Haymarket Town Hall
On Sunday afternoon, I drove Julia and a friend out to Gainesville, VA, to see Mayhem Fest at the Nissan Pavilion. The day was beautful and sunny. After leaving them off at the concert venue about 1:15 p.m., I had to decide what to do for the balance of the afternoon. Of course, I'd explore. I planned to buy gas in nearby Haymarket, where prices are 25 cents per gallon cheaper than at home. So, the village of Haymarket seemed to be a good destination.
Haymarket is just a few miles up Virginia Route 55 from Gainesville. It's an old crossroads town, founded in 1799. Until very recently, it's been a quiet place. Haymarket gained noteriety in 1994 when the Disney Company announced plans to build a new theme park, Disney's America, in the open farm land around Haymarket.
Disney encounted unexpected opposition to the planned historically-themed park. Opponents said it was too close to real historical monuments such as Manassas National Battlefield, Mount Vernon, and Monticello. There was fear that the park would trivialize serious events in American history such as slavery, the Civil War, and Native American encounters, or even make themed rides out of them. Evenetually, Disney gave up the idea and the theme park was never built. But, development of a different sort has come to the open farmland. Suburban housing tracts have spring up around Haymarket and a Boy Scout camp was built in the center of what would have been the theme park.
Driving into the center of town, I could see the character of the community had already changed from a few years ago and the rural farming village had rapidly surburbanized.
I parked in the Town Hall parking lot. (I'm pretty sure some older buildings used to stand where there is now an open lot.) I walked back to Washington Street and began to take photos of what remained of "old" Haymarket.
First stop were the historical markers. Haymarket was laid out in 1799 at the crossroads of a road leading from the Virginia Piedmont to the Shenandoah Valley and the Carolina Road leading from Pennsylvania across Virginia to the Carolinas. The latter had been a Native American trail, adopted by the Colonists as a trade and post route. (The two routes of commerce continue down to today in the guise of Interstate I-66 and US Highways 15 and 17. I-66 and US15 intersect at Haymarket.) Despite its location at a commercial crossroads, Haymarket did not develop into a metropolis.
The Haymarket Caboose
But, its location affected it significantly duiring the Civil War. Union and Confederate troops passed through the town to and from the First and Second Battle of Manssas
and the Shenandoah Valley campaign. Union forces raided and burned Haymarket in 1862. Several markers and museum are located at the historic crossroads--now Washington and Fayette Streets. The Haymarket Musem
, in former frame church building, was not open. (Open only on Saturday.) St. Paul's Church was one of the few structures left standing after the fire, I learned from a series of markers. I reasoned the church was somewhere down Fayette Street, so that was my next stop.
St. Paul's Episcopal Church was indeed there, a short drive down the street.
Vintage frame structure
The brick chuch sits in a grove of trees surrounded by a good-sized churchyard. New houses have gone up all around it, but once on the gounds one can see it's character has been preserved (not unlike Pohick Church in Lorton). There was activity going on. A man was unloading panels from an SUV parked at the door to the church. He noticed there was a visitor present and I was soon engaged in a coversation with him. A parishoner, he knew a lot about the church's history and seemed pleased to find an individudal who was interested in hearing about it.
The brick stucture had been built in 1801 as a courthouse to serve a four-county area. When the courts were reorganized and the county court moved, the building was sold and became a church in 1830. My informant invited me to look around the interior of the church and even bid me to see the choir loft.
We know what this vintage building was used for!
The church was definitely post-Colonial. No box pews or wine-glass pulpits here. Two additions had been made over time: an entrance vestibule or nave concealing the original courthouse entrance and an extended chancel built in the 1890s. I looked around and took photos while trying to stay out of the way of the two gentlemen who were setting up for Vacation Bible School the following week. Outside, the chancel addition was obvious from its differently colored brick. The churchyard and cemetery were quite large. Members of the Lee, Fitzhugh and Ewell families, prominent in 19th Century Northern Viriginia have large family plots. Unkown soldiers from the Civil War are also buried here. Interestingly, Union soldiers are interred on the north side of the church and Confederates on the south side.
St. Paul's Church (1801/1830)
It was time to go and so I went on to the Sheetz gas station at the edge of town. It was very crowded there and tempers were flaring. The gas station and road travel convenience center is located at I-66 and US 15. I considered that it is the modern version of the 18th and 19th century post house. From there, it was an easy Sunday afternoon drive back to Fairfax County along I-66.
Postscript: I returned along I-66 that evening to pick up Julia and company from the Nissan Pavilion. The concert let out at 11:00 p.m. Although crowded with fans, new road construction in this part of Prince William County made our meet up and return home fairly smooth.