Founders Day to honor Front Royal’s 225th birthday

By Josette Keelor

It’s not every day a town turns 225, but that’s exactly why the Town of Front Royal decided to make the celebration as long as possible.

After the better part of a year celebrating, Front Royal will host its final birthday event with Founders Day from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday.

The free event downtown will include walking tours, games for children, a youth choir performance by Warren County Public School students, bagpiper Samuel Potter, 16 organizations with booths, historical displays with photos and articles and a reading by town crier Tony Trinagle from the official act that created the town on Nov. 15, 1788.

The Apple House Restaurant will serve barbecue near the Front Royal Visitor’s Center, and community members will have the chance to see what was uncovered in the town time capsule that was opened earlier this year.

The capsule was encased in a concrete cornerstone at the town hall in 1935, and Town Manager Steven M. Burke said he and other town officials were pleased to open it in August during the town’s anniversary year.

He said the town has been waiting until Founders Day for the big reveal.

Some of what was in the capsule was expected since there was a list explaining what should have been there, but Warren Heritage Society Executive Director Patrick Farris said some of it was surprising too, like the specific contents of documents and letters or the names on the letters.

There was a letter from the first town manager, said Farris, who explained that before 1935 Front Royal’s town council ran things without a manager.

“I felt personally communicated with,” Farris said, remembering when he read the letter, “… so that was very nice.”

“That was not included on the list, so that was nifty,” he said.

The items will be on display Saturday at the Heritage Society office and at the visitor’s center, protected behind glass and within plastic sleeves after many painstaking hours archivists from the society spent contending with mold, mildew and crumbly documents that might otherwise have been lost to time.

But, Farris said, “That’s why we have paid and trained archivists.”

They were able to “salvage absolutely everything that was salvageable,” he said, much of which was 25 to 50 percent destroyed. But more than half of the time capsule’s content was only minimally damaged.

The damage wasn’t unexpected, but Farris said “I cannot call it typical.”

Every time capsule protects its contents differently depending on the quality of the material being preserved and the way in which the capsule is stored. Those kept outside, like the one in Front Royal, are subject to natural elements like heat, cold and humidity. Plus acid-based paper, like those commonly used in 1935, tend not to stand up to time.

Farris recommended using a material that holds color, “and try to avoid paper as much as possible,” he said. Store it in an airtight container behind drywall, or someplace else that’s climate-controlled, he said.

Still, he has no complaints. The capsule has provided a window into what was happening in Front Royal 78 years ago.

The people of that time, Farris said, “They had exceptional pride.”

Even though they were living through the Great Depression, he said the attitude they projected in their writing is “truly inspirational.”

“It’s a wonderful resource,” he said.

Burke said Founders Day follows other events this year like the Wine and Craft Festival, the Festival of Leaves and the Brew and Blues Festival, each of which included tributes to the town’s history.

“We’re proud that the town has been in existence for 225 years serving our residents,” Burke said.

“We just invite every one to celebrate the history of Front Royal.”

Founders Day will take place near the Gazebo at the Village Commons, at the corner of Main and Chester streets, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. with historical displays at the Warren Heritage Society at 101 Chester St., and the Front Royal Visitor’s Center, 414 E. Main St., Front Royal. The event is free to attend. For more information, call 540-635-5188 or visit www.frontroyalva.com.

Contact Community Engagement Editor Josette Keelor at 540-465-5137 ext. 176, or jkeelor@nvdaily.com>