We stayed close to Winnie and Max today and went to Luray Caverns. The Caverns were discovered in 1878 by Andrew Campbell when he, three other men, and his 13-year-old nephew were exploring the area looking for a cave. They found one, as it was the largest series of caverns in the East. Luray is much more commercial than Skyline Caverns with walkways paved with bricks or concrete, and well lit to accent the stalactites and stalagmites. There are some huge rooms within the caverns. Probably the most interesting parts were the reflecting pool, some of the large caverns that had huge formations in them, and the Stalcpipe Organ. Some of the stalactites produce pure musical tones when struck with a rubber hammer. In 1957, Leland Sprinkel, who worked at the Pentagon at the time, began a 36 year project developing the instruments and organ that currently exists.
In addition to the caverns there is Car and Carriage Caravan Museum. It focuses on carriages from colonial times to the early 20th Century and pre-WWII cars. They have some great cars, but they've tried to stuff too much in a small building. There was an interesting poster hanging on the wall that depicted the lineage of car makes in America from the late 1800's to the early 1990's. They really need to bring it up to date to include the carnage of the last several years that has led to the disappearance of Oldsmobile, one of our earliest makes, Pontiac, Saturn, Hummer, Plymouth, etc. There was also an interesting display of of presidential license plates from Ohio. William Shelton appeared to get a new "vanity" plate for each president from George Washington (GW-1) to Richard Nixon (37-RN). They span the years 1958 to 1968. I'm not sure where they got the collection from as there wasn't a lot of explanation. In our other trip journals, I usually include a couple of pictures of hood ornaments from old cars. It's a shame that the hood ornament has passed into history, because they added a lot of charm and class to cars. I've posted pictures of 5 hood ornaments with this entry. The twist is I haven't identified them. For you car buffs and any one else, we'd like to see if you can guess what they are. I'll re-post them tomorrow with their names.
The last area we visited was the Luray Valley Museum. The museum celebrates early Shenandoah Valley culture. It’s consists of a log building which contains an overview of the Valley's history, including historic documents, decorative arts, clothing, and artifacts. The museum covers pre-contact Native people (Indians) to life in the bustling 1920's. Most people think Virginia was settled only by immigrants from Great Britain. We were surprised at the connection of the Shenandoah Valley with immigrants from Switzerland and Germany. The German immigrants settled the region in the 1830's and 1840's from Pennsylvania after arriving in America through the ports of the northeast, mostly New York and Baltimore. That's about the time a large influx of Germans settled in Riverside, NJ where both Sue and I were born. My father's family immigrated to Riverside a little later and I'm sure the strong German heritage of that area of New Jersey is the reason.
Another surprising fact about the Shenandoah Valley region was the early importance of iron foundries. The region had everything that was needed (wood, water, iron ore, and cheap labor) to produce a lot of iron for all kinds of products. There were quite a few cast iron stoves and face plates from older stoves on display as well as other iron implemnts and products. It's said that Thomas Jefferson ordered iron window sash weights from the area iron foundries for the windows at the University of Virginia. It's interesting to look at how the artwork on the stove plates developed over the years - from religious symbols for the earliest versions to things that were representative of early America on the later models.
There’s also a collection of historic, local structures on the museum grounds that have been moved to the site. They are developing a small 19th century farming community. The Elk Run Dunkard Church, circa 1825, served as a barracks for both Union and Confederate soldiers during the Civil War as seen by the signatures that still scatter the interior. This is similar to what we saw at the Pohick Church in Mount Vernon. There are nearly a dozen relocated, reconstructed and newly constructed buildings on the 7-acre site. We didn’t get to see all of them because it was threatening rain by the time we got there so we headed home early for a change.