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The 5 Most Haunted Sites in Abingdon, VA

Visitors to Abingdon, VA know that this artsy mountain town is chock full of history.  It was founded in 1778, just two years after the United States itself, and passionate preservation efforts mean that many of the town’s historic buildings are still in use.

With over two centuries of history in the downtown district, there are bound to be some ghost stories over the years. Guest blogger Donnamarie Emmert is intimately familiar with these stories, in her role as Abingdon’s official Haint Mistress.   (For the uninitiated, a “haint” is Appalachian lingo for a haunt; in other words, a spirit, ghost, or bugaboo.  They can be friendly…or not!)


According to the Haint Mistress, these are the five most haunted locations in Abingdon.  Visit them on your own, or schedule a guided spirit tour with the Haint Mistress herself.

(Note: not all locations are open to the public.)


The Washington County Courthouse

A vintage postcard shows The Washington County Courthouse, one of the most haunted sites in Abingdon.

The first courthouse rebuilt in Virginia during Reconstruction, our own courthouse boasts the likes of Miss Lucille (who does NOT like change), and the ever-vigilant Hatchet Boy.

The former Cave House

Conveniently located across the street from a funeral home, this 279 E. Main house boasted some of the liveliest practical joker ghosts in town. (Don’t forget the brick slave quarters just to the side where a small crystal chandelier would rotate like a Ferris wheel when the spirits were feeling contrary.) All of this activity may well be linked to the large limestone cave which can still be seen out back.

The Martha Washington Inn and Spa

20170919-Virginia-Abingdon-Martha Washington Inn

The Martha Washington Inn and Spa was built in 1832 as a private residence.

Built in 1832 by the General Francis Preston family, the former Preston Hall boasts of  its own numerous spooky tales. Apparitions floating down the stairs (not the bodies, mind you, just the legs), haunting violin music, and the blood stained floor? Just a very few of the ghostly goings on in one of Virginia’s finest four star hotels.



Barter Theatre

The ghost of founder Robert Porterfield is said to still watch shows in the main theatre, and who can blame him? Bob Porterfield is not alone in his love of this old brick building. He and a lively crew of ghosts still haunt their favorite building, making it a must visit stop for any visitor to Abingdon. (Just don’t be the last one out, okay?)


The Tavern

The Tavern in Abingdon, VA

The oldest building in its original place in town, this building is more haunted per square foot than any other one. Murdered card players, the spirits of dead soldiers and the women who attended them, and one very lively female known as the Tavern Tart keep this landmark location hopping almost as much as the excellent cuisine. Come in for a great meal and a bit of history; leave with a full tummy and perhaps– maybe– a pinch on the bum from the Tart…..but only if she really likes you.

For more on the history of Abingdon, visit The Historical Society of Washington County. For information on guided ghost tours, contact The Haint Mistress.

Donnamarie Emmert offers Spirit Tours of Abingdon, VA as The Haint Mistress.

Abingdon’s urban trout stream: the restoration of Wolf Creek

Urban trout fishing? The idea is surprising, but that’s exactly what Abingdon offers, thanks to a multi-year restoration of Wolf Creek, a spring-fed creek that runs through the historic Abingdon Muster Grounds.

Now that the restoration is complete, the stream will be stocked with trout, and visitors can cast a line while they take in the beauty and historic significance of the Muster Grounds. (Catch and release only, find more information on Virginia fishing licenses here.)

The Abingdon Muster Grounds are a 9-acre historical park located within the town limits of Abingdon, just 5 minutes from downtown.

Abingdon Muster Grounds aerial view Jesse Burke

Aerial view of the Abingdon Muster Grounds, photo by Jesse Burke

The restoration focused on the stretch of Wolf Creek which runs through the Abingdon Muster Grounds, a site which is owned by the Town of Abingdon and is certified by the National Park Service as the northern terminus of the Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail.  This restoration project helped stabilize the stream bank, improve the hydrology, create habitat and re-introduce native species of plants and trees.  Now that the restoration is done, this section of Wolf Creek is a prime location to support the “Trout in the Classroom” program.

Rainbow trout

Biologists are experimenting with stocking native brook trout as well as brown trout and rainbow trout. Photo by Lisac Mark, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

During the Revolutionary War, 400 Virginians set out to join patriot militia from modern-day Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia.  After a two week campaign, the Overmountain Men fought the Battle of Kings Mountain with overwhelming success, helping turn the tide of the war. As they gathered, or “mustered,” they would have camped on the banks of Wolf Creek. The new restoration, in addition to providing habitat for trout, helps recreate the look of the creek as the Overmountain Men would have known it.

Every year, reenactors celebrate the Revolutionary War Battle of Kings Mountain, 1780 with living demonstrations at the Abingdon Muster Grounds.

Every year, reenactors celebrate the Revolutionary War Battle of Kings Mountain, 1780 with living demonstrations at the Abingdon Muster Grounds.

A ribbon cutting will be held September 23, 2017 at 10:00 a.m., celebrating the completion of the Wolf Creek Stream Bank Restoration.  Many partners came together to restore the Wolf Creek stream bank, including: Town of Abingdon Virginia, Mountain Empire Chapter-Trout Unlimited, Virginia Department Game and Inland Fisheries, Virginia Department of Forestry, Upper Tennessee Roundtable, National Park Service-Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail, Carter Land and Water and the Virginia Chapter-Overmountain Victory Trail Association.

For more information,  call Leigh Ann Hunter at (276) 525-1050 or email

Where to view the solar eclipse in Abingdon

eclipse photoAbingdon will experience an almost total eclipse of the sun on Monday August 21, 2017 at 2:37pm.

It’s the event of a lifetime, and Abingdon is a great place to witness this amazing phenomenon. According to NASA’s interactive map, Abingdon will experience a 95% eclipse of the sun.  The eclipse will start around 1:00pm, and reach maximum coverage at 2:37pm, lasting a little over 2 minutes. It will take another hour or so for the partial eclipse to end, finishing around 4:00pm.

eclipse map

Sounds like a great excuse to take the afternoon off!  Head to one of these ideal viewing spots in Abingdon, then make it a day-long celebration with lunch beforehand or dinner after! We’ve compiled a list of restaurants open on Mondays.

NOTE: To safely enjoy the eclipse, be sure to take precautions, like purchasing light-filtering glasses. According to NASA, “The only safe way to look directly at the uneclipsed or partially eclipsed sun is through special-purpose solar filters, such as “eclipse glasses.”  You can purchase solar filter glasses at Heartwood: Southwest Virginia’s Artisan Gateway in Abingdon, and join them for the Eclipse Party on the 21st!

If you choose to buy eclipse glasses online, visit the NASA site for a list of reputable vendors, and look for the ISO 12312-2 safety standard marking. Or, consider making a simple pinhole camera.


Great locations for eclipse viewing:


William King Museum of Art

415 Academy Dr NW, Abingdon, VA 24210

Located on one of the highest hills in Abingdon, the museum’s front lawn will provide a great view of the sky. On-site parking. The Museum is open until 5:00pm, so drop in and browse the exhibits while you are there – it’s free!


Veterans Memorial Park

425 Oakland St SW, Abingdon, VA 24210

Limited parking available at the park itself, or park at Food City for a short walk across Oakland Street to the park.

Veterans Memorial Park

Veterans Memorial Park

Coomes Recreation Center

300 Stanley St, Abingdon, VA 24210

On-site parking.  Kids will enjoy the playground while waiting for the eclipse.


Heartwood: Southwest Virginia’s Artisan Gateway

1 Heartwood Cir, Abingdon, VA 24210

Heartwood is hosting a Solar Eclipse Party on the 21st, featuring a viewing on the front lawn, and optional eclipse themed lunch. Ample parking available at Heartwood, and at the adjoining Virginia Highlands Community College. Heartwood is open until 5:00pm with regional art, music and a full-service restaurant (restaurant closes at 3:00pm).

Heartwood: Southwest Virginia's Artisan Gateway

Heartwood: Southwest Virginia’s Artisan Gateway

Restaurants open Monday


JJ’s Restaurant and Sports Bar

Sisters American Grill at The Martha

White Birch Food and Juice

Bonefire Smoke House

Heartwood Restaurant

Milano’s Italian Cuisine

The Tavern

The Peppermill

Zazzy’z Coffee House and Roastery

Shopping open Monday

The Candy Shed

Goodman Jewelers


Holston Mountain Artisans

Jeroleen’s Shed

Wolf Hills Antiques

Salt of the Earth


Sign Painter Brings New Life to Sign in Downtown Abingdon

New businesses are breathing new life to downtown Abingdon, Va. Just off West Main Street, tucked between some antique shops is a fading piece of the past. The yellow and white paint of the general store sign is just barely visible on the brick outside of Wolf Hills Antiques.

“We didn’t want to get rid of it,” said Bobby Lane, owner of the Market Place Building and Wolf Hills Antiques, “but it’s an eyesore. Since this is an antique shop, we decided to restore it. We don’t want it to look too fresh, though. We want to make it look old.”

Wolf Hills Antiques is one of four new businesses to open on West Main Street in the past year, and curb appeal is at the forefront of business owners’ minds to bring in new customers.

To insure that the Lanes’ vision for the sign comes to life, they recruited a real walldog to complete the restoration.

“Walldogs” are what the original painters of the sign would have been called according to Carl Jessee who got his start in the sign business 65 years ago.

Carl’s first job was painting the weights of coal trucks on the cab doors. “The state passed a law that the weight of the truck when it was empty and when it was full had to be painted on the side. There were plenty of coal trucks in Honaker, and I needed a job.”

Mr. Jessee has two signs in the American Sign Museum in Cincinnati, Ohio. He and his son, JJ Jessee, will be overseeing the restoration of the sign. The Jessee family runs the Bristol Sign Company, which Carl opened in 1969.

“Dad’s done billboards and wall signs. He used to do raceway work too. He’d be out there at four in the morning fixing the signs that were damaged during the Saturday race for the Sunday race,” JJ Jessee said.

Now retired from the sign business, Mr. Jessee owns an art and frame shop in Bristol, Va. He only reprises his role as a walldog-sign-painter for special occasions such as a restoration.

Carl Jessee has seen the sign business go from painters to printers.  “There is no comparison between when I started in signs and now. Everything is computerized. Everyone is going to vinyl,” he said.

 Jessees and Lanes in front of the sign from the 1950s

Jessees and Lanes in front of the sign from the 1950s


The Jessees’ and the Lanes’ goal to improve the facade the Market Place Building lines up with the goals of many business owners and community members in Abingdon. The non profit organization Abingdon Main Street is focused on making downtown Abingdon a place that people want to shop, dine, and stay. Abingdon Main Street’s volunteers are working to acquire grants for facade improvement.

“One of Abingdon Main Street’s goals is to help business and property owners preserve the unique and welcoming atmosphere of our downtown area and to also improve and update it when necessary. Part of our work is to direct resources to them to achieve this goal,” said President of Abingdon Main Street Scott Sikes.

30 Things to Do on the Virginia Creeper Trail

In honor of the Virginia Creeper Trail’s 30th Anniversary, we’ve put together a list of 30 things to do on the trail.


30 Things to Do to Celebrate

The Virginia Creeper Trail’s 30th Anniversary


  1. Bike all or part of the beautiful 34-mile trail!
  2. Attend the Virginia Creeper Fest on April 29th in Abingdon.
  3. Visit one of our local bike shops for bike repair, pro tips and services.
  4. Learn about the fascinating history behind the Creeper Trail from Ed Davis, co-author of The Creeper Trail Companion, on April 29th.
  5. View the O. Winston Link photography exhibit at the Virginia Creeper Trail Welcome Center at the Abingdon trail head.
  6. Stay at one of the numerous local inns, cottages, and bed & breakfast establishments in Abingdon…some directly adjacent to the trail!
  7. View “The Mollie,” the restored locomotive on display at the Abingdon trailhead, beside the Welcome Center.
  8. Rent a cabin along the trail in Damascus.
  9. Become a Creeper Keeper! Volunteer with the Creeper Trail Club to help maintain and preserve the trail.
  10. Take a self-guided nature walk along the trail. Grab a free guide at the Virginia Creeper Trail Welcome Center in Abingdon.
  11. Visit Green Cove Station and tour the former Railroad Depot, store, post office & Western Union.
  12. Enjoy local brews and wines (but not on your bike!) at the Abingdon Winery in Alvarado, the Damascus Brewery or Wolf Hills Brewery in Abingdon.
  13. Have a picnic at the Taylor Read Memorial Picnic Shelter in Alvarado or near the red caboose in Damascus Town Park.
  14. Stop in at the Visitor’s Center at White Top Station in Mount Rogers National Recreation Area, before you head down the mountain.
  15. Don’t miss your chance to ride with the trail’s very own trail ambassador, Lawrence Dye, on April 29th or July 29th. See if you can keep up with the 85-year-old legend who has already logged 192,000 miles on the Creeper Trail!
  16. Kayak on Whitetop Laurel Creek.
  17. Become a member of the Creeper Trail Club at the Welcome Center or by visiting
  18. Browse local artisan shops in Damascus and Abingdon including Holston Mountain Artisans, just a short walk from the Abingdon trail head.
  19. Fish the streams that run along and near the Creeper Trail. Whitetop Laurel Creek is home to some of the best flyfishing in Virginia.
  20. Grab a bite and browse the shops of downtown Damascus, VA, aka Trail Town USA!
  21. Attend the famous Trail Days celebration in Damascus, May 19-21, 2017. Meet Appalachian Trail through-hikers, and celebrate the AT with local residents.
  22. Take advantage of the spectacular scenery and outdoor opportunities within the Mount Rogers National Recreation Area. Hike, swim, rock climb and more.
  23. Camp at nearby Beartree Campground in Mount Rogers NRA. Tent and RV campers are welcome.
  24. Bring your horse for a unique trail experience
  25. Take a zipline tour at Creeper Trail Zipline near Whitetop.


  1. Visit the Virginia Creeper Trail Welcome Center at the Abingdon trailhead for trail information, merchandise and mementos (and enjoy an extra 10% off during the Festival!)
  2. Hike the Appalachian Trail (or just a part of it!). There are several AT loops off of the Creeper Trail that make great day hikes.
  3. See if you can spot the native Virginia Creeper vine that grows along the trail. (Hint: this will be easier in the fall, when the leaves turn bright red.)
  4. On your way up or down, stop in for a bite at one of the small, locally owned eateries right along the trail including Damascus, Taylor’s Valley, Alvarado Station and Abingdon.
  5. Share your trail stories and photos on social media with the hashtag #VAcreeper and #VAoutdoors


Hey lovebirds, get married for free in Abingdon!

We all know Virginia is for Lovers. Now Abingdon is celebrating lovers with a free joint wedding ceremony this summer.

Love Art, Abingdon, Virginia

Virginia is for Lovers

Save the date for the Summer Lovin’ Concert, Saturday June 10, 2017, and get hitched (or renew your vows)  – for free!

The Abingdon CVB will provide an officiant, wedding cake, party favors, and, for a wedding band, The Carolina Breakers, a popular beach music band.    Plus, one lucky couple will get to spend their honeymoon night at the Martha Washington Inn & Spa.

The Summer Lovin’ Concert takes place at the Abingdon Market Pavilion in downtown Abingdon.  The festivities will kick off with a joint wedding ceremony, after which the happy couples and their friends can party to the upbeat sounds of the Carolina Breakers.  Guests can enjoy a free slice of wedding cake while supplies last, and visit the beer garden for a cash bar (offering beer, wine, and non-alcoholic beverages for sale).

Carolina Breakers

Based in Myrtle Beach, SC, the Carolina Breakers are a high-energy band with five lead vocalists and a horn section covering beach music hits, plus Motown, Funk, Rhythm and Blues, Disco, Beach and various other special requests.

All couples who register by May 1st will be entered in a drawing to win a complimentary night at the Martha Washington Inn & Spa.  Registration is now closed.

The Martha Washington Inn & Spa

Register to get married and you could spend your honeymoon night at the Martha Washington Inn & Spa!

The fine print: Couples getting married must be over 18 years old, and secure a valid marriage license in advance from the Commonwealth of Virginia and bring the original document with them.  Click here to learn more about applying for a marriage license in Virginia.

The event is free and open to the public. No alcohol will be provided; a beer garden will be available, benefiting the non-profit organization Abingdon Main Street.

For questions, contact Sara Saavedra at

For more information on destination weddings in Abingdon, and a list of vendors, click here.

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Announcing the winners of the 2016 Abingdon Shorts competition

Congratulations to the winners of the 2016 Abingdon Shorts competition!

The short film competition was created to promote and support the creative talents in our region, while celebrating the unique people, places and events that make Abingdon a tourist destination.

Films had to be less than three minutes long, and embody the spirit of Abingdon’s tag line: “It’s Always Play Time in Abingdon.”

There were several short films submitted, of which the judging committee selected the top three to receive awards.  The winners will be used in promotional content on the Visit Abingdon website and social media channels.

Abingdon has just announced the next round of competition, with submissions due July 19, 2017.  To enter or learn more, visit

First Place: “Like a Kid Again” by J.R. Linkous

JR Linkous Headshot

J.R. Linkous is a Bristol based designer and filmmaker. “Like a Kid Again” was filmed entirely on location on Abingdon’s Main Street. See more of his work at

“When I first read the details for the Abingdon Shorts film competition, I knew in about 20 minutes what I was going to do.  When trying to put together an idea for a video or film, I have these “easy ideas” that come to me right away. You know, the ones that make sense. I typically try to bypass any of those and come up with something that goes the extra mile and looks at communicating the same point or story in a completely different way. When I read the line “it’s always playtime in Abingdon”, my initial thought was to highlight the Creeper Trail, fishing, backpacking, all the elements that easily communicate “playtime”.  However, I decided that I wanted to connect Main Street Abingdon with “playtime”.  As always, I’m working with no budget and little time.  What I had to come up with would have to be simple but communicate the point just as well. I decided that I wanted to use my 5-year-old daughter because she’s cute and she didn’t charge me a dime to act.  At this point, I have to connect shopping and tourism with a 5 year old. It was all downhill after this!  The phrase “makes me feel like a kid again” came to mind. That idea combined with the desire to have a twist at the end resulted in my Abingdon short film entry “Like a Kid Again”.


Second Place: “The Shoot” by Jon Phelps/Nice Marmot Productions

Jon Phelps headshot
Jon Phelps of Nice Marmot Productions is an IT professional in Abingdon, Virginia. For more from Nice Marmot Productions, visit their Youtube channel.

“Because we had to use the tagline “It’s always play time in Abingdon” I thought it would be amazing if we were shooting a commercial centered around that one line and the actor just couldn’t get it right. I pitched it to my friend Ryan Henderson, the main star of the short, and we wrote it in an evening and shot it the following day in the upstairs of the Barter Theatre. I think I decided to go with a comedy narrative because I have always enjoyed making people laugh and once I had that central idea the script really wrote itself. We went super meta with the ending, having his girlfriend be the actual star of the commercial, but in the end I think it worked well and was a nice little button on the whole thing.”


Third Place: “Playtime” by J.R. Linkous

JR Linkous Headshot


“Playtime,” also produced by J.R. Linkous, took home the third place price.



For more information about the Abingdon Shorts competition, visit


Welcome to Virginessee

Welcome to the state of Virginessee!

Abingdon, Virginia is located smack dab in the middle of Southwest Virginia, a part of the state that’s so far to the west, it’s practically Tennessee.   Our next door neighbor is the city of Bristol TN/VA, a unique place that straddles the state line between Virginia and Tennessee.

The hills of Southwest Virginia are filled with breathtaking Appalachian scenery and quirky small towns.   The winding roads are great for scenic drives by car or motorcycle, and in small towns you’ll find charming Main Streets that highlight a new emphasis on Appalachian culture: food, spirits, music and art like no where else in the country.


Want to stand in two states at once?

The famous Geico Gecko is just the latest visitor to participate in this tradition.  For decades, visitors have taken pictures on State Street, one foot on each side of the state line.  In the road you’ll find bronze markers indicating the state line.  Take your picture as you stand in two states at once, right in the middle of Virginessee – no gecko required.

Be safe! Look both ways and obey local traffic laws as you take your photo.

To get there

From Abingdon, it’s less than 17 miles to State Street in Bristol.  Take Exit 3 on I-81, and follow signs to downtown Bristol.  Park on the north side (Virginia) or the south side (Tennessee). Either way, parking is free!

An artist takeover at the Abingdon Visitor Center





The arts are woven in to the community in Abingdon, and now the Abingdon Convention & Visitors Bureau will highlight a new local artist each quarter with its Artist Takeover program.   Every few months, a new artist will take over the ground floor of the Abingdon Visitor Center at 335 Cummings Street, with a wall-sized art installation, and an exhibit of their artwork, which will be for sale to the public.  The program launches with painter James E. Turner, and the public is invited to a gallery opening as part of Abingdon’s First Thursday gallery crawl, Thursday October 6, 2016 at 5:00pm.

The Artist Takeover will highlight Abingdon’s art scene, and give artists without a studio space of their own a place to display.  Each artist will be asked to design and install a full wall-sized mural in the Visitor Center, which will then be painted over for the next artist taking over the space.

james-turner-fine-artJames E. Turner, also known as Corry the Psychic, is currently in residence at the Visitor Center, painting a painting a 6-foot-high canvas “mural” for the gallery.  Turner, who is also a practicing psychic, creates “spirit paintings,” applying multiple layers of iridescent colors to create abstract, organic shapes.

“As an artist with a brain condition, I capture the beautiful visions I experience,” Turner says.  “They are wheels within wheels and circles within circles.  Colors are cheerful, vibrant, flat, glossy, matt, metallic, and iridescent.   The work changes as the light changes and they are seen from different angles.  They glow in dim light reflections and burst into radiance with daylight.  A photo doesn’t capture the real appearance any more than iridescent butterfly wing can be captured in a photo.”

turner-wheels-within-wheels-_6There will be an opening reception Thursday October 6, 2016, from 5:00 to 7:00pm at the Abingdon Visitor Center at 335 Cummings Street, in conjunction with Abingdon’s First Thursday.  For more information on the First Thursday gallery crawl, visit the facebook page at /abingdonfirstthursday.

For more information on James E. Turner, visit  and to learn more about his alter ego, Corry the Psychic, visit

Ready to escape the election news? Go off the grid in Abingdon, VA

Virginia Creeper Trail – Sam Dean Photography

Are you already feeling a little tired of wall-to-wall election coverage?   Since many of us are attached at the hip (literally!) to our smartphones, it can be hard to get away from the news.

We’ve solved the problem for you, with a list of places that don’t just tempt you to turn off your phone – they force you to!

The Virginia Creeper Trail

Even though it’s an easy, mostly downhill ride on this famous trail, texting and biking is still a bad idea.  Plus, large sections of the trail within Jefferson National Forest have no cell reception. Keep your phone with you for taking pictures of the gorgeous mountains and trestle bridges, but wait to update your Instagram feed until you get back to town. #latergram #creepertrail  Find out more>

Virginia Creeper Trail, Green Cove Station

Green Cove Station, Virginia Creeper Trail – Sam Dean Photography


Barter Theatre

Escape into the world of imagination with a play or musical at Barter Theatre.  Best of all, the use of cellphones or other electronic devices is not allowed during the show.  So pay attention to the pre-show announcement, and turn it to airplane mode, unwrap your candy, and enjoy two hours of news-free entertainment. Find out more>

Actors on stage at Barter Theatre in Abingdon, VA

Courtesy of Barter Theatre

Adventure Mendota Kayaking

Located just outside of Abingdon on the North Fork of the Holston River, this outfitter’s slogan is “Get off the grid and into the river!”   You’ll be out of cell range for most of your trip, while you lazily paddle down the river (this section is generally rated Class 1 or Class 2, great for beginners and families).  Find out more >

Courtesy of Adventure Mendota

Courtesy of Adventure Mendota

The Spa at The Martha

The Martha Washington Inn & Spa actually has excellent cell reception, and free wi-fi for guests.  But you won’t want to use it when you sign up for a day of pampering at the spa. This grand old hotel in downtown Abingdon offers massage, facials, mani/pedis, body treatments, a heated salt-water pool and outdoor hot tub and fire pit.  Put that phone on silent, slip on a robe and bliss out.

Indoor swimming pool at the Martha Washington Inn & Spa - Jason Barnette

Indoor swimming pool at the Martha Washington Inn & Spa – Jason Barnette