The Road to Winchester
Winchester Travel Blog› entry 15 of 108 › view all entries
Monday, 12 November. The Verteran's Day holiday in the USA. Much needed rain had come in overnight, thogh the temperature had warmed a bit. (We'd had our first frost of the season on Sunday morning.) Still, a time to be out on the road. We headed for Winchester, in the Shenandoah Valley, about 10:15. As far as Gainesville, the route was the same as the one that took us to Charlottesille in September. But, now we continued out on Interstate 66 (not the same road as the old US Highway 66 in the West) towards the Blue Ridge. I-66 goes through the Manassas Gap, paralleling a railway line much of the way to Front Royal, VA.
Past Front Royal, I-66 ends at Interstate 81. The roadway splits here, with I-81 leading the traveler either south to Harrisonburg, Roanoke, and on to Tenessee or north, to Winchester, Harrisburg, PA, and eventually to New York State and the Canadian border.
Winchester was settled in 1732, the first town over the Blue Ridge. The city has has always been a market town. (Even today, license plates from West Virginia seen at shopping centers and "big box" stores in Winchester attest to its enduring role as a go-to-market destination for the entire northern Shenandoah Valley region.) Six battles took place in Winchester during the Civil War as Union and Confederate armies sought control of the strategic agrcultural and natural resources of the Shenandoah Valley. In the 20th century, Winchester was the hometown of country music star Patsy Cline.
Winchester has many sights for the visitor to see. A large welcoming "PineApple" greets visitors in many languages at the Visitor Center. (The Visitor Center is set in an old gristmill.) The PineApple is a conceit combining two traditions. A pineapple was a sign of hospitality in colonial times. Winchester is known as the "Apple Capital" from its apple growing and procesing industries. Several large apple sculptures are found around town. Abrams' Delight, begun in 1754 and expanded over time is Winchester's oldest house and once the miller's home. The house is on the Vistor Center grounds and open for tours. An early pioneer log cabin, more typical of an early settler's dwelling, is also nearby.
Near the Visitor Center and across a park is the main campus of Shenandoah University. SU is especially known for the music, theatre, and dance programs at its Shenadoah Conservatory. Each summer the Shenandoah Summer Music Theatre presents an excellent program of musicals at the Ohrstrom-Bryant Theatre on campus.
Winchester is a place that can truely say "George Washington Slept Here". He resided in Winchester when he was a young officer in the Virginia Regiment. Washington's Office Museum is located downtown. The center room of the structure was once a separate log cabin used by George Washington as his office between September, 1755 and December, 1756 while he supervised the construction of Ft. Loudon. He had earlier worked in the Winchester area as a surveyor and returned in 1758 during the French and Indian War.
In an older residential area of town is Stonewall Jackson's Headquarters Museum. Stonewall Jackson, the famous Confederate Civil War general, lived in this house from November 1861 to March 1862 while conducting his Shenandoah Valley campaign. The house is a gothic revival style cottage built in 1854 and named Alta Vista, a reference to its hillside view over Winchester. The house is now a museum with exhibits on Winchester during the Civil War.
Mt. Hebron Cemetery to the east of downtown traces its origins to 18th century Lutheran and Reformed burial grounds.
Directly across a narrow street from Stonewall Cemetery is Winchester National Cemetery, orignally established as the official cemetery for Union Civil War casualites. It's interesting to observe, especially on Vereran's Day, the close proximity of the Union and Confederate cemeteries.