Transportation exhibit to open this weekend

Patrick Farris, executive director of the Warren Heritage Society, holds an old railroad lantern dating to the early 1900s that is part of a new yearlong transportation display at the Warren Heritage Society in Front Royal. The lantern, on loan from Front Royal resident Ron Santmyers, was used by his late grandfather, who worked for Norfolk and Western Railroad. Rich Cooley/Daily

FRONT ROYAL – Front Royal’s Ivy Lodge Museum’s new exhibit showcases how transportation made Front Royal and Warren County what they are now.

The exhibit will be open at 6 p.m. today.

Highlighting the county’s transportation history dating back to the Paleo-Indian period of 11,000 years ago, the exhibit chronologically details transportation’s effect on Front Royal and Warren County.

The exhibit will stay up for a year, said Patrick Farris, executive director of the Warren Heritage Society.

“It’s interesting to see how this community becomes a community, where it is, because of the nexus of transportation routes that come through here,” Farris said. “That’s essentially what makes Front Royal a place where people have always settled.”

The exhibit shows the earliest forms of transportation, from walking, horses, wagons and gundalows to modern planes, trains and automobiles.

He said the Native American walking trails were the foundation for future roadways in downtown Front Royal. When the English settled the area in the colonial era they used the existing Native American trading paths when creating a town.

“Front Royal is built at the crossroads of three Indian trading paths,” Farris said.

Though Main Street looks like one street to us today, he said it was actually two trading paths that intersected, and Chester Street formed the third trading path.

“Those streets are the oldest artifacts of the town,” he said.

For water routes, he said gundalows were used. Gundalows are flat boats that sailed down the Shenandoah River in the 1700s and 1800s, transporting up to 13 tons of merchandise to the town. The merchandise would be unloaded at wagon road crossings. Gundalows allowed the area to be agriculturally productive.

Farris said the exhibit will also display the history of the Virginia Department of Transportation, which took pressure off of counties that were previously responsible for maintaining roadways. This had become a problem for rural communities, such as Warren County.

“Every time a road is constructed now you are now funneling and guiding where people are going to go, where they are going to stop and that dictates business,” Farris said.

“You cannot underestimate the power of a road system to dictate community and economy,” he said.

The creation of roadways allowed for the tourism industry, attracting people and businesses to the area.

“Cars come and go,” Farris said. “It’s the infrastructure that’s put in place that changes communities forever.”

In conjunction with the exhibit opening, the Warren Heritage Society will also hold its fourth annual Balthis House cookout. The Balthis House is the only 18th century site open to the public in Warren County. Colonial games, tours and food will be available at the Balthis House.

Contact staff writer Kaley Toy at 540-465-5137 ext. 176, or ktoy@nvdaily.com.


If You Go

When: 6 p.m. today
Where: The Ivy Lodge Museum, 101 Chester St., Front Royal.