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Photo Essay: A walk through history at Harper's Ferry, W.V. Special

By Leigh Goessl     Aug 26, 2013 in Travel
Harpers Ferry - A visit to Harper's Ferry is a step into the past. Over the centuries the town has been a booming industrial community and one destroyed by war, with much happening in between.
Run by the National Park Service, today visitors can walk through time and experience events that transpired over the centuries in this West Virginia community.
Harper's Ferry, located at rivers' edge where the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers meet, has gone through many transformations over the centuries, yet walking through the town in the modern day, visitors can get a feel for all of the history that has taken place.
According to the National Park Service (NPS), a man named Robert Harper settled in this location in 1751 after obtaining a patent for 125 acres. He was keen on the strategic location of the region. The rivers served as a pivotal point for travel and industry.
It wasn't long before this settlement grew to become a town. A dozen years later it became "Shenandoah Falls at Mr. Harper's Ferry" and continued to expand.
From there, history began to take place which shaped modern times. During the 18th and 19th Centuries, Harper's Ferry would see booming industry, John Brown's raid, and Civil War, to name a few major events, all of which had a significant impact on American history. As NPS puts it:
It is more than one event, one date, or one individual. It is multi-layered - involving a diverse number of people and events that influenced the course of our nation's history. Harpers Ferry witnessed the first successful application of interchangeable manufacture, the arrival of the first successful American railroad, John Brown's attack on slavery, the largest surrender of Federal troops during the Civil War, and the education of former slaves in one of the earliest integrated schools in the United States.
The heart of Harper's Ferry, referred to as "Lower Town" is where industry boomed. Along the road are the remains of an abandoned pulp mill, remnants of the former canal system, and several old buildings that once housed boarding rooms, provost, general stores and more. many of the former structures have been restored and turned into museums.
The federal armory and arsenal once also stood along the riverside. These buildings no longer exist, however, visitors can wander in and out of other town buildings, envisioning the important events that transpired during an earlier time.
However, the exception is the Armory’s fire engine and guard house that served as John Brown's headquarters in 1859. It was disassembled and moved, but decades after the raid was brought back to Harper's Ferry. There are two bricks inside of the structure that mark the 1895 recovery of the building and the 1910 rebuild.
Over the centuries, other notable people, such as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Meriwether Lewis and Frederick Douglass, had also passed through Harper's Ferry. Numerous others made their mark on the town as well.
While some of the rails are no longer used, there are still some trains rumbling through town. Walking through Lower Town, there is a distinct feel of old meets new as this area is also a popular recreational one for outdoor activities, such as tubing, hiking and fishing.
In addition to the rich history of Harper's Ferry, the views of where West Virginia, Virginia and Maryland intersect are spectacular.
Harper's Ferry is open open daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The park is closed on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Year's Day.
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