I just returned from a trip that took me to our 5 parks on the far Western side of the state, Southwest Virginia Museum Historical State Park, Wilderness Road State Park, Natural Tunnel State Park, Grayson Highlands State Park and Hungry Mother State Park. It has been a while since I’ve been to any of them and for one of them my first visit ever. This is part 2 of a 5 part series.
Although our smallest State Park at only 1.5 acres, boy do they pack a lot into a small area. The Museum is located in Big Stone Gap, a relatively small quaint town with a rich history. The ride in was quite scenic on alternative Route 58 as the road basically followed the valley between the mountains.
Once in the town, it wasn’t too hard to find the museum, as it is the tallest building in town and with it’s dark stone facing it stands like a giant among its people. I made it in time to catch a tour with Erin Brockmann, Education Director of the Museum. She was not only outgoing, but passionate about the museum and the stories it tells. We started with a tour of the grounds, which are quite lovely and well landscaped. The staff is currently installing some patios with electricity that will host small outdoor concerts in the future. The grounds also feature some stunning black iron gates, replacing the wooden ones that were damaged by an extremely rare tornado that hit this area last year.
One of the coolest things on the grounds though is their new Walk of Fame. I would have never guessed that this small rural town in Southwest Virginia had so many famous people. The Walk of Fame was created to solute and recognize the residents of Big Stone Gap and the local area that have made lasting contributions to society. The first 10 that were inducted included the likes of the actor, George C. Scott, the home run hitter for the Detroit Tigers, Willie Horton, an Olympic Gold Medalist, several authors, a war hero, and 2 of Virginia’s former Governors. Wow, what a start! I can’t wait to see who the next 10 will be.
I also enjoyed the section on sports from that area and seeing a lot of tools used in the olden days. Erin told some great stories of how many of the children didn’t go to school, but instead just worked the farms all day, or did house choirs. Ah, those were the days…
Well if you haven’t been to the museum, you should definitely add it to your list of must sees as just the building itself was worth the drive and then the beautiful displays were like the gravy on top of the mashed potatoes. And if you want to spend the night, the museum has an incredible 3 bedroom house (they call it a cottage) available to rent. As a State worker I’m not use to stay in such luxury, what a treat. The house is well decorated, has a fully equipped kitchen, a big gas grill outside and a wonderful courtyard with a Sycamore Tree that is over 250 years old. I cooked out burgers then sat by the tree and listened to the high school band play at the football game on Friday night. It was a great visit to a great park.
Thanks to Park Manager Sharon Ewing and the wonderful staff at Southwest Virginia Museum. Oh one last thing, he may not admit it, but I’m pretty sure the guy with the white whiskers greeting you at the museum’s front desk, is Santa Claus.
For more information on Southwest Virginia Museum State Park or other Historical Treasures of Virginia, click here