Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Memorial Day, 2016

What do 2016, 1868 and 1922 all have in common? Memorial Day, or Decoration Day, was on May 30 for each of those years.

Decoration Day was said to be established May 30, 1868 by General John A. Logan, to honor all who lost their lives in the Civil War. Graves were decorated with flowers, and thus Decoration Day began. After WWI they began honoring all the dead of America's wars, and then in 1971 it became a national holiday. Read more about the history from History.com.

A few weeks ago I posted to Facebook an old newspaper article from 1922, advertising that Shenandoah Caverns was open on May 30, Decoration Day.

And again, on May 30, 2016, we think of those who have lost their lives so that we may continue to live ours. This Memorial Week, the Shenandoah Caverns Family extends great thanks to all who have served, especially those who have made the ultimate sacrifice. Their memory will hold a special place in our hearts forever.

Friday, April 22, 2016

The Discovery & Opening of Shenandoah Caverns

Any visitor to Shenandoah Caverns knows about the discovery of the cave by the two young Neff brothers in 1884. You probably shook your head in disbelief when you looked at the huge boulders and steep shaft of the natural opening they descended. But did you know about the railroad, the hotel, and why the caverns was first opened to the public? Read on to learn more. 
Shenandoah Caverns was discovered in 1884 during the building of the Southern Railway through the Shenandoah Valley. Many local farmers, including Abraham Neff, donated stone from their property to the building of the railroad. The Neff family allowed the railroad to quarry rock on their property, adjacent to where the railroad was built. Abraham's two sons were playing in quarry when they discovered cool air rising from a hole in the ground. Of course, boys being boys, they were curious. They retrieved ropes and candles and scrambled down the 275 foot twisting and winding shaft to make their way into the caverns.

The railway was instrumental to the opening of Shenandoah Caverns. A local businessman in Woodstock, Hunter Chapman, was a stockholder in the B&O railroad. When he heard about the railroad going through, and the discovery of the caverns, he saw an opportunity to open an attraction on the railway. He approached Abraham Neff and asked him to sell his property, which he did. In 1922 Chapman opened Shenandoah Caverns, with a full service hotel. The passenger train ran brought tourists from DC and northern Virginia to Shenandoah Caverns until after WWII. 

The hotel rooms were on the third floor, while the second floor held a large reception room. The hotel operated until 1957, when it burned in a large fire. In the 1990s the second floor was renovated. It now hosts Main Street of Yesteryear, a display of antique department store windows you can enjoy after your cavern's tour.