The Grave of Stonewall Jackson’s Arm

The grave of Stonewall Jackson’s arm (yes, you read that correctly- just his right arm) is located in the middle of a field next to Ellwood Manor near the site of the Battle of the Wilderness. Before I describe my visit, a background history lesson is needed. The Battle of Chancellorsville took place near Fredericksburg. Stonewall Jackson and his staff were returning to camp at night after sundown had prevented any further fighting. They were mistaken for Union soldiers and Jackson was shot three times. Jackson’s arm was amputated and he was sent to rest at Fairfield plantation where his developing chest pain and weakness were thought to be a result of his amputation. Jackson ultimately died of pneumonia in a Fairfield Plantation office building in Guinea Station, Virginia. Before arriving in Guinea Station, however, Jackson’s arm was amputated and a military chaplin decided to save it. There was also a traditional Christian burial for the arm and this is the reason the arm was never reunited with the rest of Jackson; after his burial in Lexington, Mrs. Jackson heard that the arm was given a Christian burial and this persuaded her to leave the arm buried by Ellwood, where it remains today.

I arrived just before sunset. The grounds of Ellwood Manor are technically open during daylight hours, although the gates were locked when I arrived and I had to walk about a half mile to the actual building. I had worried about leaving my car and getting a ticket, but in the end I decided I probably had enough time before it got too dark and I headed down the long gravel road by foot to the Manor.

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A quick walk through a mowed section of the field leads to a small plot of land under the only tree in the field. This land is dedicated to the family cemetery, which contains the grave of Stonewall Jackson’s arm.

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The grave itself was simple and plain. No frills, just a date. I do appreciate that the headstone specifically labeled the site as the resting spot of Jackson’s arm, just to be sure no one mistakenly believed all of Jackson’s body to be buried here.

All in all, I enjoyed the adventure of hunting for the grave site. I hope to revisit this summer when the building is actually open and park rangers are around to answer questions. The sun was setting and I worried my car would be towed, so I may have rushed the whole experience, but nevertheless, I found the stop at Ellwood Manor to be the perfect mix of quirkiness and history. Next time, I hope to follow the entire journey Jackson took during his final few days. I recently told a friend about my trip to the grave of Stonewall Jackson’s arm and I immediately saw the incredulity on her face. It is almost unbelievable that someone would take the time to bury an arm separately from the body, but again, this is Virginia.

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The verdict: The scenery was well worth the trip. A beautiful old farm house and rolling hills leading to the grave of a Confederate general’s arm; what could be more Virginian? Make sure to visit Ellwood Manor, but first check in at Chancellorsville Battlefield Visitor’s Center.

Chancellorsville Battlefield Visitor’s Center, https://www.nps.gov/frsp/index.htm, (540) 786-2880

Virginia’s Jurassic Park

Just off of Route 81, in White Post, Virginia, sits Virginia’s very own Jurassic Park. Dinosaurs are the main attraction and visitors are warned not to get too close to the giant reptiles. Tourists pay a small fee to enter the park and go back in time to when dinosaurs ruled the earth. So basically, Dinosaur Land is a much smaller, much lower budget, version of Jurassic Park.

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Dinosaur Land is home to over 40 fiberglass Dinosaur replicas. Dinosaur Land is also over 50 years old and is well loved by the local children. This is the ultimate offbeat roadside attraction. Dinosaur Land has the large, tacky sign out front beckoning at travelers to stop and visit. The sign is falling apart and the dinosaurs out front offer drivers a preview of the attraction despite desperately needing a new coat of paint.

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If you were to somehow miss the first landmark sign, the front of the gift shop/ticket office features a large dinosaur head complete with a window for photo ops.

 

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The inside of the small building is confusing. A sign outside calls it a fireworks shop, but inside there is a mix of dinosaur souvenirs and memorabilia, toys, small trinkets, and candy. The staff was friendly and helpful and to my surprise there were several other visitors there, even though I arrived just before the cut off time for admission to the park.

Also to my surprise, there were not just families with small children visiting. A young couple took pictures with the giant King Kong statue, two friends in their 30’s laughed at the descriptions in front of each animal. With a coupon I found at a nearby restaurant, I scored a dollar off admission to bring the price of admission to Dinosaur Land to $5.

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$5 for admission is really nothing when you consider all of the varieties of Dinosaurs you are paying to see, not to mention a 20′ King Kong, a 60′ shark, and a 90’s octopus. As you can tell from the pictures below, all of the features were prominently shown in signs on the gift shop to further entice visitors to buy a ticket.

The sign out front had seen better days and was obscured by a giant shark lying in front of it. Despite this, I still appreciated the resemblance to classic Disneyland logo with the old fashion lettering.

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There were numerous opportunities for photos throughout Dinosaur Land. The giant King Kong statue even featured an outstretched hand for visitors to perch in while another person took a photo from below.

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I think I expected more out of Dinosaur Land for $5. Still, I enjoyed visiting one of Virginia’s oldest roadside attractions.


The verdict: If you are in the area, Dinosaur Land is a fun stop. Take a break from driving and stop to stretch your legs and see a classic Virginia roadside attraction at the same time. Unless you have a thing for giant fiberglass dinosaurs, it’s probably not worth a trip by itself, but if you can look past the peeling paint and the strangeness of it all (and I suggest that you do), Dinosaur Land is a fun stop.

Dinosaur Land, http://dinosaurland.com/, (540) 869-2222

Parade Floats along Route 81

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American Celebration on Parade is a 40,000 square foot warehouse full of parade floats and is located in Shenandoah Caverns, Virginia. American Celebration opened in 2000 after the owner, Earl Hargrove Jr., decided to display his collection of presidential inauguration memorabilia and parade floats as a tourist attraction. Hargrove also owns a company by the same name that designs floats, window displays for stores, and designs every presidential inauguration. The red carpets lining the warehouse are from inaugurations and there are pieces from Republican National Conventions as well.

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The museum serves as a display case for Hargrove’s collection. It is a mix of pieces that Hargrove Inc. has made and produced and pieces that Earl Hargrove Jr. has bought from other float manufacturers.

I was one of only a few other visitors inside that vast maze of floats. The entire building was definitely a bit spooky. The first thing you see when you enter the warehouse is am enormous jester sitting over top of the front desk. The tinsel from the ceiling catches the light and air coming from industrial fixtures and in another part of the building you might hear a mechanical whir or some music playing from a parade float, but with so few visitors every sound echoed.

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The floats have held up surprisingly well. For display pieces that are designed for a few hours of use, they are crafted with precision and care and I enjoyed learning about the production of the floats. American Celebration on Parade is definitely worth a visit.

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The verdict: Definitely worthy of a detour. Check out Shenandoah Caverns, The Yellow Barn, and Main Street of Yesteryear while you’re there.

American Celebration on Parade, http://shenandoahcaverns.com/, (540) 477-4300

Virginia’s Tourism Industry

Virginia is a well known travel destination for good reason. Virginia Beach brings in more than $1 billion in annual revenue and attracts tourists of all ages to Virginia. Williamsburg along with the other 2/3 of the Colonial Triangle, Jamestown and Yorktown, brings visitors from all over the world to learn about America’s earliest years. And then there’s Shenendoah National Park, the many caverns, hiking, biking, Richmond, Presidential birthplaces and homes, and Civil War sites just to name a few of the many tourist destinations. My goal with this blog is to explore some of the often overlooked aspects of Virginia’s tourism industry and to specifically visit some sites that are classic tourists attractions that may have become less popular over time.

I drive down to Williamsburg probably once a month and I have explored Jamestown, Yorktown, and all of Colonial Williamsburg. I love walking down Duke of Gloucester Street, eating at The Cheese Shop, and stopping in the busy souvenir shops. Then, just a few miles away, is Busch Gardens. This theme alone park attracts millions of people every year. Although these attractions are thriving, many smaller, but equally important historically and culturally, attractions are failing.

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After visiting more than a dozen of Virginia’s best offbeat attractions, I now feel I understand the plight of many of these small, family owned stores and tourist attractions. In Natural Bridge, Virginia, I saw many small scale attractions all hoping to gain the attention of tourists. There were small zoos, flea markets, and even a attraction opening this summer called, Dinosaur Land II which promises to be a revival of the 2012 attraction in the same location that featured statues of Union soldiers fighting dinosaurs. Strange, I know. But, the point is that Virginia definitely has its share of weird, offbeat attractions. Having visited many of the most famous roadside attractions on Route 66 myself, I can say that Virginia offers the real deal; quirky, old-fashioned, family friendly sites to stop at during your next road trip.

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Admittedly, a warehouse full of parade floats has minimal historical significance when compared to Monticello or the Capitol building, but I still argue it has an important part in contributing to Virginia’s tourism industry.

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For example, White Oak Lavender Farm brings thousands of visitors to Rockingham County every year and this helps fuel the businesses surrounding White Oak. It is important to support small local tourist attractions as they are essential to local economies in Virginia. I have always loved visiting the many small towns in Virginia and this experience was no different. Each attraction I have visited has been fun and interesting, but talking to the owners, employees, and fellow visitors has been what has shaped my understanding of this small scale tourism and how important it is to Virginia’s identity and history.

Foamhenge

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Foamhenge is located near Natural Bridge, about a mile closer to Route 81 than the Hotel. Unlike nearby attractions, there are no signs for the attraction. After driving back and forth for nearly 20 minutes, I came across a car parked in front of a old white gate. I parked as the other car pulled away. I knew Foamhenge was no longer visible from the road from an article I read online. I decided to try my luck. Sure enough, this was the location of Foamhenge.

As I was leaving another car pulled up and asked if we knew where Foamhenge was. So the point is, Foamhenge is very, very hard to find. Just look for the white fence.

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Foamhenge was created by artist Mark Cline in 2004 as an April Fool’s Day prank. Since its construction, visitors from all over the world have come to Natural Bridge, Virginia to see the strange roadside attraction. The monument is a styrofoam replica of England’s Stonehenge. The paint is wearing off since 2004 and I can imagine it does not look at good at it did when Foamhenge was first built. Still, Foamhenge is a fun place to see.

Foamhenge is currently searching for a new home. Natural Bridge is set to become a state park and the land Foamhenge is on was part of the land purchase.

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The verdict: Foamhenge is awesome. Sure, some paint is missing and it was nearly impossible to find, but definitely check it out before it is taken down August 1, 2016.

Foamhenge, http://www.thefoamhenge.com/, (540) 291-2353

 

White Oak Lavender Farm

White Oak Lavender Farm is located near Harrisonburg, Virginia. The farm features a lavender gift shop, a wine tasting building, classes for creating your own lavender gift items, tours, and more. I thoroughly enjoyed every aspect of my visit, starting from the vineyard we passed on the way in.

The farm is gorgeous. Although the lavender was not in full bloom, due to heavy rain I was told, the scent and beauty of the lavender fields was still present.

I began by entering the gift shop. Lavender soaps, tea, coffee, olive oil, spray, shampoo, and even ice cream were available.

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White Oak Lavender Farm was the most crowded attraction I visited during my entire senior project. There were small children all the way up to older retired couples. The farm offers activities for all ages including wine tasting, a petting zoo, and tours.

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All of the products for sale are made in Harrisonburg and those that are not made directly by White Oak Lavender Farm all carry on the lavender theme. For example, the store also carried lavender chocolate and tea towels. The items were all priced well and even the admission to what they call “The Discovery Area”, which is the petting zoo and lavender fields, cost only $3.

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The verdict: I highly recommend a visit to White Oak Lavender Farm. The gift shop is great and is half the fun. The farm animals are entertaining for children, and there is wine tasting for adults as well as other fun lavender themed refreshments for all ages. If interested, make sure to call ahead and see if lavender picking, tours, and/or classes are available during the time you plan to visit.

White Oak Lavender Farm, https://www.whiteoaklavender.com/Home.aspx, (540) 421-6345

Wright’s Dairy Rite

Wright’s Dairy Rite has been around since 1952. When you pull up, there is no missing the sign out front or the pull up speakers to order you food. The restaurant was busy and it showed. The wait was long, but then again, one signed announced that although Wright’s served burgers and fries, it is not a typical fast food restaurant- meaning food is prepared to order and it usually takes a while.

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I shared an order of tater tots, fries, a burger, and a shake; a classic order from Wright’s Dairy Rite. Unfortunately, the burger arrived in a sad state, smushed and soggy, but the rest of the meal was typical for a fast food restaurant. The milkshake was very good, however and I would highly recommend trying a chocolate shake from Wright’s. Like myself, the other customers seemed to enjoy the atmosphere of Wright’s, even if the food was lacking a bit. The crowd was mostly children coming in for lunch after their Saturday morning little league games.

Wright’s is decorated in much the same way it was when it opened in 1952 and it is the atmosphere that keeps customers coming back.

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The verdict: Don’t expect much out of the food, but it is not everyday you can order your meal by phone while sitting in your booth. I recommend you skip the burger and just order a shake.

Wright’s Dairy Rite, http://www.dairy-rite.com/home, (540) 886-0435

 

BØRNS Concert at The National

Despite being located between two major cities with large concert venues, Washington D.C. and Norfolk, Richmond still manages to attract big name artists as well as many local musicians. From The National to The Broadberry to The Richmond Coliseum, there are many opportunities to hear live music. Just last weekend, Riverrock on Brown’s Island brought 11 artists to Richmond.

This past Monday, I attended a BØRNS concert at The National. The singer had two opening acts. The first was a young up-and-coming band, Beau, which seemed to have a confusing identity but an overall cool sound. The second band was Coast Modern which definitely set the show off on the right note and got audience moving before BØRNS came on stage. BØRNS’ unique indie-pop sound filled the venue and the crowd was singing along and moving in time to the music from the first song, “Seeing Stars” which is an upbeat blend of electro-pop and glam rock from BØRNS’ debut EP, Candy. The audience was entranced from the first sound of the dreamy lyrics and ambient vocals.  The show was not sold out and this meant that it was relatively easy to obtain a prime viewing spot, but thanks to the quality layout and acoustics of The National, virtually every spot was a great one as the building filled with the euphoric sound of Dopamine.

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Garret Borns, pictured above, is the lead singer whose appearance and persona embodies the flashy, but muted and dreamlike lyrics and sound of his debut album, Dopamine. With a 1970’s inspired boho vibe, it is clear that BØRNS is his music and his music is BØRNS. On Monday night, BØRNS walked out on stage in a flowy floral button-down shirt tied up, his hair down, and wearing a Gucci belt to top off his thrift store bohemian look.

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BØRNS possesses the unique quality of connecting so easily with his audience. Before the fist song, he greeted the crowd with an, “Hello, friends”. After playing, “Seeing Stars” BØRNS moved on to other fan favorites like “Dopamine” and my personal favorite, “10,000 Emerald Pools”. The crowd recognized the opening chords immediately and the ensuing 3 minutes were magical. The vibe of BØRNS performance, like in the lyrics to “10,000 Emerald Pools” was chill, and it really felt as though the song embodied the atmosphere of the concert, “Down to the bottom / 10,000 emerald pools / Underwater / Time is standing still / You’re the treasure/ Dive down deeper / Still, all I need is you”.

The surprising hit of the show was “Overnight Sensation”. The audience knew every word and BØRNS made sure to play up audience participation during this slower glam rock song in particular. The lyrics, “Immaculate creation / Overnight sensation / God you really outdid yourself with this one,” felt special and almost magical during the live performance. The lyrics felt more authentic and meaningful when watching Garret Borns sing them live.

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BØRNS is one of the few artists that sound better live. The echoey quality of BØRNS’ music creates the perfect sound for a live performance. Although the sound is heavier on the rock instrumentals, the easy, ethereal feeling you get while listening to Dopamine is still present in full force during a live BØRNS performance. Thankfully, BØRNS will be returning to Richmond this September to play a show with The Lumineers at Richmond International Raceway.

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Since the release of Dopamine in October, BØRNS has been playing all over the country and even had a very successful performance at Coachella earlier this year. BØRNS was just beginning his summer tour when he played at The National, but will travel more on tour this summer. The Michigan native will travel over to Europe before heading back to the states to tour with The Lumineers and Rayland Baxter this fall. I am excited to continue to follow BØRNS’ success and I cannot wait to see him perform again in September.


The verdict: The National is a fantastic concert venue and Richmond is lucky to have a great space for music. Although the space is small, The National brings in great musicians to Richmond. BØRNS is amazing live and I would recommend a BØRNS concert to anyone.

The National, http://www.thenationalva.com/

BØRNS, https://www.bornsmusic.com/

Antiquing in RVA

Richmond has long been considered a great city for antiquing. Recently, thrift and design stores have been popping up all over the city, but antique stores have been thriving in Richmond for years. Whether its West End Antique Mall or RVA Antiques, there are opportunities all over the city to shop for vintage clothing, collectibles, and antiques. In preparation for some antiquing I will be doing in Williamsburg and along Route 81 later this month, I stopped at 5 of Richmond’s best antique stores.

1. West End Antique Mall, 2004 Staples Mill Rd, Richmond, VA 23230

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West End Antiques has been a Richmond favorite for antiquing for more than 20 years. The mall is 50,000 square feet and boasts over 250 booths. As you walk in, after deciding which building to start at, rows of booths stretch as far a you can see. Each vendor has their own unique style and you may find yourself so fascinated by the long corridors of furniture and accessories that you forget which aisles you have already been down. My personal favorite finds are the interesting and quirky vintage decor items, like the large Eiffel Tower replica or the pile of vintage college and souvenir pennants I found in one seller’s booth.

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West End Antique Mall has been voted the best antique store in Richmond for several years by Style Weekly and they cater to nearly every design style. Booths range from old books to mid-century furniture to collectible toys to fine art.

During this particular trip, I found and purchased a pair of mid-century modern wooden candlestick holders and a small original oil painting. Together I spent less than $30 on the two items, which I thought was a very reasonable price considering the uniqueness and quality of the items I purchased. Although I was unable to afford them, I also was able to find a pair of gorgeous brass camel bookends and a woven pink and white chair.

I could spend, and have spent, an entire day exploring West End Antiques. Around every corner is a new, interesting find and I always enjoy stopping in to see what new treasures are for sale.

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2. Sheppard Street Antiques, 103 S Sheppard St, Richmond, VA 23221

Sheppard Street Antiques is located right off of Cary Street and has a selection of vintage and antique furniture, chandeliers, locally made items, and much more. Sheppard Street Antiques has been in Richmond for nearly 20 years.

IMG_8630Sheppard Street carries the best of the best, carefully picked items in a small, but bright and beautiful space. Its convenient location in Carytown offers constant foot traffic and the care that goes into selecting the items is immeadiately evident upon entering the store. Pieces range from garden decorations to silverware to large dressers. Prices are perhaps slightly higher than other antique stores on this list, but they are still very reasonable and the shopping experience is much more enjoyable than at some other stores because there is very little rummaging to do and every piece is displayed nicely. My favorite find was an antique cocoa extract tin (pictured on the right) that had a beautiful Egyptian style design on it which I, of course, now regret not purchasing.

3. RVA Antiques, 6102 Lakeside Ave, Richmond, VA 23228

RVA Antiques was one of my favorite stores to visit on this list. I had never been to the shop before and I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of items for sale and I found it to be well worth the drive. RVA Antiques has a fun blend of old and new with their funky up-cycled pieces and quirky antique finds. RVA Antiques describes themselves as “not your grandma’s antique mall” and they live up to that claim! Although they are named RVA Antiques, the 10,000 square foot store offers much more. Here you’ll find gifts, furniture, and even paint classes.

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Many of the items are quirky vintage pieces; a large Mickey Mouse from a Disney window display, a 1950’s diner booth, a room full of Peanuts collectibles, and telephones from the 70’s. RVA Antiques also specializes in bright, cheerful up-cycled pieces. In the store you’ll find many freshly painted and restored dressers, picture frames, stools, and chairs. I especially was drawn to a pair of theater chairs and a large salmon colored ceramic teapot. Both pieces were reasonably priced. I enjoyed the layout of the store and even though I was there early in the morning, the store still had a buzz of energy and there were several other customers browsed through the aisles. This made the shopping experience more enjoyable as I didn’t feel like I was the only customer in a stuffy antique store.

5. Nest Antiques, 3404 Semmes Ave, Richmond, VA 23225

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At Nest Antiques, every inch of the building is covered in items for sale. From the front porch to the bathroom, the small store still manages to offer a large variety of items. Nest Antiques is a great place to find small accessories like the hand painted tiles and flower pots, small wooden vases, and plates I saw for sale. Items range in price and Nest Antiques carries a nice mix of old and new items. Admittedly, I was a bit underwhelmed by Nest Antiques. The store was not as inviting as others I visited and Nest Antiques was more a destination shopping trip as opposed to the convenience of browsing several store in one location like Carytown. The items for sale were very nice but not unique and I missed the sense of exploration that large antique stores and malls offer.

5. Anthill Antiques, 3439 W Cary St, Richmond, VA 23221

When you walk in, you will see many feline collectibles and maybe even a real cat lounging on the displays cases. The door is open and the noise of Cary Street disappears as you walk into the dazzling store. Chandeliers and jewellery sparkle all around and walk ways are narrow and twist around large towering display cases.

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Run by a mother and daughter team, Anthill Antiques is located in Carytown. Anthill Antiques offers beautiful jewelry, chandeliers, and a great selection of eclectic antiques. Although Anthill has a small room dedicated to antiques in the top floor of their shop, the majority of their business is dedicated to the many cases of necklaces, rings, brooches, and more.


The verdict: Richmond is full of fun, quirky, and unique antique stores and his list only includes a small portion of them! I am looking forward to some more shopping next week at some of the state’s biggest antique malls.