Blue Ridge Heritage Project
Our Vision is to:
Develop a memorial site in each of the eight counties where land was acquired to create the Shenandoah National Park; and
Educate visitors about the lives and culture of the people who lived in the mountains through living history presentations, exhibits, and demonstrations.
The Creation of Shenandoah National Park
This stone chimney was placed here to honor the people of the Blue Ridge Mountains who lost their homes, land and livelihood when Shenandoah National Park was formed in the 1930s. The memorial chimney symbolizes the enduring spirit of the mountain people and all that remains of their homes today.
The BRHP Narrative -Honoring Their Sacrifice
The People Before the Park
At the time the Shenandoah National Park was proposed in the 1920s, more than 3,000 people lived in this part of the Blue Ridge. The mountains were alive with small communities – houses, farms, churches, and schools dotted the landscape. Some of the families had resided in these mountains for over a hundred years.
In 1928, after Virginia was selected as the location for a national park, the state’s legislature approved the broad use of eminent domain to acquire the people’s land so that it could be turned over to the National Park Service.
That decision began a long and painful series of evictions – a difficult process worsened by conflicting information from government officials about the fate of their homes, property and cemeteries. Very few of the residents were willing to leave their homes and move away.
Landowners with clear title were compensated, but some families did not possess a title to the land on which they lived. Many were tenants or caretakers for absentee owners, and a few resided on land that had supported their families for generations, but was actually owned by others. Compensation varied from property to property. Some received what they considered fair value for their loss, while many did not.
During the Great Depression, as the park was being formed, an empty house offered shelter to people without a home. To prevent people from moving into previously vacated homes, houses were dismantled or sometimes burned after evictions took place. In some cases, burnings took place while the families looked on. All that remained of these homes was their rock foundation and stone chimney.
Remembering the People
The Blue Ridge Heritage Project was organized in 2013 for the purpose of honoring the families who were displaced from the mountains for the creation of Shenandoah National Park.
Shenandoah was formed from parts of eight Virginia counties: Albemarle, Augusta, Greene, Madison, Page, Rappahannock, Rockingham, and Warren. In each county, groups of citizens came together to erect a memorial to honor the sacrifices of the people of that county who once lived in the Blue Ridge.
The eight memorial sites preserve the story of the displacement and help keep alive the rich culture of the people who called these mountains home. The stone chimney symbolizes the strength, determination and enduring spirit of those who lived in what is now Shenandoah National Park. The plaque inset in the chimney lists the names of families of this county who lost their homes and land.