Potomac River from Jefferson Rock

Harpers Ferry, West Virginia

Harpers Ferry, West Virginia is now a national park, but it bears the ravages of war, economic uncertainty, and countless floods that carried away people’s lives, livelihood, and even the apostrophe in the town’s name.

St. Peter's Catholic Church
St. Peter’s Catholic Church, in Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia, stands on a high hill overlooking the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers. It was started in 1830, and finished in 1833.
Above the doorway to St. Peter's
High above the doorway to St. Peter’s Church is this inscription: “Come let us and ore and fall down, and weep before the Lord that made us for He is the Lord our God: and we are the people of his pasture and the sheep of his hand.” This is an English translation of a traditional Catholic Latin Mass.
St. Peter's Catholic Church roofline
Roofline of St. Peter’s Catholic Church in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia.
St. Peter's Catholic Church
Another view of St. Peter’s Catholic Church, obscured somewhat by a tree.
St. Peter's Catholic Church
St. Peter’s Catholic Church, seen from the banks of the Shenandoah River.
Grotto behind St. Peter's
Behind St. Peter’s Church is a small grotto with this statue of the Virgin Mary.
St. Peter's Catholic Church
Behind St. Peter’s Church is also this robustly built stone outhouse.
St. John's Episcopal Church
St. John’s Episcopal Church is uphill from St. Mary’s. Built in 1852, it was used as both a hospital and barracks during the Civil War, and suffered substantial damage. Never fully restored, it was abandoned in 1895 after a replacement church was completed.
St. John's Episcopal Church
You can see the general layout of St. John’s Episcopal Church. Like much of the rest of the town of this period, the walls were thick, formed of stone, and mostly built by slaves.
View from St. John's Episcopal Church
View of the Potomac River from St. John’s Episcopal Church in Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia.`
Jefferson Rock at Harpers Ferry
Jefferson Rock is so called because Thomas Jefferson stood on the rock in 1783 and wrote, “This scene is worth a voyage across the Atlantic.” The stone pillars were added between 1855 and 1860 to keep the formation in place; it had suffered at the hands of tourists.
Potomac River from Jefferson Rock
Looking southeast from Jefferson Rock toward the Potomac River, with the steeple of St. Peter’s in the foreground.
Harpers Ferry from Jefferson Rock
The town of Harpers Ferry from Jefferson Rock, with the Potomac river in the distance.
Two stone walls at Harpers Ferry
Two stone walls hold up the steep hillsides in Harpers Ferry.
Stone wall at Harpers Ferry
Closeup of a stone wall at Harpers Ferry. Much of the original construction is unmortared, with stones fitted in based on size and shape. This photo makes a great high-security computer desktop: no hacker will be able to find a thing.
Another stone wall at Harpers Ferry
Looking down a stone wall at Harpers Ferry.
Storage room at Harpers Ferry
It may look like a jail, but this underground room was used to store food and other perishables surrounded by the cool stone.
Stairway and wall at Harpers Ferry
The stone house on the left, the stone steps, and the wall have all sagged a bit with time.
Stone wall and vines
Vines are attempting to take over this stone wall. Water and vegetation are the two great enemies of stone.
Vine covered wall
Greenery is taking root in this stone wall at Harpers Ferry. This is another good candidate for a highly secure desktop photo.
Stone stairwell
This stone stairwell shows more of the carefully fitted stonework from the 19th century.
John Brown Raiders Plaque
This plaque, dedicated to the men in John Brown’s raid on Harpers Ferry in 1859, was erected in 2001. Even then, it created some controversy.
Simple, effective, and hand drawn sign has a clear message. The energy saving compact florescent light is not original to the period.
Lovely building
This lovely building is easily one of the most elegant in Harpers Ferry, with the gently rounded porch.
Old building with amenities
This old building has nice oval windows with leaded glass panels, a stonework base, and a window air conditioner (not original equipment).
Downtown Harpers Ferry, West Virginia
The steeply sloped main street runs from the ridge top through the town to the banks of both the Potomac and the Shenandoah rivers.
Public Way street sign.
Public. Way. With rail fence and stone wall in the background.
Massive stone walls
Given the limited population in the area, the massive stone wall holding up the hillside and the massive walls of this huge building represented an incredible amount of labor and effort.
True Treats historic candy
Despite what the sign implies, the candies were not made in the 1700s and 1800s, but are modern productions of candies introduced and popular in earlier eras. The store is not large, but you can spend quite some time inside.
Antique glassware
Antique glassware in a Harpers Ferry storefront.
Old cold box with old drinks
This cold box (something of a precursor to modern refrigerators) holds drinks made popular in the 19th and early 20th centuries, but still produced — and sold — today.
No longer rolling thunder
A collection of motorcycles pulled up outside a restaurant located in an old railcar.
Archway art
An enterprising soul stacked some of the local stonework into this freestanding arch. You can tell this isn’t an earthquake zone.
Freestanding stone art
More freestanding stone artwork, in a land without frequent earthquakes.
Harpers Ferry from the river
Harpers Ferry as seen from the banks of the Potomac. The buildings in the photo are all from the 18th and 19th centuries.
Harpers Ferry railway station
This rather run-down shelter is the modern Harpers Ferry railway station. Yes, this is an Amtrak station.
No firearms
Signs like this are posted throughout Harpers Ferry to remind people that this is a federal park and not Dodge City.
Corps of Discovery plaque
These plaques are found along the path of the Lewis and Clarke expedition, from Maryland and Virginia all the way to the Pacific Ocean.
Private Luke Quinn memorial
This memorial is to Private Luke Quinn, a US Marine and the only Marine killed in the expedition to suppress John Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry. He was born in Ireland, and is buried in the cemetery of St. Peter’s Catholic Church at the top of the hill.
John Brown's Fort
This marker shows the location of the original “John Brown’s Fort,” a firehouse built for the U.S. Army arsenal in Harpers Ferry. The original building has been taken down and rebuilt several times, and is now located closer to the water’s edge in Harpers Ferry.
Memorial to Hayward Shepherd
Memorial to Hayward Shepherd, “an industrious and respected colored freeman,” erected by the United Daughters of the Confederacy and the Sons of Confederate Veterans.
Historical interpreter at Harpers Ferry
This young woman, in 19th century attire, tells visitors some of the long and complex story of Harpers Ferry.
Closeup of bonnet
This bonnet is something of a rarity: while most modern reconstructions of 19th century bonnets are cloth, this is a straw bonnet, faced with cloth and a cloth ribbon.
Union musicians
Two historic interpreters in the uniforms of Union Army musicians allow a young girl to try out the drum.
Potomac River in flood, Shenandoah not so much
You can see in this photo the muddy waters of the Potomac, in flood, mixing with the clearer waters of the Shenandoah River. The previous week had seen heavy rains.
Potomac River in flood
Looking southeast down the Potomac River from Harpers Ferry. Maryland is to the left, Virginia to the right.
Kayaker in the flood
This intrepid kayaker is paddling upstream against the flood. He is crossing over rapids that are normally much more visible and dangerous, but they, too, are flooded.
Flood debris caught in the crossing
Debris from the flooded Potomac has been temporarily blocked by this old railroad crossing abutment.
Very muddy Potomac in flood
The very muddy waters of the flooded Potomac are quite obvious in this photo. Normally, the water is much shallower, and clear all the way to the bottom.
Flooded waters and clear waters
The stone bridge pilings in the rear are in the clear waters of the Shenandoah River, with the muddy waters of the flooded Potomac River in the foreground.
Rock climber
This rock climber is on the Maryland side of the Potomac, above the railroad tunnel leading to Harpers Ferry.
Harpers Ferry railroad tunnel
The Harpers Ferry railroad tunnel was completed in 1931. Many massive civil engineering projects were built during the Great Depression, when labor was cheap.
Harpers Ferry railroad tunnel and bridge
Looking from West Virginia across the Potomac to Maryland via the Harpers Ferry railroad bridge and tunnel.
This spot at Harpers Ferry is midway along the Appalachian Trail from Maine to Georgia.
Canadian geese in the Shenandoah
Canadian geese enjoy the clear waters of the Shenandoah River. Green cards, please?
Ruins at Harpers Ferry
Several factories were built along the banks of the Shenandoah at Harpers Ferry. Floods have washed away everything but the stone foundations. These arches were for guiding water from the river to power the factory.
Factory ruin at Harpers Ferry
Another stone wall from the factories along the Shenandoah River at Harpers Ferry.
Infinity pool at Bavarian Inn
The Bavarian Inn in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, not far from Harpers Ferry, has this lovely infinity pool. It appears to be dropping off suddenly into the Potomac.
Vintage car?
This Maryland plate seems to imply this Ford Focus is a 1910 vintage car. Seen at the Bavarian Inn in Shepherdstown, West Virginia.


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