History of Bluemont - Modern times

March 11, 2008

- Susan Freis Falknor

Contents

Beginnings
Civil war
Railroad days
Modern times
Sources

Later in the 20th century, Bluemont slipped into a decline.  Instead of the socially bustling hotels and boarding houses of the village’s heyday with their “drummers” (traveling salesmen) and fashionable guests, the area around Bluemont became a place of farming and summer cottages for families.  The Blue Ridge Inn burned to the ground in 1912; the railway ceased Bluemont operations in 1939;  and Route 7 remained a winding two-lane road until the 1970s,  putting Bluemont well off the beaten track for decades.  The 1960s and 1970s reportedly found the town a bit worn at the heels as, in some quarters, Elizabeth Avenue (now Railroad Street) took on the disparaging nickname of “Vietnam.”

However, as the decades rolled on, increasingly comfortable families began to live and commute from (or retire in) Bluemont, lovingly fixing up the Victorian homes and venerable commercial structures.  Several writers and artists responded to the appeal of the mountain and settled here.

Certain dates should be noted.  The Bluemont Citizens Association was organized in 1955 and the annual Bluemont Fair in 1970.  In 1974 TWA flight #514 from Columbus to National Airport crashed on the Blue Ridge, killing all aboard.  In 1994 the Snickersville Turnpike Association was formed to resist a Virginia Department of Transportation plan to widen and straighten a portion of the turnpike without regard to old trees and historic stone walls.  This effort lead to the tasteful completion of the new Hibbs Bridge in 2007.  And, on September 11, 2001, lines of black SUVs made it evident that the cyclone-fenced government installation called Mount Weather -- which had been excavated by the Bureau of Mining and taken over by the Federal Emergency Management Agency -- was among the several “undisclosed locations” to shelter Federal operations in case of enemy attack.

Today, Bluemont has found a share of prosperity. Many of its year-round residents are linked to the greater Washington, D.C. commuting area.  Labors of love, such as the Bluemont Citizens Association’s preservation of the E.E. Lake Store, the late Bruce Brownell’s renewal of the Snickersville Store, Rosemary Stanger’s re-creation of the train station, and Butch Nielson’s restoration of the Old Dance Hall, maintain the attractiveness and utility of Bluemont’s commercial center.  Family businesses, such as Great Country Farms, Nielson’s Bluemont Village Center, the long-lived Bluemont General Store (sometimes called the Snickersville Store), and Serene Acres/Ponymania make their way.  The occasional visiting bear from the surrounding mountains, the persistent deer, and the dramatic whistle-moan of winter wind bustling through Snickers Gap preserve a touch of the wildness in the village.

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