Monday, July 18, 2011

Route 11 Road Trip - Day 3: Harrisonburg to Lexington

Day three of our Route 11 road trip started in Harrisonburg. This part of the Valley Tunrpike we knew pretty well. Both my wife and I attended James Madison University, located in the city. During the four years we were in school, we also made a lot of friends who lived in the area. As a result, we were both very familiar with Harrisonburg, Elkton, Broadway, Dayton, and environs.
Our first stop was to the JMU campus, which we hadn’t visited in years. Throughout the day I experienced an odd sense of dislocation. There were many structures that appeared virtually unchanged, right next to brand new buildings and parking lots. It was like being in two different eras simultaneously.
The library at right I spent many hours in. The building at left?
It was a parking lot when I attended JMU!
I had the same feeling visiting the court square. The  Rockingham County court house was the same as it ever was. Set in the middle of the square, there is no place for the building to expand, so there have been no additions to the structure. It’s essentially the same (at least on the outside) as when it was erected.

The Rockingham County Court House, built with native bluestone.
Some other old buildings remain, also. In the 1920's, the Rockingham Motor Company erected a new building that captured the enthusiasm of the age. By the time I was at JMU, the building had fallen on hard times and was occupied by a second-hand store (which I often frequented).  It’s currently a fabric store, but fortunately the fa├žade has never been updated or covered over.  Still visible is the original stained glass windows and the stone architectural ornaments.
The c.1920's Rockingham Motor Company building.

Fortunately, the original stained glass windows are intact.

One thing I did notice about the architecture: over the past few days there was an evolution of style as we drove  down the Valley. In Winchester, the style was more Federalist.  As we went south the style became simpler and more utilitarian.
Bluestone is a common building material, in the Valley. It’s actually limestone, but of a much darker hue than normal. In the northern end of the turnpike, most of the rocks used were grayish in color.

As we approached Rockingham County, which is where most of the bluestone comes from, the rock walls and structures had a deep grayish-blue tint that gives the limestone its name.
In the northern part of the Valley, rock walls had stones set on end to make a natural crenallation (right). Further south, that disappeared, and the rock walls usually had flat tops.
Speaking of crenallation, I had to take a picture of the First Presbyterian Church that sits across from the court house in Harrisonburg. It seems more of a fort than a place of worship, the stone and brick construction showcasing the relative wealth of the congregation that built it.

A mighty fortress, indeed.

Our detour down Route 42 to Staunton.
Parnassus
Since we were familiar with this part of the route, we decided to take a little detour  down Route 42, driving through Dayton, Bridgewater. On the way, we drove through Parnassus.
In Greek mythology, Parnassum is at the peak of the Delphi, the home of Apollo and the nine muses. “Climbing the steps of Parnassus” (Gradusad Parnussum) was the title of an influential how-to book on musical counterpoint written by Johann Fux in 1725.

Claude Debussy made reference to the title in his piano piece “Dr. Gradus et Parnassus.”

Knowing all this, I had to stop when we passed through the town of Parnassus and take a picture. The entire community consists of two houses and a church. As I mentioned  when I posted the image on FaceBook, we had arrived at Parnassus. It was something of a disappointment…

Nice, but hardly the home of Apollo and the Muses....
Churchville
We continued down Route 42 to Churchvile, where we took Route 250 to Staunton, which reconnected us with Route 11. Churchville was a sleepy little town, and despite its name, did not have an inordinate amount of churches.

We did stop long enough to take a picture of the Presbyterian church (right).  Notice the two columns in the front. It’s almost an abstract version of the Federalist style we saw up north.
Staunton
Near the Wharf area.
For those not from the area, you need to know the name of the town is pronounced “Stanton.” It’s but one of many odd names in this part of the Commonwealth – like McGaheysville (MaGackeysville) and Botetout (Botty-tot).
When we last visited downtown Staunton, it was thriving. Many of the older buildings had been rescued and restored, and new businesses and boutiques had opened up.  How different today. The warehouse area next to the railroad tracks is known as the Wharf district. Where a line of restaurants and shops were are now empty storefronts.
The one bright spot was Pufferbellies. A former colleague of mine, Erin Blanton, started this  high-end toy story a few years ago, and has made it a thriving business. It was great to see Erin again, and to see the store was still doing well.

Pufferbellies - a great toy store!
Lexington

We ended the day in Lexington. Because we have friends in Buena Vista (pronounced Buna Vista – there’s another one), we come to Lexington quite a bit. Buena Vista is the next town over from Lexington, and locals make the trip almost on a daily basis. Tomorrow we visit some of the sights in Lexington that we never had time to stop at before.

#route 11

Route 11 Road Trip -- The Plan

Route 11 Road Trip -- Day 1: Winchester

Route 11 Road Trip - Day 2: Winchester to Harrisonburg

Route 11 Road Trip - Day 4: Lexington

Route 11 Road Trip - Day 5: Lexington to Christiansburg

Route 11 Road Trip - Day 6: Christiansburg to Abingdon

Route 11 Road Trip: Day 7 Abingdon to Bristol


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