It’s been a long three years, but the finished Blue Ridge Heritage Project memorial is in sight in Stanardsville. This Saturday, July 6, the committee will unveil and dedicate the six panels telling the history of the Greene County families displaced when the government created Shenandoah National Park in the 1930s.
The event will coincide with the soft opening of the Greene County Farmers Market Pavilion at Greene Commons behind the county administration building. The Greene County Memorial is the eastern gateway to the new Greene Commons park.
A crew placed the six storytelling panels in on June 27 and 28 in front of the memorial chimney with the names of the displaced families. This is almost three years to the day the committee presented the project to the Greene County Board of Supervisors on June 20, 2016, asking for permission to place the memorial on land next the county administration building.
“I signed on for one year,” laughed Norm Addington, who has led the project in Greene County since the start.
The stone chimney with the 69 surnames of displaced families was completed in September 2017 and dedicated in front of more than 100 people on Oct. 29, 2017, as torrential rains fell.
The interpretive panels to be unveiled to the public this Saturday tell the families’ stories including: displaced families; churches; schools; mountain homes; livelihoods; and cemeteries.
Additional vertical panels will be constructed opposite the chimney will a map of Greene County with the park boundary outlined to show how much land was taken and a narrative to explain the Blue Ridge Heritage Project as a whole. People were displaced in eight counties to create the park: Greene; Madison; Albemarle; Augusta; Rockingham; Page; Rappahannock; and Warren. Each memorial includes a stone chimney with the family names affixed.
“The memorial chimney symbolizes the enduring spirit of the mountain people and all that remains of their homes today,” according to the project’s narrative.
A bench will be added between the vertical kiosks as well.
When deciding the topics for the horizontal panels, committee member and descendant of a displaced family Larry Lamb said the photos dictated when to cover a little bit.
There were three schools within the park boundaries: High Top School; Simmons Gap School; and Big Bend School.
“We found a picture of Big Bend,” Addington said. “That school was located right about where there is the big sharp bend on Route 33.”
The kiosk with the project’s narrative will be standard at each memorial site, but Greene County will be the first to have it in place, Addington said.
“It tells the story of Bill Henry and his vision of how we should recognize and honor those displaced,” Addington said. “It tells the story of the sacrifices families were forced to make to create the park.”
Henry had the vision but many signed up to assist including Lamb, Addington and Jim Lawson.
Lamb, who has taken students on field trips to the Upper Pocoson Mission site within the park—with remnants of a building, church steps and cemetery still in place, said the panels will be good for the students in Greene to visit.
“Now, with the kiosks, they have the stories behind the names on the chimney,” he said.
Lamb, who was also involved with the Albemarle County memorial, said “after three years, it’s been good to see the last phase go up.”
After researching his family Lamb realized he had family in four of the eight counties who were forced to leave: Page: Madison; Albemarle; and Greene.
Addington has family from three counties: Rockingham; Albemarle; and Greene.
“We’re uncovering some hidden secrets of the Blue Ridge,” Lamb said.
Some cemetery photos were taken recently by Anna Lawson. Some photos are from the Shenandoah National Park archives and some are from personal collections, such as Lamb’s.
Descendants have been invited to the special event at 10 a.m. Saturday.
“We’re really hoping for no rain,” Lamb laughed. For more information about the project, visit www.blueridgeheritageproject.com.
In addition to the Blue Ridge Heritage Project unveiling this Saturday, the farmers market pavilion at Greene Commons is holding its soft opening.
The Greene County Farmers Market has been hosted in front of the county administration building on Celt Road but will finally be in its permanent place with the covered pavilion at Greene Commons, located behind the administration building. The pavilion has a cement floor and electricity. The construction of a performance stage is ongoing with the hope of outdoor concerts in the heart of Stanardsville, according to Alan Yost, director of economic development and tourism and a board member for Greene Commons. The groundbreaking was held last September.
The farmers market runs from 8 a.m. to noon each Saturday through October and to celebrate the pavilion opening, there will be live music and children’s activities this Saturday, July 6.
“The 70-foot by 30- foot pavilion was created with the goal of creating a gathering place for the whole community,” Yost said.
The performance stage will be 30 feet by 20 feet and will face the grassy slope that forms a natural amphitheater up to the Blue Ridge Heritage Project Memorial at the Celt Road corner.
A walkway has been constructed through the complex, with a western entrance off Main Street opposite the bandstand, winding up the slope to the memorial chimney, which will has become the eastern gateway to Greene Commons.
“Greene Commons and the Blue Ridge Heritage Project Memorial complement each other,” said Norm Addington, who leads the Greene County Memorial group.
There will be a 10 a.m. unveiling Saturday of interpretive panels in front of the chimney memorial next to the county administration building to honor the sacrifices of the families forced from their homes in the development of the Shenandoah National Park.
The county administration building is at 40 Celt Road in Stanardsville. For information about Greene Commons, visit greenecommons.com.