Holidays are not intended to just be days off from school or work. They should be treated as special occasions, including taking the time to pause and reflect what the holiday is about and why it was created in the first place- and Labor Day is no different. Observed on the first Monday in September, Labor Day pays tribute to the contributions and achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country and became a federal holiday in 1894.
Within the Journey Through Hallowed Ground National Heritage Area, a 180-mile swath of land that runs from Gettysburg, PA to Charlottesville, VA, there are several places that pay homage to the history of work in America. Here are just a few examples you can visit to observe Labor Day (by county):
Gettysburg may be best known for its Civil War history, but the area is also the heart of Pennsylvania ‘s Apple Country. Therefore, it is fitting to recognize the important role that agriculture, farms, orchards, wineries and the farmers and producers of these goods have not only on this region but the entire country. Just north and west of the Gettysburg battlefield, more than 20,000 acres of apple orchards produce over 35 varieties of apples, and many of them are sold to processing plants today for things like apple juice and apple sauce. In fact, the are is home to the National Apple Harvest Festival, which takes place over two weekends in early October each year. To get additional details, visit http://www.appleharvest.com.
From Gettysburg, continue south along the Journey Through Hallowed Ground National Scenic Byway into Maryland. Arrive in the City of Brunswick, located at the southern end of Frederick County. Situated along the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, Brunswick became a company town with an exploding population and reportedly had the largest and busiest railroad yards in the world at one point Although the railroad isn’t as important to our nation as it once was, you can still see the engines whistling down the track in Brunswick. In addition, the town does serve as a major stop on the Maryland Rail Commuter (MARC) Train line which takes commuters in and out of the greater Washington, D.C. area each weekday. The Brunswick Heritage Museum is a great place to visit as it tells the stories of the railroaders and their families in the early 1900’s and houses one of the largest model train layouts on the east coast. For more information, visit www.brunswickmuseum.org.
In addition, the C&O Canal was a major economic engine for people living along the Potomac River, particularly in the 19th and early 20th century. Visitors to the C & O Canal can learn stories of western expansion, transportation, engineering, the Civil War, immigration, industry and commerce. There are several access points to the C&O within the Journey Through Hallowed Ground National Heritage Area, but one suggested location would be the Williamsport Visitor Center. Here, there are several examples of major canal structures visible within close proximity. For more information, visit http://www.nps.gov/choh.
Harpers Ferry became a major industrial center during the first half of the 19th Century, particularly with the establishment of The United States Armory and Arsenal there. During its heyday, the armory was producing hundreds of thousands of muskets, rifles, and pistols. Not only were there over 400 workers employed at times but inventions helped revolutionize the manufacturing process from craft-based production to machines. The town also housed other industiries, including a sawmill, flour mill, machine shop, two cotton mills, tannery, and iron foundry. Only ruins remain today of most of this history, but visitors can still get quite the sense of this once industrious town. For more information, visit Harpers Ferry National Historical Park at http://www.nps.gov/hafe.
Gristmills once dotted the landscape of rural America, but most of them have now vanished or stand abandoned as silent witnesses of the past., However, Aldie Mill, located in Aldie, Virginia, offers visitors and students a glimpse of how life was lived in the rural South during a time when the Mill served as a vital center of the community. Find out more at http://www.nvrpa.org/park/aldie_mill_historic_park.
Manassas is a good place to learn about our country’s rich military history.. Everyone knows about the two Civil War battles that took place there and may also be familiar with the nearby National Museum of the Marine Corps. However, tucked away inside the Manassas Regional Airport is the Freedom Museum. The Freedom Museum honors those Americans who made the supreme sacrifice in defense of freedom and pays tribute to those who served our country with honor and distinction. The thrust of this Smithsonian Affiliate focuses on the 20th Century. Learn more at www.freedommuseum.org.
For more than four centuries our forefathers had been producing fresh whiskey in the hills of Virginia. At Belmont Farm Distillery, their whiskey is produced in a genuine solid copper pot still and they have America’s oldest operating pot still. Although this form of whiskey production had been abandoned in the United States, the folks at Belmont Farm have chosen to preserve a national tradition of copper pot still fresh whiskey (their copper pot still was constructed in 1930). For more information, visit http://www.belmontfarmdistillery.com.
Located at Montpelier (the former home of President James and Dolley Madison) sits the Gilmore Cabin, a post-Civil War African-American’s house. Former Madison slave George Gilmore built this log cabin for his family in the early 1870s. President Madison’s nephew owned the land. George Gilmore was more than 90 years old when he purchased the house and 16 acres for $560, just before the death of Dr. James Ambrose Madison in 1901. The property offers a glimpse of what life was like for African-Americans in the years during the Reconstruction era. Museum educators will be on hand to demonstrate the techniques of 19th-century farm life. Check out http://www.montpelier.org/visit/gilmore-cabin-open.
And finally, make sure you take a ride on the Hatton Ferry, a historic ferry across the James River and the only poled ferry still operating in the United States. A ride on the ferry is a unique opportunity to experience times past. Two hundred years ago, there were a thousand poled ferries carrying people across rivers and streams throughout the United States. Ferries served Albemarle County from the mid-eighteenth century to the mid- nineteenth century, and provided a means by which European settlers could communicate with other settlers and establish commercial ventures. There’s no better way to experience the beauty and tranquility of the James River- and to get a glimpse of a simpler way of life- than by taking the ferry at Hatton. The Hatton Ferry is located in southern Albemarle County, a few miles outside of Scottsville. Be sure to check out their website for hours and operating conditions at www.thehattonferry.org
In addition to the sites listed above, there are several other places to visit within the Journey Through Hallowed Ground National Heritage Area. Those interested in other suggested itineraries or to request a map should visit www.hallowedground.org.