On May 14, Russell Cave National Monument celebrates its 50th, with Native Americans demonstrating skills and a remembrance of Russell Cave’s ties to the Civil War. 256-495-2672. nps.gov/ruca.
Some come for trains; others eye the art. But you can find almost anything in the quaint community of Blue Ridge – southern terminus of the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway. Beginning June weekends, the open-air farmers’ market bustles at downtown’s Blue Ridge Park and offers local produce, baked goods and art.“We’re creating an art town,” says Sarah Verner, the executive director for the Blue Ridge Mountain Arts Association. Since 2006, Verner’s Blue Ridge-based arts association membership has grown from 120 to more than 600 from all over the country. Catch the fever on Memorial Day weekend with Arts In the Park, celebrating its 35th year on May 28-29.
Then, in August, the arts association stages its first three-dimensional show, “Off the Wall,” at the arts center. 706-632-2144. blueridgearts.net.
High on the Cumberland Plateau of Eastern Kentucky, coal has reigned king for a century. It inspired the growth of railroads and communities. It has also prompted disputes, giving rise to such nicknames as “Bloody” for a place called Harlan.Bloody Harlan grew up as a rail center, just west of Wallins Creek, where the first commercial shipment of coal was made on Aug. 25, 1911.
This year, that milestone becomes the focus of 2011’s Harlan County Coal and Rail Centennial. “It’s a year-long celebration, and it will commence on Aug. 25,” says Larry LaFollette, president of the Harlan County Historical Society.
Events include a celebration on the courthouse steps and a railroad-theme evening at the old train depot. Then look for more events involving schools and a tribute to Harlan’s old Black Diamond Festival.
“The rail actually opened up the area to commerce, and the commerce that was here was coal,” LaFollette says. “So coal and rail formed the basis for the economic and social history of Harlan County.” 606-589-3131. harlanhistory.net.
Once, it was a cannery warehouse and also the Frederick Spoke Factory. But the antique building on East Street grew up with weeds. Now, in a miraculous renovation, this brick warehouse in Frederick County, Md., has been transformed into the state-of-the-art Frederick Visitor Center – with dramatic murals and historical exhibits exploring the story of the spoke factory and how Frederick has long served as a gateway to the mountains and beyond.
The visitor center, in turn, now serves as a gateway to a wealth of Civil War stories being told this year in the mountains of Maryland. Among the biggest is “War Returns to South Mountain,” running May 28-29 at the South Mountain State Battlefield of Washington Monument State Park in Middletown. The event boasts living history demonstrations covering how the Civil War touched South Mountain, Washington Monument and sites along the Appalachian Trail.
Frederick also fits into Maryland’s Heart of the Civil War Heritage Area, stretching to Washington County and beyond. In 2011, activities include Retreat Through Williamsport. This living history event, July 8-10, includes re-enactors, historians and speakers at locations including the Springfield Farm and Museum, a place frequented by George Washington. williamsportretreat.com.
On July 9-10, the Civil War Encampment at the Children’s Museum of Rose Hill Manor Park in Frederick will present a living history encampment, demonstrations, a children’s tent area, hands-on activities, concerts, house tours and a even a church service. 800-999-3613. fredericktourism.org.
Taking its name from a natural rock formation, the photogenic town of Blowing Rock, N.C., is known for Tweetsie Railroad, Appalachian Ski Mountain, a string of nifty shops and, of course, the actual Blowing Rock. But, beginning this fall, it will also be known for its new museum, says Blowing Rock’s tourism director, Tracy Brown. “And it’s a big deal for this li’l town for sure.”
Boasting more than 20,000 square feet, the stone-and-wood Blowing Rock Art and History Museum will highlight original sketches, artifacts and paintings of Elliott Daingerfield (1859-1932), a prominent American artist who spent 40 summers at Blowing Rock and built three homes in the High Country.
Five galleries are slated to showcase art and regional history. In 2011, Mitchell says, initial exhibits will focus on historic hotels, early tourism and the Blowing Rock. “Ours is an educational facility, primarily,” Mitchell says. “The museum is going to tell the stories of the people who settled here and the people who continue to visit.” 828-295-9099. blowingrockmuseum.org.
In the late 1800s, Spartanburg, S.C., earned the nickname, “Hub City,” when seven train lines fanned out from the municipality like spokes on a wheel. Today, that nickname belongs on the recently opened Hub City Railroad Museum, which opened in mid-2010, showing off Spartanburg’s importance as a major transportation hub.
“Spartanburg has been a crossroads since the Native Americans,” says Becky Slayton, executive director of the Spartanburg County Historical Association. This museum tells the history of what rolled the tracks, from textiles and agriculture; it also explains how train lines shaped where communities grew. “And it’s all done by volunteers,” Slayton says.
The intricately preserved Magnolia Street Train Station houses the museum at 298 Magnolia Street. 864-596-3501. visitspartanburg.com.
Founded in 1779, Jonesborough ranks as Tennessee’s oldest incorporated town, and it’s famous for being a little town with a lot of stories going on: It’s the home of the National Storytelling Festival each October. For 2011, however, it is telling its own story in a new play called “I Am Home,” a professional-quality theater production made using community-submitted stories and oral histories.“I Am Home” runs through May 21 at the McKinney Center of the Booker T. Washington School. Shows start at 7:30 Thursday through Saturday, with 2:30 matinees on Saturdays.
By the time of the 2011 storytelling festival on the first weekend of October, Jonesborough’s Chester Inn on Main Street will be the home of a new museum spotlighting the town’s commercial district, says Deborah Montanti, executive director of the Heritage Alliance of Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia.That new space, Montanti says, will help expand displays in the Washington County Historical Museum at the Historic Jonesborough Visitors Center. 423-753-1010. historicjonesborough.com.
Heartwood marks the newest addition to the arts and cultural community of Abingdon, Va., a southwest Virginia town long known for such organizations as the Holston Mountain Artisans, William King Museum, the Arts Depot and, of course, the Barter Theatre.
Slated to open in late June as an artisan gateway and cultural center, Heartwood stands just off I-81 Exit 14 at the campus of Virginia Highlands Community College and possesses a commanding view, overlooking White Top Mountain. Inside, look for an expansive art-and-crafts shop, restaurant and a music performance area.The 29,000-square-foot structure is also set to become the new headquarters for The Crooked Road: Virginia’s Heritage Music Trail, says Todd Christensen, the executive director of the Southwest Virginia Cultural Heritage Commission.
As well, Heartwood serves as a hub for Round the Mountain’s completed artisan trails for 19 counties of southwestern Virginia, laid out in 15 trail guides. Those trails include studios, galleries, artisan centers, agricultural sites, wineries, inns and eateries, stretching from Floyd and Franklin counties to historic coal towns like Big Stone Gap. 276-492-2097. heartwoodvirginia.com.
West Virginia has joined Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina and Tennessee in the multi-state Civil War Trails program. That fits, of course, since the Mountain State owes its existence to the Civil War.
This year also marks the 150th anniversary of the first campaign tour in Beverly, W.Va., and Rich Mountain.
“This is the first actual campaign of the Civil War (that) occurred in western Virginia – now West Virginia,” says Justin Gaull, a state marketing representative.
The first campaign tour, Gaull says, includes many sites of relatively unknown “firsts” of the Civil War: first land battle in Philippi, W.Va,; first amputation of the war; first general killed; first Union officer killed; and the first train to carry troops on American soil.
Among upcoming events is the First Campaign Tour, July 6-8 at Beverly. Then the Rich Mountain Reenactment, July 8-10, followed by the commemoration of the battle at the Rich Mountain Battlefield on July 11. 304-637-7424. richmountain.org.