Picturing Harrisonburg

David Ehrenpreis’ new book tells the story of the town.

Harrisonburg has been a vital agricultural, commercial and political mecca since the 18th century. Today, it is the largest city in the Shenandoah Valley—and an educational epicenter with a metropolitan population exceeding 100,000. But the city’s roots lie in the evolution of the American frontier, and tracing how visions of a place shift over time can reveal a community’s values, how they evolved and what they mean, says David Ehrenpreis, professor of Art History at James Madison University and author of Picturing Harrisonburg – Visions of a Shenandoah Valley City since 1928 (UVA Press, $40).

In 288 pages, Ehrenpreis organized six essays around more than 250 illustrations, early 20th Century postcards and documentary and commercial photographs and images of urban renewal that examine growth, decline and regeneration of this county seat over the past 150 years. “While Harrisonburg has a unique history and distinct character well-known to Virginians, the challenges and problems it has confronted over time are common and familiar regionally and nationwide,” Ehrenpreis says.

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