Nestled in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains, the historic town of Abingdon, Virginia, was incor-porated in 1778. Since its inception Abingdon has been known not only for its breathtaking views, but also for a love of the arts.
It was through a local actor’s love of theatre that Abingdon’s most well known attraction was born. The Barter Theatre originally opened in the 1930’s when Robert Porterfield, an unemployed actor and native of Southwest Virginia, brought a troupe of actors to Abingdon. The ticket price was 35 cents but as the country was in the grips of the Great Depression not all patrons could afford the price. Porterfield’s desire to allow everyone the opportunity to attend the show gave rise to the theatre’s name. Porterfield would accept the equivalent of the ticket price in produce thus, the playhouse became known as the “Barter Theater”. Today the Barter Theatre is honored as the State Theatre of Virginia.
The Arts Depot is located in a former railroad freight station that was purchased by the town of Abingdon and later turned into a gallery. The Arts Depot offers a Spotlight Gallery with eight visiting exhibits annually as well as the members’ gallery where members of the Arts Depot Association can display and sell their work. The gallery is also a working art studio in which visitors can view artist demonstrations.
The William King Museum of Art is housed in the former high school and educates locals and visitors with lectures, art classes and demonstrations. The William King Museum also offers exceptional exhibits that have varied from the work of regional artists to a display of artifacts from Ancient Egypt. Guests may also enjoy William King’s twenty-acre grounds and outdoor sculpture garden.
Abingdon’s history has been well preserved through the restoration of historical buildings, homes and sites. The Fields-Penn 1860 House Museum on West Main Street offers visitors a peek at life before the Civil War. Guided tours of the home are available that demonstrate what life in Abingdon was like during the 19th Century.
One of the oldest structures in Abingdon is White’s Mill, constructed in 1790. The Mill is a Virginia Historic Landmark and is also listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Restoration is currently in progress, but visitors can still tour the mill and purchase corn meal, grits, buckwheat and whole wheat.
Abingdon and Washington County abound with outdoor activities that will not only test the athletic abilities of visitors, but also immerse them in the beauty of the region. The Virginia Creeper Trail stretches 35 miles from Abingdon to the North Carolina state line. The trail began as a Native American footpath, later became a railroad and, with the closing of the railroad in 1977, is now a popular footpath once again. The trail passes through the scenic backcountry of Western Virginia and is open to hikers, bikers and horses.
These are just a few of the activities the Abingdon area has to offer. However, in order to truly appreciate historic Abingdon and the breathtaking Blue Ridge Mountains, you must come and see for yourself! We’d love to have the pleasure of your company.
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