Category Archives: Tourism

America’s Wine Country Enhances the Journey Through Hallowed Ground

Photo courtesy of Barrel Oak Winery

Photo courtesy of Barrel Oak Winery

Something new is vinting in Virginia’s wine country. It’s called “Virginia’s Piedmont: America’s Wine Country”. This regional assembly of 11 counties stretches from Warren, Fauquier and Loudoun in the north to Albemarle in the south. The thrill of the wine life is now merged with America’s hallowed ground.

The wine country of Virginia follows the same trajectory as its historic antecedents: the world is rediscovering Virginia as a land of intense beauty and intense vintages. The land of President Jefferson is also the land of Thomas Jefferson: world’s leading oenophile. The land of Justice John Marshall is the land of Justice Marshall: grand lover of Madera.

Photo courtesy of Barrel Oak Winery


Today, John Marshall’s estate is a winery.

Today, a winery sits at the battle site of Bull Run.


It may take years for the world to fully discover both the history and the great vintages of Virginia; but together, the Journey and America’s Wine Country promise the opportunity to bring Virginia back to the world stage as one of the great historic and wine regions of the world.

Photo courtesy of Barrel Oak Winery

Celebrate Constitution Day

The average lifespan of a modern constitution is 17 years. By contrast, the U.S. Constitution has lasted 227 years since its signing on September 17, 1787. We have the oldest still in effect constitution in the world.

Today on National Constitution Day, we honor James Madison, Father of the Constitution and Architect of the Bills of Rights, for his leadership in the Constitution’s creation. The individual freedoms and rights we enjoy today are direct reflections of Madison’s tireless work and vision.

Photo courtesy of The Montpelier Foundation.

Photo courtesy of The Montpelier Foundation.

These ideas, the framework that became the U.S. Constitution, emerged from Montpelier, Madison’s lifelong home located in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains along this corridor that is part of the Journey through Hallowed Ground. Imagine the 35-year-old Madison, a committed patriot dedicated to the ideals of the Revolution. He spends months at Montpelier reading about ancient republics and confederacies, trying to glean why they failed, and what America could do differently to succeed. While the thirteen colonies had won their independence from England, the emerging young nation could not function under the Articles of Confederation. Madison recognized this dilemma and developed the plan for addressing America’s ills.

Madison and the other founders, who were part of that hot, summertime debate in Philadelphia we now call the Constitutional Convention, are presented to us sometimes today like demigods—due with good reason to the ideological enlightenment that guided their discourse, friendships, and politics. It was this intellectual foundation that fashioned a linchpin in the axles of liberty and allowed the young United States to move from an experiment to the great country we know today.

However, it would be naïve to claim that our liberty, then and now, has been easy. After all, the Constitution was written “to form a more perfect union.” It was not perfect when created, and while it has become “more perfect” over the past two centuries, changes have often been hard won through petition and protest. We cannot ignore that a truly representative system of government was not achieved until women and African Americans entered the voting booths in more modern history.

Nevertheless, with only 27 amendments, the Constitution has proven its ability to withstand the test of time. It is the Constitution that binds us together as Americans—not where we are from, the color of our skin, or our religion.

The many voices and opinions found in today’s debates seem like fuel for anarchy. Yet time and again, out of those many opinions comes one voice—one people, under one Constitution and one rule of law—which continues to be heard as distinctly American.

The United States of America is an example to the world that a free people can indeed govern themselves. But, power demands responsibility. If we want to pass on liberty to future generations, we must ensure that each generation understands the roles and responsibilities of American citizens, including how our government works. To quote Madison “The people will have the virtue and intelligence to select men of virtue and wisdom…So that we do not put confidence in our rulers, but in the people who are to choose them.”

James Madison’s Montpelier is rooted in this far-reaching vision and a deep commitment to the ideals of the Constitution. We invite you to join us for a visit to learn more about James Madison and his vision of America. Happy Constitution Day.

Rowe, courtesy of The Montpelier Foundation.

Photo courtesy of Kenton Rowe and The Montpelier Foundation.

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

400 Years of History on One Tank of Gas

Photos by Kenneth Garrett.  © Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership

Photos by Kenneth Garrett. © Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership

With gas prices where they are, families may be wondering what to do this summer or where to travel. There is a place where travelers can get 400 years of unparalleled American history and heritage on a single tank of gas- that is the Journey Through Hallowed Ground National Heritage Area. This 180 mile swath of land that runs from Gettysburg, PA to Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello in Charlottesville, VA includes nine Presidential homes, 13 National Parks, the largest single collection of Civil War sites in the nation, 30 historic Main Street communities to stay and dine in, many of the country’s best wineries and restaurants to enjoy, and to top it off, a National Scenic Byway with breadth taking landscapes, rivers and trails nearby to explore. And it’s all within a short drive from Washington, DC, Baltimore MD, Philadelphia, PA, Harrisburg, PA, and Richmond, VA.

Known as Where America Happened™, this region holds more American history than any other in the nation and can be enjoyed on just one tank of gas. As fuel prices rise and air travel becomes more unwieldy, now more than ever is the time to Take the Journey™ to discover some of the nation’s most picturesque landscapes and explore 400 years of American heritage.

Photos by Kenneth Garrett.  © Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership

Photos by Kenneth Garrett. © Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership

Visitors can discover the stories of Abraham Lincoln and Gettysburg, PA; Civil Rights and Harpers Ferry, WV; historic downtowns like Frederick, MD and Leesburg, VA; the Iroquois Indians and the Potomac River; the inspiration of James Madison and the U.S. Constitution at Montpelier; the genius of Thomas Jefferson and Monticello; as well as locally grown foods, a perfectly aged barrel of Virginia grapes and so much more.

“There are few things that match the joy of discovery when exploring the unmatched history and heritage found in this spectacular National Heritage Area,” said Cate Magennis Wyatt, president and founder of the Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership. “The Sesquicentennial Commemorations of the American Civil war are once-in-a-lifetime opportunities and make it the perfect time walk the battlefields; explore the exceptional historic downtowns; and taste the vibrancy of the farms and vineyards. It’s only by visiting these remarkable places, that the stories of the heroic men and women who lived here during the Civil War become real.”

Photos by Kenneth Garrett.  © Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership

Photos by Kenneth Garrett. © Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership

The Journey Through Hallowed Ground National Heritage Area contains the single largest collection of Civil War sites in the nation, including the beginning, middle and end of the Civil War. Sites include: Aldie, Antietam, Appomattox Court House, Ball’s Bluff, Brandy Station, Bristoe Station, Cedar Mountain, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, Harpers Ferry, Kelly’s Ford, Manassas, Middleburg, Rappahannock Station, Spotsylvania Court House, Thoroughfare Gap, Upperville, Wilderness and many others. In fact, July 2014 marks the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Monocacy, near Frederick, Maryland. Plan your itinerary, request a map, and get more travel information at

Make the Journey Better

There are many great destinations in America, but there are very few great journeys left. This is because we live in a world of rapid change, but also growing homogeneity. Today, if you were suddenly dropped along a road outside of most American cities, you wouldn’t have the slightest idea where you were because it all looks exactly the same. Over the past 50 years too many of our townscapes have gone from the unique to the uniform and from the stylized to the standardized.

New building materials can be imported from anywhere. Hills can be flattened and streams put in culverts. We can transform the landscape with great speed and build anything that fits our budget or strikes our fancy. Technological innovation and the global economy make it easy for building plans drawn up at a corporate office in New Jersey to be applied over and over again in Phoenix, Philadelphia, Providence or Peru.

The deadening sameness is particularly pronounced along many of our highways and at the entrances to our communities. Charles Kuralt, who spent a career “on the road”, used to say that “thanks to the interstate highway system, it is now possible to travel from coast to coast without seeing anything”.

The staff, supporters and partners of the Journey Through Hallowed Ground have done a great job of promoting and protecting many of the historic destinations along the corridor, but they have done a much less good job of preserving and enhancing the journey: the experience of traveling from one end of the corridor to another.

We all know the difference between a road that beckons and one that depresses and driving along Route 15 can indeed be depressing: far too many billboards, strip malls, cookie cutter franchises and look-a-like subdivisions follow us down the road. And talk about “context sensitive road design”, there is none. Every new bridge railing is a Jersey barrier; every road project simply aims to move traffic faster, at the expense of everything else.

We see relatively little of any place on foot, therefore preserving what we see from the road is critical to the corridor’s sense of place. Place is more than just a location on a map, A sense of place is a unique collection of qualities and characteristics – visual, cultural, social, environmental – that provide meaning to a location. Sense of place is what makes one town different from another town, but it is also what makes our physical surroundings valuable and worth caring about.

The more any community in Virginia or Maryland comes to look just like every other community the less reason there is to visit or invest. On the other hand the more a community does to enhance its uniqueness, the more reasons there are to visit. When it comes to 21st century economic development a key concept is “community differentiation”. Sameness is not a plus in the world we live in today. If you can’t differentiate your community from any other community, you will have no competitive advantage.

So what can be done to make the journey better? 1. Development design guidelines for new commercial buildings and signs within view of the corridor. Promote the guidelines heavily and give annual awards to business that do the best job of building to these guidelines. This is already being done in the Shenandoah Valley and in the PA Wilds (i.e. North Central Pennsylvania). 2. Demand that the Virginia and Maryland Departments of Transportation apply context sensitive design standards to all new highway projects with the corridor. US 15 should be treated like it is a parkway, not like a typical highway. 3. Consider establishing a new land trust that would focus on acquiring viewshed or conservation easements on properties along the road. The idea of “saving you view and getting a tax break too” has already been applied in areas like Washington County Maryland where the state partnered with groups like The Conservation Fund and the Maryland Environmental Trust to buy easements on land within view of the Antietam battlefield.

Author Louis L’Amour used to say that the “trail is the thing, not the end of the trail. Travel to fast and you will miss all that is worth traveling for.” Let’s all work together to save not just the destinations but the journey as well.

The Economic Impact of Tourism in the Region

NTTW14_V_4CThe first full week of May is annually recognized as National Travel and Tourism Week, a tradition first celebrated in 1984, established by a Congressional joint resolution passed in 1983.

Within the Journey Through Hallowed Ground National Heritage Area, a 180-mile long, 75-mile swath of land stretching from Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, to Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello in Charlottesville, Virginia that contains a vibrant natural, historical, and cultural landscape, there is much to celebrate this week.

Tourism is, indeed, one of the largest industries in this four-state, 15 county region that was designated by Congress as the 38th National Heritage Area in this country. In fact, tourism is a $4 billion dollar industry in the region, that is Billion with a B. In other words, for illustration purposes, it generates $4,000,000,000 (most of us don’t see this many zeros) for our regional economy, according to 2012 data. In fact, tourism within the Journey Through Hallowed Ground National Heritage Area employs nearly 50,000 employees, with over $1.3 Billion in tourism- related employment income. And just as important, this industry contributes $371 million dollars in state and local government revenue to support important public services.

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

And there’s plenty of reasons why tourism plays an important role here. With 400 years of European, American and African-American heritage, the Journey Through Hallowed Ground is a National Heritage Area, visitors can explore 400 years of our history on just one tank of gas. Heritage tourism traditionally provides the most beneficial value and we have plenty of that. Known as the region Where America Happened™, this region is home to National and World Heritage sites, over 10,000 sites on the National Register of Historic Places, 49 National Historic districts, nine Presidential sites, hundreds of African American and Native American heritage sites, sites from the Revolutionary War, French-Indian War, War of 1812, and the largest collection of Civil War sites in the nation.

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

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

In addition, this is a Land of Beauty, with 13 National Parks, a hundred scenic waterways, and over 100 wineries, farms, and orchards with bucolic countryside, valleys, and mountain ranges to explore. Visitors can hike or bike some of the top trails in the country, canoe a number of the rivers, stop at any number of pick your own orchards or farms, and so much more.

And for cultural enthusiasts, there is plenty of culinary dining destinations, craft breweries, and distilleries to fulfill any quench. Not to mention the shopping and arts amenities offered in the over 30 Historic Main Street communities up and down this corridor. And connecting all of these locations is an artery known as the Journey Through Hallowed Ground National Scenic Byway, the 99th such road designated as such by the Department of Transportation.

So as we pause to reflect, or celebrate National Travel and Tourism Week, let us remember how travel also promotes physical and physiological health and improves workplace productivity. In 2013, the average U.S. employee skipped 3.2 days of paid time off. According to a recent study, if workers used all of their available paid time off, the U.S. economy would gain $160 billion in additional annual business sales, which would support 1.2 million new jobs and generate $21 billion in new annual tax revenues. If employees would take just one additional day of earned leave each year, it would add $73 billion annually to the U.S. GDP.

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

“It is now empirical, rather than just anecdotal, that travel is a key driver for improving individual health and strengthening our businesses and economy,” said Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association, the umbrella organization representing the U.S. travel industry. “Travel holds measurable benefits for our minds, bodies, relationships, businesses and economy. Travel should be celebrated every day.”

The fifteen counties/communities, in whole or in part, that make up the Journey Through Hallowed Ground National Heritage Area include: Adams County, PA; Frederick, Carroll, and Washington Counties in Maryland; Harpers Ferrry, WV; and Loudoun, Fauquier, Culpeper, Prince William, Greene, Madison, Rapphannock, Spotsylvania, Orange, and Albemarle Counties in Virginia. To request a map, view suggested travel itineraries, or get more information, visit