Harpers Ferry, West Virginia
Sep 13, 2019
|HISTORY OF HARPERS FERRY
Harpers Ferry, West Virginia is a small historic town, now a National Historical Park, located just a few miles from the border with Virginia, approximately 70 miles northwest of Washington D.C. It is an easy day trip from downtown Washington D.C. or an additional stop on an “ around the Washington D.C.” area tour and well worth the time and effort.
Harpers Ferry played an important historical role in the United States at many different times and for many different reasons.
George Washington surveyed this area for the Chesapeake and Ohio (C&O) Canal Towpath that parallels the Potomac River and runs from Washington D.C. 185 miles to Cumberland Maryland and was used to transport goods.
More importantly, because of its strategic geographic position, George Washington as President established a federal armory and arsenal here to safeguard the fledgling republic and spur its industrial and commercial development.
The armory supplied Lewis and Clark with items they needed for their transcontinental expedition.
However, Harpers Ferry is most well-known for is its role in helping to bring about the Civil War (1861-1865). In 1859, John Brown, abolitionist, attempted to seize the 100,000 rifles stored in Harpers Ferry as a first step in his revolutionary scheme to rid the nation of slavery. The plan failed when local militia and a contingent of marines, under the command of Lt. Col. Robert E. Lee, were ordered by President James Buchanan, to put down the rebellion. They tried unsuccessfully to negotiate a peaceful settlement and, in the end, killed or captured nearly all the raiders. John Brown was tried, convicted, and hanged soon thereafter.
This incident further divided the nation over slavery and served to spark the issue of war between the north and the south.
The “John Brown Museum” is located on the street as you enter Harpers Ferry and is an excellent “first stop” to get a true and complete understanding of the role he played in the fame of Harpers Ferry and in the nation’s history.
VISITING HARPERS FERRY
Parking in Harpers Ferry is almost non-existent and difficult to manage. The best and easiest way to visit it is by parking for free at the National Historic Park Visitors center and taking the free bus shuttle to the town and back. However, there is a charge for the park pass.
Go online to nps.gov to find all the information about the location, directions, costs of the park pass, parking, etc.
The town is filled with historical shops, museums, retail shops, and cafes.
At the top of the hill on which Harpers Ferry is built is St. Peters Roman Catholic Church. The church is worth visiting just to climb the unique stairs carved out of the underlying rock and the views from the top of the hill.
Although the town is an historic park, people still live, work, and commute from Harpers Ferry.
Harpers Ferry is located at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah river.
Harpers Ferry is a stop along the 2178-mile-long Appalachian National Scenic Trail that starts in Maine and ends in Georgia.
WHERE TO STAY
Harpers Ferry does not offer much in terms of places to stay overnight. Nearby choices include
Shepherdstown, West Virginia, 15 miles northwest of Harpers Ferry where you have a variety of hotel choices. You might enjoy the Bavarian Inn, an authentic German style inn with authentic German style food. The other location is Charlestown, West Virginia, 7 miles southwest of Harpers Ferry, where the famous horse racing track, Charlestown Races, is located.
A SPECIAL PLACE FOR LUNCH OR DINNER
For those “foodies” who like unique dining experiences, try Grandale Farm Restaurant. It is a fine dining restaurant located on a farm about 10 miles south of Harpers Ferry on Harpers Ferry Rd.