Living Traditions in Historic Waynesboro, VA

In Waynesboro, Virginia, the city’s deep and vibrant history is a valued resource.  From industry to entertainment, Waynesboro’s heritage continues to impact its community, culture, and growth. Don’t miss the opportunity to experience these wonderful living traditions during your next visit!

Waynesboro: The “Iron Cross”

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Photo courtesy Claudius Crozet Blue Ridge Tunnel Foundation

In 1856, just a few years before the Civil War began, engineer Claudius Crozet completed the construction of a nearly mile-long railroad tunnel through the Rockfish Gap of Afton Mountain.  The tunnel allowed steam engine trains to cross the Blue Ridge Mountains, opening up an East-West route to transport both freight and passengers. This route later became part of the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad.  With the opening of a North-South connection in 1881 by the Shenandoah Valley Railroad (later Norfolk and Western Railway), Waynesboro became the junction of two railroad lines, giving the town the nickname of the “Iron Cross.”

Waynesboro’s abundance of natural resources and significance as a hub of transportation attracted industrialists, merchants, travelers, and the businesses that catered to them.  Hotels and rooming houses popped up and then began to offer sports and social events to entertain their guests.  Waynesboro became not just a stop along the route, but a popular retreat destination.

The original Blue Ridge Tunnel was in use for 86 years before being abandoned for a larger tunnel.  But this National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark is now being restored and transformed into a hiking, biking, and heritage trail.

Fishburne Military School

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(Top) Cadets on the drill field c. late-1880s. Photo courtesy Waynesboro Heritage Foundation (Bottom) Cadets participating in an area parade, 2012. Photo credit Fishburne Military School

Founded in 1879 by James Fishburne, Fishburne Military School is the oldest and smallest of Virginia’s military schools. Throughout its history, the school’s guiding principle has been to develop each cadet’s academic and leadership potential.  Small and immersive classes and a culture of college preparation has led to a 100% college-acceptance rate for over a decade. Each year the Corps of Cadets participates in the Waynesboro Christmas Parade, and the color guard and drill teams can often be seen in area parades and ceremonies.

Local Industries

Rose Cliff Orchard, photo courtesy Waynesboro Heritage Foundation Facebook Page
Rose Cliff Orchard, photo courtesy Waynesboro Heritage Foundation Facebook Page

Every October for the past 40 years, Waynesboro has celebrated Apple Days. The apple industry was big business in Waynesboro during the late 1800s and early 1900s.  Orchards surrounded the city and the apples were packed, stored, and shipped by rail, spurring the development of supporting industries.

Waynesboro’s role as a major transportation center for the Shenandoah Valley linked the town to vast markets.  Waynesboro flourished as revolutions in transportation and manufacturing transformed the country’s rural and agrarian economy into an urban and industrial one.

DuPont nylon plant, photo courtesy Waynesboro Heritage Foundation Facebook Page
DuPont nylon plant, photo courtesy Waynesboro Heritage Foundation Facebook Page

The Industrial Age of Waynesboro brought a period of economic stability to the city as textile, furniture, mill, brick, and lumber plants all established Waynesboro as their manufacturing home. With the closing of a number of industries in the mid to late 1900s, Waynesboro turned back to its natural roots to redefine itself.

Natural, Cultural, and Artistic Resources

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Waynesboro has long been acknowledged as a premier outdoor recreation destination.  In 2012, the city celebrated another accolade with its official designation as an Appalachian Trail Community.  The Appalachian Trail began as a 2,190-mile long footpath in 1937 that connected Maine to Georgia. In 1968, the A.T. became a national scenic trail under federal protection.  In that time, thousands of hikers have relied on “Trail Angels” and communities along the route. Located within 2 miles of the entrance to the A.T., Waynesboro has become a trusted resource for hikers needing services, facilities, and a supportive environment in which to rest, resupply, and regroup before heading back out on the trail.

“Summer at Sherando” by P. Buckley Moss
Photo credit “Summer at Sherando” by P. Buckley Moss

The Shenandoah Valley beckons not only outdoor enthusiasts, but artists as well.  Most notably may be America’s most celebrated living artist, P. Buckley Moss who has called Waynesboro “home” for 50 years, finding inspiration in the imagery and culture of the area. Pat’s Barn Show and Gallery Open Houses are highly anticipated by fans and collectors and provide a unique opportunity to join Pat in her home and gallery to have artwork signed and personalized.

Wayne Theater, 1940. Photo courtesy Waynesboro Heritage Foundation Facebook Page
Wayne Theater, 1940. Photo courtesy Waynesboro Heritage Foundation Facebook Page

The  Wayne Theatre has long been the entertainment center for the community. When it first opened its doors in 1926, the Wayne was the city’s first vaudeville / silent movie theatre.  Today this newly renovated, state-of-the-art performance venue continues to connect the community through world class artistic, cultural, and educational events.

Wayne Theatre / Ross Performing Arts Center, 2016. Photo courtesy Wayne Theatre Facebook Page

For a journey into the traditions and culture of the city, there’s no greater resource than the Waynesboro Heritage Foundation and their museums, the Waynesboro Heritage Museum and the Plumb House Museum. Permanent and rotating exhibit galleries, re-enactments, and special programming keep our city’s history alive for students, residents, and visitors. Stop in and discover the rich, evolving story of Waynesboro!