The History of Afton Mountain

From pre-time to I-64

Ecocambrian Period—600 million years ago, lava flows deposit a thick layer of volcanic rock that will metamorphose into Catoctin greenstone, the primary component of Afton Mountain.

Permian Period of the Paleozoic Era—280 million years ago, the Blue Ridge is folded when Africa collides with North America.

10,000 years ago—Native Americans follow buffalo trails across Rockfish Gap.

Mid-1740s—Scots-Irish cross Rockfish Gap from the west to settle the eastern slopes of the Blue Ridge.

June, 1781—The General Assembly flees through Rockfish Gap to Staunton to escape capture by Lt. Col. Banastre Tarleton.

August 1-4, 1818—The location of the University of Virginia is decided at the Rockfish Inn. Former presidents Jefferson and Madison and President Monroe are among those appointed to a commission to decide whether the school will be in Lexington, Staunton or Charlottesville.

1837—Andrew Stephenson, American ambassador to the Court of James and Albemarle County native, presents Queen Victoria with a basket of Albemarle pippins. The queen exempts Virginia apples from import duties.

1849—Claudius Crozet proposes four tunnels for a new rail line connecting Mechum’s River in Albemarle County to Waynesboro in Augusta County.

Christmas Day, 1856—Miners digging the Blue Ridge Tunnel from opposite sides of Afton mountain ‘hole through’ after eight exhausting years.

April 13, 1858—The Blue Ridge Tunnel opens, beginning nearly 90 years of service.

April, 1859—The village of Afton is officially established with a train depot and a post office.

1861-1865—Union and Confederate forces vie to deny each other use of the Virginia Central Railroad, a vital link between the Shenandoah Valley and Richmond. Most of the track is unusable and the railroad bankrupt by the end of the Civil War.

September 17, 1865—General Robert E. Lee spends the night at the expanded inn, renamed the Mountain Top Inn. He is on his way to Lexington after being invited to become the president of Washington College.

1867-1888—Transcontinental railroad magnate Collis P. Huntington incorporates the Virginia Central into his company but loses control when it goes into receivership. The reorganized railway financed with Morgan and Vanderbilt money is renamed The Chesapeake & Ohio Railway Company, with Melvin Ingalls as president. West Virginia coalfields are opened.

April 4, 1909—Fire destroys the Mountain Top Inn, leaving only the stone walls of the original inn.

1913—Swannanoa, the lavish Italianate mansion atop Afton, is completed.

September 11, 1935—Construction begins on the Blue Ridge Parkway by the CCC.

1948—Howard Johnson’s opens on Afton. Restaurant later joined by Holiday Inn, now Inn at Afton. Only the Inn remains open today.

1949—Lao and Walter Russell lease Swannanoa. The University of Science and Philosophy operates from the mansion for a decade after Lao’s death in 1988.

December 22, 1972—Interstate 64 across Afton Mountain opens.

April 20, 1992—Massive 60-car pileup during fog, one of many accidents.

April 19, 1998—Again in foggy weather, 65-car pileup, sending 40 to hospitals. A few weeks later, 18-car pileup.

2004—Dedication of the memorial to VDOT workers killed on the job.

2007—Nelson County’s Bicentennial and the planned opening of Crozet’s Blue Ridge Tunnel as a recreational trail.

June 11, 2022

Star Gazing and Laser Nights

Virginia Living Museum
July 9, 2022

Star Gazing and Laser Nights

Virginia Living Museum
August 13, 2022

Star Gazing and Laser Nights

Virginia Living Museum