The Valley Turnpike Museum is located in downtown Harrisburg, in what is known as the Hardesty-Higgins House.
This center is dedicated to Route 11, a roadway more famous than the West’s Route 66 for those that call the Shenandoah Valley home. Known originally as the Valley Turnpike, Route 11 began as a buffalo path and was the main north to south road in pioneer days until the much less charming Interstate 81 took over that task.
The Valley Turnpike Museum emphasizes the roadway’s history that includes “The Turnpike Era” in which tolls were paid to companies that owned and maintained stretches of road. The Valley Turnpike Company, established in 1834, constructed one of Virginia’s first macadamized roads between Winchester and Staunton, VA. The history of the Valley Turnpike also includes its influence on troops, supplies and battles during the Civil War.
As outlined by the Harrisonburg Tourism site, both Harrisonburg city and surrounding Rockingham County played major roles in the Civil War for at least four reasons. The Valley Turnpike, old Route 11, was an established transportation route since the days of buffalo trails. In addition, the Valley Turnpike intersected The Rockingham Turnpike (modern day Route 33), a not inconsiderable road itself. Thirdly, this area is a mere 50 miles north of the Confederacy’s enormous rail and supply center in Staunton, VA. Lastly, this entire area was known as “the bread-basket of the Confederacy.” Control of this area would therefore ensure excellent road and rail transportation systems as well as provisions for always-hungry armies.
Because of this area’s extraordinary importance during war, it became the focus of many strategic meetings and campaigns. One of the best known is that of Confederate General “Stonewall” Jackson’s Valley Campaign of 1862. This was followed two years later by Union General Philip Sheridan’s “The Burning” Campaign of enormous destruction to the Harrisonburg area.
Valley Turnpike Museum
212 S. Main Street
Harrisonburg, VA 22801
Open Daily, 9 AM – 5 PM
Harrisonburg & Rockingham County Visitors Guide 2010-2011, Harrisonburg Tourism & Visitor Services