Drive approximately 63 miles North West of Washington D.C and hidden in the stunningly attractive West Virginia countryside is an absolute gem of history. Sitting at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers with vintage housing built along the steep hillside is the Harpers Ferry National Historical Park. The Appalachian Trail crosses at about 1013 miles from it’s start in Springer GA.
You all probably have heard the song ‘John Brown’s Body’ well this is where the story of the very real John Brown happened in the Civil War after a failed attempt to raid the arsenal here. Harper’s Ferry was captured and retaken by the Union a massive 14 times.
The historical park is such an interesting place to visit. Parking is impossible so follow signs for the National Park entrance and park there for a fee. There is a shuttle service to the Lower Town that runs backwards and forwards all day.
From the bus you are at River level and the history begins. All the houses and stores are part of the Historical Park and each one tells a different aspect of times of a different by gone era or the civil war.
There is a beautiful rail trestle running along the river bank towards the steep bluffs either side. Perched above the road is a collection of houses with a steepled church that seem to stare down on the road below. It is reminiscent of an Alpine village.
Before the Civil War, Harpers Ferry was occupied by 225 men and women working in the designated federal armory. The old armory building is now a museum to Meriweather Lewis. It was here that Lewis arranged his weapons and ammunition for the Lewis & Clark Expedition of 1804.
Other exhibits here show what life was like in the 1800’s. There are a few cafes and a well stocked gift store. The rail line still runs through Harpers Ferry and if you stand on the platform of the station and look at the rock face of the mountain there is some painted letters on it. We asked at the Visitors Center what is was and they believe it was an advert for something before the town was largely abandoned after a flood destroyed the manufacturing plant that used the water for power.
Harpers Ferry makes for a really different day out if you are staying in Washington or in Winchester. The scenery is breath taking and in the Fall it must be amazing.