Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Abingdon Afternoon

On Thursday, July 3rd, we headed to Abingdon.  Abingdon is a town in Southwest Virginia with a population of 8,191 in 1910.  The town is the county seat of Washington County and is home to the Barter Theatre, Martha Washington Hotel & Spa, an end point of the Virginia Creeper Trail as well as a well known arts and crafts scene.

We left Hungry Mother State Park at 10:30 am and arrived in Abingdon at 11:20 am.  Our first stop was the Holston Mountain Artisans gallery on Park Street.  Very nice gallery with a variety of arts and crafts by over 100 local artists.  Well worth a visit!  

It was then time for lunch at Figaredo's Bistro at the corner of Main and Court streets.  We both enjoyed the cold Cucumber Soup.  Awesome!  Pam had the Garden Frittata while I had the Sausage Frittata.  Quite nice with a cold beer 8^)  

Click on my photos below to see them in high resolution on Flickr.  You can view the photos in high resolution by clicking here!

After lunch, we took a stroll through the area, cameras in hand.  Several historic properties are nearby.  First, The Tavern Restaurant located on Main Street.  Built in 1779, it is the oldest building in Abingdon.  It served as a stagecoach inn and tavern for travelers.  Their website claims the following visitors: Henry Clay; Louis Philippe, King of France; President Andrew Jackson; and Pierre Charles L'Enfant.  The building also housed the first post office west of the Blue Ridge.

The Tavern Restaurant c 1779

Across Main Street is "The Bank", home of the Exchange Bank of Virginia.  It was built in 1849 to house the bank as well as the cashier and his family.  After the American Civil War, the building was acquired by James Preston and has remained the residence of subsequent generations of his family.  For an interesting history about "The Bank" check out this website for the wedding of Mary Katherine & Ray.

The Bank c 1849

The Washington County Circuit Court building was built in 1868 during Reconstruction to replace the previous courthouse burned during the Civil War.  The courthouse features a large Tiffany stained glass window honoring the men and women who would serve in World War I.

The window was commissioned by the Washington County Board of Supervisors in July, 1918 to honor those from Washington County who have and would be serving in World War I.  By the end of the war, over 70 service men and women from Washington County lost their lives in the war.  The stained glass window is the center window on the second floor in the photo below.

The  beautiful stained glass window is inscribed with the words: “To the men and women of Washington County who answered the call of duty in the way of right and liberty.”

Tiffany stained glass window honoring those who served in World War I

The Barter Theatre was founded by Robert Porterfield in 1933 during the Great Depression.  The price of admission was 35 cents or the equivalent in produce.  Today, over 160,000 visit the theater located near the intersection of Main and Partington Place.  Playwrights at the theater included Noel Coward, Tennessee Williams an Thornton Wilder.

Barter theater was the first theater to be designated a "state theater", the State Theater of Virginia.  Gregory Peck, Patricia Neal, Ernest Borgnine, Hume Cronyn and Ned Beatty started acting there. 

We just had to see a play at the Barter Theatre so we chose a matinee on Thursday called "Welcome Back To Ivy Gap." 

Barter Theatre Main Stage seats 500

I remember staying at the Martha Washington Hotel & Spa in the 1970's.  It was built in 1832 at a cost of under $15,000 as a private residence for General Francis Preston, Sarah Buchanan Preston and their family of nine children.  It is located on Main Street near the Barter Theatre.  In 1858, it became the Martha Washington College for young women.  It operated for 70 years, through the Civil War and the Great Depression.  During the Civil War, students became nurses and the hotel grounds were used as barracks for the Washington Mounted Rifles.  

After the Civil War, the building housed Barter Theatre actors and actresses.  In 1935, it was opened as an inn. Since then, many famous guests stayed there including Eleanor Roosevelt, President Harry Truman, Lady Bird Johnson, Jimmy Carter, and Elizabeth Taylor.  In 1984, it was significantly renovated.

Not too far from the Martha Washington Inn is the Fields-Penn House on the corner of Main and Cummings Streets.  The mansion was built by James Fields in 1860 for his family.  Financial problems after the Civil War led to the sale of the house to George Edward Penn from Danville, VA.  Today, the home is open for visitors to explore and appreciate.

As we were walking to the Barter Theatre, we stumbled on this colorful wolf!  What is this wolf doing there?  A search on the net revealed that this wolf and many others are part of a fundraising campaign for Abingdon Main Street.  

One of the colorful Abingdon Main Street Wolves

You can view the entire set in high resolution by clicking here!

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