“Above the alter is a trompe-l’oeil painting attributed to Lucien Whiting Powell, a local artist, around 1880. The painting is done in three-dimensional designs and creates the illusion of an apse. The artwork consists of two fluted pilasters topped by composite capitals supporting a modified Gothic arch containing a white dove with an olive branch sailing among puffy clouds in a blue sky.” ?(Detail from Wikipedia’s romantic description of a painting inside Ketoctin Church.)
Trees in the shape of animals. Old stone bridges. Revolutionary War and Civil War soldiers … buried side by side. Grand, 19th Century Italian Renaissance-style structures with darkened windows.
These are just a handful of the things and places that dot the Loudoun County landscape – bits of history and more that endure, adding to our area’s beautiful and sometimes haunting past.
You may drive by them routinely – to and from shopping or work or a nice dinner in western Loudoun. And, for that reason, they may be vaguely familiar to you. It’s said we’re in for a cold winter. But, the sun will surely be out, and giving us many beautiful days. So why not … get up and about … and beyond?
Ketoctin Baptist Church & Graveyard*: Ketoctin Baptist Church and its quiet old graveyard is bordered by Allder School Road on the north and Ketoctin Church Road on the east near Purcellville. Also known as Short Hill Church, the current structure was built in 1854. But, with earlier church buildings having come and gone, the first grave in the cemetery dates to 1777, making this site an enduring center of community for worshipers struggling through the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, and the wars of the early 20th Century. The church was built without a bathroom and functions that way today. But, a tiny, tiny group of spiritual devotees hangs on, recently raising $15,000 for a bathroom and whatever services it can offer the community.
Bear’s Den Rural Historic District*: With places such as Humming H-ollow, Edna’s Cabin, and Heart Trouble Lane, this area is both little known and well-traveled … and quite intriguing. The well-traveled part is the hiking trail and old lodge known as Bear’s Den, accessed by Blue Ridge Mountain Road off Rt. 7 heading west. The little-known part is the large historic area around it, which contains over 170 contributing buildings, sites and structures late-19th– and early-20th Century homes and structures used as summer dwellings by wealthy Washingtonians. A fairly new addition to the romantic lore of the place is a chain saw sculpture carved out of a tree that depicts the true native inhabitants of the area’s mountain forests, including bears and owls. Hamilton Masonic Lodge*: When you hear the term Freemasons, all kinds of things come to mind. Secret societies. Upstanding philanthropic citizens. Tradesmen. Although its members think of themselves as exclusive rather that secretive, we still think of them with a bit of wonder. This sense of wonder is the same feeling you get looking from the outside into the historic Hamilton Masonic Lodge. The beautiful, three-story brick building with the towering belfry was built in 1873, and is recognized as a prime example of the Italianate style, popular from the 1840s to the 1890s. The building stands mostly unused today. But the masons’ rich history – whose members included Benjamin Franklin, John Hancock, Paul Revere, the Marquis de Lafayette, and others – makes this lovely building worth a look.
Hibbs Bridge*: When you think of historic bridges, you don’t often associate them with the modern kind of road known as a turnpike. But Hibbs Bridge on Snickersville Turnpike (Rt. 734) – built over Beaverdam Creek between 1810 and 1830 – was not only part of the first recorded turnpike in the U.S., but is also one of the few remaining two-span masonry arch bridges in the state of Virginia. Well used, this bridge has always been loved by locals. And, when state officials were debating about whether to tear it down, bypass it with a new bridge, or dismantle and move it, citizens choose “none of the above.” The bridge had not had any major repairs since 1932, when in 2007 it was rebuilt “to spec,” retaining as much of the old techniques as possible. Take a drive over it … a nice slow drive across history.
* Property/place has National Register status and/or additional historic designations.