The Natural Bridge
by Casey | Posted on May 23rd, 2013
The Natural Bridge of Virginia is one of the oldest tourist destinations in the United States. It’s located in the city of Natural Bridge, in Rockbridge County.
Popular with Europeans in the 18th and 19th centuries, Natural Bridge and Niagara Falls were the two wonders of the new world. The Bridge has been included in several “Seven Natural Wonders of the World” lists, mostly in the 19th and early 20th centuries.
Vacationing guests from all over the world took day trips from Natural Bridge on horseback or horse drawn carriages to explore the countryside. The braver guests could be lowered over the edge from the top of the bridge in a hexagonal steel cage while a violinist played.
It has been designated a National Historic Landmark, a Virginia Historic Landmark, and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
History of the Natural Bridge
A very long time ago:
Natural Bridge was formed when a cavern collapsed and left the span that stands today.
A long time ago:
Monacan Indian legend has it that Natural Bridge appeared just as they needed to escape from an advancing enemy.
Legend holds that young George Washington surveyed the Natural Bridge site for Lord Fairfax. Landmarks remain of the work and on the wall of the bridge where he carved his initials.
In 1774, Thomas Jefferson purchased 157 acres of land including the Natural Bridge from King George III of England for 20 shillings. It has remained privately owned since. Jefferson also built a two room log cabin, with one room was reserved for guests.
The Bridge served as a shot tower during the Revolutionary War. Bullets for American firearms were manufactured by dropping molten lead 245 feet from the top of the Bridge into Cedar Creek’s cold water below.
During the War of 1812, ammunition was made beyond the Bridge, along the trail at Saltpeter Cave and Lost River.
In 1833, Jefferson’s heirs sold the site and the new owner erected the Forest Inn to accommodate the increasing number of people.
In the 1850s Herman Melville references the Natural Bridge when describing the whale in Moby Dick: “But soon the fore part of him slowly rose from the water; for an instant his whole marbleized body formed a high arch, like Virginia’s Natural Bridge…”
From 1861-1865, Civil War soldiers made ammunition in Saltpeter Cave and Lost River locations along the trail, just beyond the Bridge.
During the 1880s Natural Bridge attained resort status under the ownership of Colonel Henry Parsons.
Early 1900s to now:
In 1927, U.S. President Calvin Coolidge inaugurates the night light presentation, The Drama of Creation.
Designated a National Historic Landmark by the US Department of the Interior.
Natural Bridge, Wonders of the World, Old School
Virginia Tourism Corporation, www.Virginia.org