Heroic resting places and hidden complexes – Greenbrier County’s past is evidenced in the architecture, artifacts and stories that have been preserved and passed from one generation to the next.
Heroic resting places and hidden complexes – Greenbrier County’s past is evidenced in the architecture, artifacts and stories that have been preserved and passed from one generation to the next. Visitors from all corners of the globe come to visit this lush valley, sometimes descending into its uncharted depths for new evidence of its earliest inhabitants.
Thankfully, its past is easily accessible, and you won't need to walk far from the car to become well acquainted with some of its mysteries. According to a spokesperson for the North House Museum, many of its legendary sites are under an hour’s drive in any direction.
"Visitors seem particularly interested to discover the history of its caverns and mineral springs, though you could spend years and never reach the bottom of all there is to be unearthed.”
A collection of sites clusters around Lewisburg, where the North House Museum and the Greenbrier Valley Visitors Center serve as ideal launch points. The historic hotspots highlighted below are easy to find, providing a full day of sight-seeing.
Lewisburg Historic District -- If you’re already in Lewisburg, you're likely within sight of the junction of U.S. highways 60 and 219, in the center of town. Near here in 1751, Andrew Lewis established a camp that became a frontier outpost. Later, he mustered troops to fight the Shawnee at the Battle of Point Pleasant. Most buildings in the district have been restored to their eighteen and nineteenth-century appearance and are now filled with cafes, restaurants and specialty shops. In addition to the North House, landmarks include the General Lewis Inn, the John Wesley Methodist Church, and the Old Stone Church (b. 1796), purported to be the oldest church in continuous use west of the Allegheny Mountains.
Civil War Cemeteries -- On the edge of Lewisburg, the remains of rebel soldiers are buried in a cross-shaped mound, one of seven battle sites demarcated as part Lewisburg's Civil War history. Fifteen Union dead were also buried nearby but were later moved to the National Cemetery at Staunton, Virginia. Many heroes were laid to rest in and near the Old Stone Church Cemetery, monuments which also serve as a virtual social-registry for many of the valley's first families.
Covered Bridges -- A short drive west and south of Lewisburg, the Valley's only two covered bridges are easy to find and worth a few snapshots. Hern's Mill and Hoke's Mill bridges, built in 1884 and 1898, span tributaries of the Greenbrier River.
Organ Cave -- Perhaps after lunch you'll be ready to stroll into one of the coolest historic sites (literally) in the valley -- Organ Cave. Interwoven with prehistoric and Civil War history, the cavern is a classroom for historians. Saltpeter miners employed by Thomas Jefferson discovered the remains of a prehistoric sloth in the cave in 1796. By 1914 it had become a tourist attraction and was outfitted with some of the first electric lighting in the area.
The Greenbrier -- There's nothing like an afternoon at The Greenbrier. One of the most famous resorts in the country, The Greenbrier is also one of the valley’s most important historic landscapes. Twenty six presidents have toured the resort since visitors first began to "take the waters," believed to possess curative powers. The President's Cottage Museum serves as an ideal stop as does a tour of the Congressional bunker secreted beneath the hotel during the Cold War. It’s also worth planning in some extra time to walk the grounds, browse the shops or even stay for dinner.
To assist you on your tour, be sure to pick up a Walking Tour Guide to Historic Lewisburg and other maps and brochures at the Greenbrier Valley Visitors Center.