Virginia is filled with historical monuments, preserved buildings, and museums that speak of our extensive history. These landmarks are known well throughout the state and the country. There are, in fact, just as many historical places which are a little less known. If you look closely, you can learn just as much about our state and national history through these hidden keys to the past. While the stories may be a bit more obscure, they are no less important or fascinating.
1. Abandoned Renaissance Faire (Fredericksburg)
The abandoned Renaissance Faire is exactly what it sounds like: a Renaissance-themed fairground located just outside of Fredericksburg. The property where the faire once belonged to George Washington's mother. The Renaissance Faire lasted only three years, from 1996-1999. When ticket sales tanked, the area was essentially abandoned and all that remains are the decaying and impressively large buildings. While this site may not speak of history in the traditional sense, it does offer a window into a very brief and unusual theme park.
2. The Carter Family Fold
Located in Hiltons, Virginia, the Carter Family Fold holds an important piece of Virginia's music history. It is dedicated to the preservation of country and bluegrass music and named for A.P., Sara, and Maybelle Carter. A.P. Carter was born in the nearby cabin and he and his family are considered some of the earliest recording artists in country music history. Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash (Maybelle's daughter) often performed here.
3. Church Hill Tunnel
This abandoned railway used to be a Chesapeake & Ohio Railway, constructed in the 1870s. The tunnel is located a few thousand feet below Richmond's historic Churchill neighborhood. The tunnel has had somewhat of a dark history, proving to be the source of many accidents in areas where it has collapsed. There is a work train with 10 flat cars that still remains sealed inside the tunnel. Visitors will notice the distinctive difference between the eastern and western ends of the old railway; the east entrance is overgrown and shows flooding while the western entrance (above) has been sealed off.
4. Agecroft Hall
And while you're in Richmond, you won't want to miss a visit to Agecroft. The history of Agecroft Hall began in the late 1400s, when the house was built in Lancashire, England. In the 1900s, due to coal mining in the area, the building was dismantled and shipped across the Atlantic to its current spot in the Windsor Farms neighborhood. The house serves as a museum complete with an exquisite garden. What's so fascinating about the house is how it came to Virginia at all and how it could technically be considered one of the oldest buildings in the country.
5. Assateague Lighthouse
The Assateague Lighthouse is located just 1/4 mile from the beautiful Chincoteague Island. This lighthouse was constructed in 1833, a project which cost roughly $55,000. Its twin rotating lights are located 154 feet above sea level and can be detected up to 19 miles away. This lighthouse has been listed among the National Register of Historic Places and can be accessed by driving from the island or a walking trail that is maintained by the National Parks Service. For years, this lighthouse has been a beacon for passing ships in the area and is a site worth visiting today.
6. Wade's Mill
Located in Raphine, Wade's Mill is a family operated stone-ground mill that dates back to 1750. The mill was built by a Scotsman by the name of Captain Joseph Kennedy. Still functioning today, the mill can be visited as part of a grocery store, which sells products straight from the mill itself. This is also the site of an annual Apple Butter Festival, where visitors can watch this delicious local product cooked up in a copper pot.
7. Barboursville Ruins
Until it was devastated by fire in 1884, Barboursville once stood as one of the most beautiful plantations in the state. In fact, it's the only residency in Orange County that was confirmed to be designed by Thomas Jefferson himself. The President had it designed for the governor of Virginia, James Barbour. The building was created in the unique style of the Flemish-bond mansion and served as the site of many social gatherings. The ruins remain preserved today, and Barboursville functions as a beautiful vineyard, where visitors can enjoy the local wine while learning more about the site's history.
8. Norweigan Lady Statue
When most think of statues in Virginia Beach, King Neptune is the one that most quickly comes to mind. The Norweigan Lady Statue is an equally breathtaking site, which stands as tribute to a tragic shipwreck. In March of 1891, a ship from Norway known as the "Dictator" wrecked at sea. The wooden figurehead washed ashore and stood as a testament to the loss. In 1962, a city in Norway known as Moss had a 9-foot bronze replica commissioned to stand in its place. Moss has a duplicate of the same statue, a gesture which now unites these sister cities.
9. Old Brick Hotel
Construction of the Old Brick Hotel of New Castle began in 1840. The 3-story building was built in a prime location just across the street from the Craig County Courthouse. The hotel saw it's hey day in the 1900s. It's even rumored that Jesse James himself stayed in these accommodations, among lawyers, businessmen, and other travelers. Significant renovations were done in 1982 and today, the building functions as a showcase for local antiques.
Have you made the visit to any of these hidden historical gems? Which would you add to the list? We’d love to hear your thoughts!