Monthly Archives: August 2014

The 30th Anniversary of the National Heritage Area Program

Sunday, August 24th marked the 30th creation of the Illinois & Michigan Canal National Heritage Corridor, which was signed into law by President Reagan in 1984.

Photo by Kenneth Garrett. Copyright Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership.

Photo by Kenneth Garrett. Copyright Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership.

The National Heritage Area (NHA) Program serves as a public-private partnership for the stories that are too large, or perhaps too complicated, for the National Park Service to tell. Take The Journey Through Hallowed Ground National Heritage Area for example, which was created as the 38th Area in the country and signed into law by President Bush in 2008. Within this 180-mile swath of land, we can tell more stories than any single park would be able to by linking several parks and the surrounding communities together and filling in the gaps in interpretation with inclusive stories about those who have lived here and helped shape the American (and local) character. We can tell a large portion of the story of the Civil War, but we also link nine Presidential sites, portions of the Underground Railroad, and the house where the Marshall Plan was written, to name just a few. Each of these sites are important in their own right, but together, they create a rich fabric that helps visitors and locals alike understand the unique history of this region.

Photo by Kenneth Garrett. Copyright Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership.

Photo by Kenneth Garrett. Copyright Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership.

The National Heritage Area designation is founded on two core principals – heritage tourism and education, both of which are essential to our organization’s mission. Through immersive, award-winning educational programs, we reach students of all ages to create future stewards of these national treasures. Through the Certified Tourism Ambassador Training program, we train frontline hospitality workers to turn ordinary visitor experiences into something truly extraordinary.

Although the federal budget for the NHA program has been cut over the years, it is obvious that this is still a program the public supports – it offers a solution to communities who see a need for preservation to work together and feel a sense of ownership over an important landscape. Each of the 49 National Heritage Areas currently in existence tells some portion of our American story, which is what the National Heritage Area program is all about: nationally significant large landscapes that are still living, breathing pieces of Americana.

Photo by Kenneth Garrett. Copyright Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership.

Photo by Kenneth Garrett. Copyright Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership.

The 30 years since the first National Heritage Area was designated have given us a lot to be thankful for – most especially that these regions are receiving recognition and now have a hope of being preserved for our children, and our children’s children. As the budget cuts loom again and more NHA’s are being designated, it is also important to look at how we are growing as a group. It is clear the program still has a lot to do to ensure the models we are creating for the program today are sustainable for the National Heritage Areas of the future.


Labor Day Throughout The Journey

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 :


Photo by Kenneth Garrett. Copyright Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership

Photo by Kenneth Garrett. Copyright Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership

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


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


Photos by Kenneth Garrett. Copyright Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership

Photos by Kenneth Garrett. Copyright Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership

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


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


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


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


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


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

Photo by Shuan Butcher. Copyright Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership

Photo by Shuan Butcher. Copyright Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership


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

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

Student-Created Vodcasts Available For Video On Demand Viewing through Partnership with Comcast

Comcast has made six new vodcasts, or mini-documentaries, created by middle school students through the Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership’s innovative and award-winning Of the Student, By the Student, For the Student® program, available for free viewing through Xfinity On Demand.  The student programming can be viewed by Xfinity TV customers in the Richmond, Charlottesville, Washington, D.C., and Roanoke areas.  The programming can be found by going to the Xfinity On Demand menu and choosing either Get Local/Community Investment/Hallowed Ground or Get Local/Entertainment/Hallowed Ground.IMG_4034

Of the Student, By the Student, For the Student® is a service-learning project that connects middle school students to the American Civil War as they use primary source documents, humanities scholarship, music, dance, dramatic readings, role-playing and digital technology to create vodcasts, or mini-documentaries, for the National Parks in the Journey Through Hallowed Ground National Heritage Area.  From beginning to end, the students serve as scriptwriters, actors, directors, choreographers, set designers, costume creators, videographers, film editors and now young history stars with deep connections to our national history.

During the 2013-2014 school year, the Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership completed new vodcasts with students from Orange County Public Schools.  The vodcasts covered various topics relating to the Battle of The Wilderness and the start of the Overland Campaign These student-generated vodcasts will become part of the official interpretive materials at Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park and are available to educators, students and visitors worldwide through various websites. IMG_4091

Cate Magennis Wyatt, JTHG Partnership President, stated “We are so very excited to be able to share these educational vodcasts with parents, teachers and students. These works provide great insight into creative teaching as well as best practices for learning history.”

The collaboration between Comcast and the Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership was initially introduced through History.  “History Channel is delighted to join our cable partners in helping these local student productions reach a wider audience,” said Libby Haight O’Connell, Senior Vice President, Corporate Outreach and Chief Historian, History. “The Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership’s work in preservation and education is outstanding, and the student documentaries highlight the value of local history.”IMG_4154

In addition to History, generous support for this project is provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Park Service, and the Richard S. Reynolds Foundation.  In addition to placing these and previous student-created vodcats, Comcast supported this initiative by creating a Comcast Newsmakers segment from the 2013 program in Gettysburg, providing an overview of the process.  To check out that video, visit  For more information about the Of the Student, By the Student For the Student® program, visit