I was not expecting to visit any national parks while we were out on the east coast for a recent wedding and to spend time with friends and family, so I was delighted to discover that Harpers Ferry, our AmTrak departure town, was, in fact, a National Historic Park, and therefore blogworthy!
It was fortunate that I packed our national park pass. Fees to enter the Visitor’s Center and parking area are $10. From there, a shuttle runs you down to the Lower Town. If you don’t have a pass, I would recommend driving to town first and looking for free parking there. You can pay the fee into one of the collection boxes which operate on the honor system.
Hapers Ferry is a notable historical site. In 1959, the abolitionist John Brown and 21 followers staged a night time raid of the small town with the armory as the primary target. This armory was manufacturing and stockpiling the famous Sharp’s rifle, and Brown hoped to seize the armory and catalyze a slave rebellion. The raid was successful but the hoped for uprising never materialized. Instead, a nearby Union marine detachment led by Robert E. Lee, retook the town and arrested John Brown. He was later hanged, ending his lifelong work to free the slaves at any cost. A fantastic historical fiction account of his life was written by Russell Banks, called Cloudsplitter: A Novel, if you have further interest in this topic.
When we visited, we were disappointed to see that the armory no longer stands. John Brown’s fort stands nearby, but it has been moved many times from the original location. The rest of the lower town is preserved and unoccupied by modern businesses.
You may also know Harpers Ferry because General “Stonewall” Jackson forced the largest surrender of Union troop during the Civil War in the area, solidifying his reputation. More relevantly for us, the Appalachian Trail also passes right through town, so we had a chance to see some “real” hikers in action. And by that, I mean they were sitting in the shade enjoying ice cream. It was really hot out. While we enjoyed this historic area, I would be hard pressed to recommend visiting it in the summer heat.
Here’s the link to the book again if you are in need of summer reading and would like to support further blog posts via beer money: