Monday, August 17, 2009

My World Tuesday - Harpers Ferry

The town of Harpers Ferry, West Virginia (a 30 minute drive from us) has a unique place in US history. Many settlers passed through the area moving west and south, the town became an important industrial center in the 1800's and was the site of several events in the Civil War. The lower town, as well as surrounding land is now Harpers Ferry National Historic Park. The US National Park Service has an excellent web site and I used it as a primary source for the information in this post. On August 3, my grandson, Chris, and I visited the park. This is the first in a series of posts on Harpers Ferry. (Pictures posted are mine.)

Confluence of Potomac (left) and Shenandoah (right) Rivers

The town is located at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers. The location is also a gap in the mountains, providing access to the Shenandoah Valley and western Maryland. An aerial view is on the NPS site. Robert Harper, a millwright from Pennsylvania, was hired by Quakers to build a meetinghouse in Winchester, Virginia. Recognizing the availability of waterpower and transportation, Harper obtained 125 acres between the rivers in 1751. Harper operated a ferry from the point to the other banks of both rivers.

In 1799 the US Army purchased land from Robert Harper's heirs to build an arsenal and armory in Harpers Ferry. This established the town as an industrial center. George Washington had noted that the ample waterpower was a valuable resource and a canal was built along the Shenandoah River to channel water to the turbines. Foundries, sawmills, flourmills, and cotton mills flourished.

Wagon and railroad trestle

In the 1830's the town became even more of a transportation center with the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal and the railroad reaching Harpers Ferry. The C&O Canal is itself a Nation Park, running the length of the Potomac River from Washington, DC to Cumberland, MD on the Maryland side of the river.

Where there is water flowing through narrow gaps, there is the danger of flooding. The rivers that brought prosperity to Harpers Ferry also were its downfall. The height of the water is marked here by the year of the flood. At the top is 1936 followed by 1889. The ground where Chris is standing is about 20 feet above the river.

Flood marker

Today the National Park occupies the lower land of the town and historical sites along the Shenandoah River and the Maryland Heights. The present day town of Harpers Ferry adjoins the Park and on higher ground and has a little over 300 residents. The lower town has been restored to mid 1800 appearance. There are exhibits and presentations (including video) of the history of the town and Civil War. Here are a few scenes.

High Street

High Street runs from the point up the hill out of the Park and into the town. The houses on the left are in the Park. The buildings up near the Wax Museum are outside the National Park.

Roeder house and confectionery

Frederick Roeder was a German baker and Union sympathizer. He also operated White Hall Tavern on Potomac Street. About this point in our tour, Chris and I were both ready for some liquid refreshment. We found root beer a little further up the street.

White Hall Tavern


Anonymous said...

Lew nice shots(that first one would make a great screen-saver or wall pic ). We didn't get to Harpers Ferry last trip, due to time constraints. Someday...

Jack and Joann said...

Nice shots Lew. My husband Jack used to attend EPA conferences out there and I think he talked about a great restaurant in Happers Ferry.
Thanks for posting.

Regina said...

Great place. Nice shots.

Kimberli said...

A very nice report! I enjoyed that, and more important, learned from it. Thanks for taking time to put that together.

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Phoebe said...

Thank you for your post on Harpers Ferry... Frederick Roeder was my 3rd great grandfather, & it is so wonderful to see these photos!