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Throughout the town there are a number of buildings set up as museums complete with period accurate furniture and settings...as well there is a fairly comprehensive museum illustrating the story of John Brown focusing on the raid as well as his life history..Im NOT talking about the Wax Mueum...the museum Im talking about is on the street at the bottom of Washington St...close to the river...and kitty corner sort of to the "General Store"...
Inside you'll see displays and exhibits about his life and the detailed story of the raid and a little bit of information regarding the economic and political structure of the USA just before the Civil War.
Updated Nov 6, 2007
Address: High Street
Walk across the rail bridge from Harpers Ferry and turn left onto the C&O towpath. A little less than a half mile further, take the trail coming down the hill on your right. You will have two choices of destinations: the Stone Fort, a round trip of 6 miles from Harpers Ferry, or the Cliff Overlook which is a 4.1 mile roundtrip. The trails take advantage of old military roads that had been originally built to supply the various outposts and gun batteries that had been installed on the Heights to protect Harpers Ferry. The view from the Overlook is the one that Jefferson should have seen for it is ‘stupendous’. But then this is Maryland and Jefferson was a Virginian.
Written Jun 5, 2007
The Appalachian Trail Conference headquarters is here in Harpers Ferry. Founded in 1925, the organization is geared at protecting and maintaining the 2000+ mile-long Appalachian Trail which stretches from Maine to Georgia over 14 States. Lots of hiking information can be obtained here from the knowledgeable staff.
Written Jun 5, 2007
Visit the arsenal where John Brown and a number of slaves were defeated by a detachment of the U.S. Army led by future Confederate General Robert E. Lee.
Have a picnic.
Discover why Merriweather Lewis (of Lewis and Clark fame) was here.
Find the marker that shows the water level of each major flood.
Browse the shops.
Enjoy the day.
Written Oct 5, 2005
St. Peters Catholic Church was built in 1833 and was the town's only church in town to survive the Civil War intact. St. Peters was heavily modified and expanded in 1896, leaving the structure as it stands today. Regular services at St. Peter's were curtailed in 1995, as part of a reorganization plan of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston.
The church provides a scenic vista across the confluence of the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers. From here it is a short walk to the ruins of St. Johns Episcopal Church and a bit further to Jefferson's Rock.
Today the church is adjacent to, but not part of both the Harpers Ferry National Historic Park and the Harpers Ferry Historic District. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Updated Feb 19, 2009
Harpers Ferry National Historical Park occupies land in West Virginia, Maryland, and Virginia at the confluence of the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers. The park consists of 4,000 acres and hosts over a million visitors each year. The area was designated a National Monument in 1944, and in 1963 congress named the area a National Historical Park. In 1966 the park was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Park lands include a good deal of the old lower town, Virginius Island (site of several mills), Camp Hill (former location of Storer Sollege), the visitors center at Murphy Farm, the Bolivar Heights battlefield, Schoolhouse Ridge, Maryland Heights in Maryland, and Loudoun Heights in Virginia.
The vast majority of the historic sites are in the lower town along the rivers in West Virginia. These sites include the park information center, the Restoration Museum, Frankel’s Clothing Store, the Industry Museum, the park Bookshop, a Blacksmith Shop, A Place in Time Museum, the Provost Marshal Office, Stipes’ Boarding House, the Dry Goods Store, Arsenal Square, John Brown’s Fort, the Point, the John Brown Museum, the Wetlands Museum, the Storer College/Niagara Movement Museum, A. Burton Clocks and Jewelry Exhibit, the Battle of Harpers Ferry Museum, a Confectionery Exhibit, the Civil War Museum, the Black Voices Museum, White Hall Tavern, the Meriwether Lewis Exhibit, the Harper House, Jefferson Rock, and the Harper Cemetery.
While I like the history of the Old Town, the U.S. government-owned shops and building certainly lack some character. I really prefer to walk up touristy High Street or even to the Upper Town. During my last visit, I decided to drive out to Winchester where these is much more to do that is not all government owned.
Updated Jul 7, 2011
While the National Historical Park includes most of the industrial areas and the old armory, the Harpers Ferry Historic District includes about 100 buildings of the Upper Town. Most of the these structures were built by the federal government from 1800 to 1837 as residences for the armory workers. In the late 1800s number of Victorian mansions were also constructed in the town. The Hilltop Hotel is one of the most famous places in the Upper Town; it occupies a ridge overlooking the Potomac, and it was visited by Mark Twain, Alexander Graham Bell and Woodrow Wilson among others. This area was also home to Storer College, one of the first accredited black universities in America.
We visited the national park first, and were somewhat unimpressed with the sterile environment that government ownership tends to create. Just walking up high street out of the park, you see capitalism flourish as local business owners set up cute little shops to draw in tourists. The top of the hill is often lacking tourists in the numbers you find below, but the town is worth visiting for its charm, as well as to see some of the old architecture. Unfortunately the Hilltop Hotel has seen its better days; the back side of the structure has some major structural damage and looks ready to crumble even more.
Updated Feb 22, 2009
Reached by way of the Cliff Trail from the Lower Town - the Cliff Trail is part of the Appalachian Trail system - Jefferson Rock is where Thomas Jefferson stood, on October 25, 1783, and described the natural view as “one of the most stupendous scenes in Nature … worth a voyage across the Atlantic.” After such glorious prose from such a man as Jefferson, writers are usually quick to bring in John Quincy Adams rebuttal, “There is not much of the sublime in the Scene, and those who first see it after reading Mr. Jefferson’s description are usually disappointed …” The Rock originally swayed back and forth and four stone pillars were added to stabilize it in the late 1850’s. Going one better, the National Park Service doesn’t allow anyone up on the Rock today.
Written Jun 5, 2007
The C&O Canal was initiated by President John Quincy Adams in 1828. The canal was constructed along the north course of the Potomac River in an attempt to serve as a commercial conduit to the West. It was not until 1850 that the canal was completed. In total, there are 74 locks along the 184.5 miles, each with about an eight foot lift - the total elevation gain is some 605 feet. Seven aqueducts carried the canal over large tributaries of the Potomac - the best surviving example being the Monocacy Aqueduct. Weather - no traffic in winter, flood damage and rail competition made life difficult for the Canal to succeed financially and a large flood in 1924 ended the Canal’s operation for good.
Here, across from Harpers Ferry, you can see the old silted up canal along with the remains of what was Lock 33 - completed in 1833 - and the Lockmaster’s house. The towpath has been restored and you can follow it for its 184.5 miles length - from Washington, D.C. to Cumberland, Maryland. See cachaseiro’s pages for more on this great adventure.
Updated Jun 5, 2007
It was from Harpers Ferry, in 1803, that Meriwether Lewis (William Clark would meet Lewis along the Ohio later on) picked up arms and other equipment to see their party safely on its explorations of discovery for President Thomas Jefferson. The exhibits here describe what supplies Lewis chose and something about the journey he undertook along with its importance in the Country’s future.
Written Jun 5, 2007