Things to Do - History
In Abingdon, history is not confined to select sites and preserved buildings.
It’s all around. When you look at the mountains surrounding town, you think of Daniel Boone walking through the woods or early American pioneers traveling the Great Road across the Blue Ridge Mountains to settle the new frontier.
When you stroll down Main Street, you think about the Civil War soldiers involved in nearby battles who were treated by nurses on the grounds of what is now the elegant Martha Washington Hotel.
Visit the Abingdon Muster Grounds and you’ll be able to imagine citizen militia members gathering to go off to fight the British for American independence.
Abingdon Historic District
p: (276) 676-2282
Stroll the charming brick sidewalks of downtown Abingdon, named a Virginia Historic Landmark. Pick up a brochure at the Visitor's Center and take a self-guided walking tour.[+] Expand Details
Abingdon is a Virginia Historic Landmark, and its tree-lined brick sidewalks make for a beautiful stroll.
The 20-square-block Historic District includes a mixture of private residences, churches, and buildings open to the public. Be sure to visit Fields-Penn 1860 House Museum, which shows how a typical family lived in the pre-Civil War period; The Arts Depot, an 1870 restored railroad station featuring artists at work in their studios; William King Museum of Art; Barter Theatre, the State Theatre of Virginia; The Martha Washington Inn & Spa, a Four-Star, Historic Hotel of America which was built in 1832; and The Tavern Restaurant, originally built in 1799.
Pick up a brochure at the Abingdon Visitor's Center at 335 Cummings Street, and take a self-guided tour of the downtown Abingdon historic district. Allow about one hour for the tour.
Abingdon Muster Grounds
1780 Muster Place
hours: Open Daily 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m
The 9-acre Abingdon Muster Grounds is the premier center for Colonial Backcountry history from the American Revolutionary Period in Southwest Virginia[+] Expand Details
Visit the Keller Interpretive Center, walk a short section of the Overmountain Victory Trail, or enjoy a picnic on the grounds. Throughout the year the Muster Grounds are home to historical reenactments; visit the website for more information.
The Muster Grounds are the northern trailhead for the Overmountain Victory Trail, a 330-mile National Historic Trail. The trail traces the route used by patriot militia during the pivotal Kings Mountain campaign of 1780, which helped decide the outcome of the Revolutionary War.
The Keller Interpretive Center helps visitors discover what life was like for the Overmountain Men, backcountry Women, African-Americans and Native Americans, as well as British Loyalists, and a history of Washington County — the Overmountain region of Southwest Virginia. Artifacts used at the Battle of Kings Mountain and others from the late 18th-century Overmountain region are on display.
The Eastern National sales area provides something special and unique – for all ages – to take home to remember their experience at the Muster Grounds.
Abingdon Spirit Tours
hours: Call for info
Haint Mistress Donnamarie Emmert tells you where the skeletons are buried....literally![+] Expand DetailsNow in its 19th year, Abingdon Spirit Tours are led by the one and only Haint Mistress, Donnamarie Emmert. This popular tour, especially in the month of October, can be reserved throughout the year, weather permitting. It is a two hour walking tour of downtown Abingdon, where visitors are entertained with bits of Abingdon history as well as local ghost lore. Named a Passionate Virginian in 2009 by Virginia Tourism, Donnamarie Emmert packs a whole lot of storytelling and animation into her renowned Abingdon Spirit Tours.During October, Emmert offers regular tours with no reservations needed. Her October 2015 schedule offers a tour every night the 16th-18th and the the 21st through 30th. Time is 7:30, and meeting place is at the gazebo at the Martha Washington Hotel. Price is $15 per person, and reservations are not needed.
Fairview Historic Homestead
908 Hillman Highway, Abingdon, VA 24210
hours: Tuesday-Thursday, 11:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.; Friday and Saturday 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.; tours available by appointment on Mondays.
Fairview is a living history museum in Abingdon, Virginia. Experience the story of the Hagy family, from their migration to America to the life they created in Washington County, Virginia.[+] Expand DetailsAt Fairview Historic Homestead, learn about the Hagy family, a family whose history parallels the American experience. The Hagys were German immigrants to the American colonies, served in the War for Independence, moved to Virginia along the Great Road, and planted their roots in Washington County; their descendants were the founders of the Hagy Wagon Company. Experience what life was like for the Hagys and other nineteenth-century Southwest Virginia families. Learn about agricultural practices, from the grains and vegetables that supplied the family table to the flax that was woven into linen. Watch demonstrations of the “needle arts”—quilting, sewing, embroidery, and knitting. Take a lesson with our teacher and play popular nineteenth-century games. Discover how nineteenth-century practices from housekeeping, medicine, and cooking can be used in your home today. Free admission.
Fields-Penn 1860 House Museum
208 West Main Street
hours: TEMPORARILY CLOSED FOR REPAIRS. Wednesday & Thursday 12pm-5pm, Friday and Saturday 9am-5pm and Sunday 1pm-5pm.
Come see how a middle class family lived in 1860. Free to Public. Open All Year.[+] Expand Details
NOTE: The Fields-Penn House is temporarily closed for structural repairs. Visit http://fieldspennhouse.com/ for updates and more information.
History comes to life through guided tours that interpret 19th-century life in Southwest Virginia. The home's original owners enjoyed status in the emerging middle class: the Fields in the years on the eve of the Civil War, and the Penn's in the gilded 1890s. As a brick mason and building contractor, James Fields built his home in 1860, for wife, Susan, and their eight children, in the latest American style. The family of George and Estelle Penn moved into the house in the 1890s and made it their home for 75 years. The home's historic and formal architecture is reflected in balanced Georgian proportions, an Italianate roofline with bracketed cornice and Greek Revival details at the doors and windows. Today it's an 1860 house museum, filled with period antiques. Take a guided tour and see how the Fields family lived during the 1860's.
Historical Society of Washington County, VA
306 Depot Square
hours: Tues-Sat 10am-4pm, Mid Jan- Mid Dec
"Come discover our history and your history with us"[+] Expand Details
Located in historic downtown Abingdon, in beautiful Southwestern Virginia, the Historical Society of Washington County is headquartered in the Old Abingdon Train Station. The Society is a leading center in the region for genealogical and historical research, including local and regional history, published genealogies and family histories.
Old Mollie Steam Engine - Norfolk & Western Steam Engine 433
Virginia Creeper Trailhead on Green Springs Road
Located at the Virginia Creeper Trailhead on Green Springs Road, Abingdon's Old Mollie Steam Engine is the same type of engine that pulled the Virginia Creeper Railroad for many years.[+] Expand Details
Mollie came about in January 1907 when the American Locomotive Company of Richmond, Virginia completed its construction for the Norfolk and Western Railway, assigning it the number 433.
Mollie is a Class M locomotive, hence the favored nickname.
In its heyday, 433 was one of more than 100 Class M engines owned and operated by Norfolk and Western during a 50-year period.
Today, Abingdon's Mollie is only one of two still in existence. The other, Number 475, is located in Strasburg, Pennsylvania. Previously, Mollie was assigned duty as a main line freight engine, but toted human cargo as a passenger train as well. However, by the 1920s Class M engines were being quickly replaced by heavier, faster locomotives and the Mollie was left for smaller workloads on branch rail lines like the "Virginia Creeper" or Abingdon Branch where mountainous terrain played havoc on newer engines with their steep grades, sharp curves and wooden trestles that couldn't support the engine's weight. By 1957 all the Mollies that had been put on "Creeper duty" in and around Abingdon were cut up for scrap materials when all steam locomotive operations were put out of commission.
Although Mollie is the same type engine that chugged along the old Virginia rail lines, it came from Bristol in 1953 where it performed yard work and served as a backup engine for the Abingdon Branch, after having been assigned to duty in Roanoke, Salem and Radford, Virginia. It also survived a wreck in 1951. Number 433 was finally retired in 1958 and the railroad donated Mollie to the Town of Abingdon where it was moved from Radford.
It wasn't until 2002 that volunteers from the Virginia Creeper Trail Club and the Washington County, Virginia Preservation Foundation started a project that would eventually restore the beauty of 433 as it would have looked 50 years ago.
Sinking Spring Cemetery
From the intersection of Cummings Street and Main Street, proceed west on Main Street about 3/10 of a mile. Turn righ ton to Russell Road. Turn left in to the cemetary entrance and park near the Cummings cabin.
hours: Daylight hours, year-round.
This cemetery has tombstones dated back as far as 1776. Historic Cummings Cabin is located within the Cemetery. Pick up a brochure at the Visitor's Center for a self-guided walking tour.[+] Expand Details
Sinking Spring Cemetery was established as the burial ground for members of the Sinking Spring Presbyterian Church, which was organized in 1773. The members of the congregation, led by Rev. Charles Cummings, built their log church house and laid out the cemetery on 11 acres. Burials over the past 200 years reflect the long history of Washington County.
On the same parcel of land, but separated by Russell Road, is the burial place of the slaves owned by these early Presbyterians, and also free people of color.
Both cemeteries are now owned by the Town of Abingdon, which welcomes visitors to the grounds during daylight hours.
Pick up a brochure at the Visitors Center, 335 Cummings Street, and take a self-guided walking tour of the cemetery.
Veterans Memorial Park
Billy Webb Drive
Abingdon's way to pay Tribute to our Veterans...We Salute You![+] Expand Details
Playground EquipmentSwings, Slide, See Saw, Geo Domes, Multi Unit Play StructurePicnic FacilitiesThe Park has 4 picnic tables under a shelter with a concrete pad.Other AmenitiesNice grassy park to walk through to enjoy the tribute of flags representing the branches of military service, the World War II Monument, the Korean War Monument, the Vietnam War Monument, the Lt. Billy Webb Memorial Tribute and the Bronze Ribbon Memorial.No bathrooms facilities in this Park.
Walnut Grove- Yeary Cabin
Cabin is located between Valley Street and Plumb Alley and adjoins Brewers Alley
p: 1-800-435-3440, 276-676-2282
A recreation of an early Appalachian homestead, is an authentic representation of what was common to pioneer life in this region from the late 1700’s until the early 1900’s[+] Expand Details
This “Village Homestead” (known as the Yeary Cabin) located in a grove of Black Walnut trees includes two log cabin dwellings connected by an enclosed “dogtrot”, outdoor bread oven, century old bee gums, Blacksmith Shop, “outhouse”, portable grist mill, horse drawn farm equipment, and other supporting additions .
Washington County Courthouse
189 East Main Street
Come visit the Tiffany stain glass window in the center of Town[+] Expand Details
The original courthouse was burned during the Civil War. The current building was erected on the original site and houses the Circuit Court, the Juvenile Court and the General District Court of Washington County. Of special note is the Tiffany stained glass window above the courthouse entrance. It was dedicated on July 4, 1919, to honor those who served in World War I.
12291 Whites Mill Road
hours: Wednesday through Sunday, 10am to 5pm. Closed January and February.
White's Mill is a 150-year-old flour and grist mill located 3.5 miles from Abingdon. One of the only water-powered mills in existence in Southwest Virginia. The mill is a Virginia Historic Landmark.[+] Expand Details
Visit this working water-powered mill for a glimpse of the past, then drop by the Mercantile to pick up a bag of stone-ground cornmeal or grits, as well as crafts from local artisans, and essential southern treats like a cold root beer and a Moonpie.
The Virginia and National Registries of Historic Places listed White’s Mill in 1974, recognizing the importance of its structure and heritage.
White's Mill has long served the neighboring community. Since the late 18th century, the mill provided meal and flour for the farm and kitchen, as well as a gathering place for sharing news and views. The Mercantile, formerly the Cumbow Store, provided those store-bought essentials and extras that any home needs.