Image: The Main Avenue


Harpers Ferry, West Virginia 

Harpers Ferry is a town located in the easternmost corner of West Virginia , where the Shenandoah and the Potomac river meet, and where they cut through the Blue Ridge mountains. As of a 1990 census, the town has a population of 308, back during the Civil War, Harpers Ferry had a population of over 3,000. The ferry service was begun there in 1747 and in 1796 U.S. arsenal was established. Harpers Ferry became an important arms manufacturing center after the railroad arrived, which made the town an important transportation hub. In 1859, Harpers Ferry became best known for two things. It was one of the most beautiful and scenic places in the eastern United States. During the Civil War, the town was the scene of much fighting, and since then, it has never regained its economic importance. (However, in 1963 a national historic park was established there).

Abolitionist John Brown, and his followers seized the arsenal and occupied the town on October 16, 1859. Brown was hoping to establish a mountain base to which slaves and freed blacks could flee. Harpers Ferry was surrounded by local militia, and under Robert E. Lee arrived the next day. In the ensuing battle, Brown lost ten of his men and he, Brown, was arrested. He was charged with treason, and on December 2, 1859 John Brown was hanged.

Harpers Ferry is about a 75 min. drive from Washington. From the Beltway, take I-270 to Frederick and then Route 340 south to Harpers Ferry.

While visiting Harpers Ferry, hikers can visit Jefferson Rock or venture across the Potomac River bridge to the C&O Canal towpath or the Appalachian Trail (or many other mapped trails on surrounding heights). Right now, the month of October, Ghost Tours is a popular Halloween season pastime in a town truly haunted by historical events (one- hour tours are $2 at 8 p.m. Friday - Sunday through the first week of November; reservations necessary). 
Image: The Potomac River between MD, VA, and WV




St Peter's Catholic Church, Harpers Ferry, WV


Gift-shopping in Harpers Ferry is always a treat: The Herb Lady offers handmade potpourri and the best soap in the world, a $2 inch of unforgettable rosemary. Check out Molly the Rebel for flowers, garden items, antiques and West Virginia folk crafts, plus Westwind Potters, and much more. 


WHERE TO STAY: Hilltop House (400 East Ridge St., 1-800-338-8319) has traditional rooms for two for $65 pernight on weekends (Sunday through Thursday, the same room with dinner and breakfast is $80) Between the Rivers B&B (East Ridge and Gilmore streets, 304-535-2768; rates from $80 weekdays, $95 weekends) was built in the 1890s, and its front porch and Balcony Room offer peerless views across the Potomac and the mountains; breakfasts include homemade breads and muffins, fresh fruit and quiche, and its just two blocks to the magnificent Shenandoah overlook. The Cliffside Inn (304-535-6302; $76, $60 weekdays) has a dining room and woodland views near the Park Service parking area, with the shuttles into the Lower Town.

WHERE TO EAT: The food at historic Hilltop House ranges from ho-hum to nearly as excelled as the view; the Mountain House Cafe ( 304-535-2339) on High St. has a lovely outdoor patio; across the street, the Garden of Food (304-535-2202) features live folk music on weekends through October, and a back bar that sells only microbrews. A spirited fall menu features wild- game stews, hot apple cider, West Virginia wines, hot pumpkin pies and gingerbread.

MAIN EVENTS: For twenty-seven years now, on the first weekends in December, Olde Tyme Christmas has been a tradition in HarpersFerry. In the fading twilight , the town seems to take on special glow, as the soft light of luminaries flickers in the streets and the flame of the yule log is passed from shop to shop, lighting the way for holidays for holiday visitors.

The National Park Service maintains a wonderful page on Harper's Ferry.


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