Posted on: November 19 2013

This Month’s Featured National Heritage Area: Journey Through Hallowed Ground Commemorates Our National History


By Shuan Butcher, Director of Communications, Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership

The Journey Through Hallowed Ground National Heritage Area is a 180-mile long, 75-mile wide swath of land stretching from Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, to Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello in Charlottesville, Virginia. This unparalleled historic, cultural, and natural landscape includes:

  • Nine presidential homes
  • 30 historic Main Street communities
  • 13 national park units
  • Two World Heritage Sites
  • Single largest collection of Civil War sites in the nation
  • Sites from the Revolutionary War, French and Indian War, and the War of 1812
  • Hundreds of African American and Native American Heritage Sites
  • 16 National Historic Landmarks
  • The largest concentration of National Historic Districts in the country
  • Over one million acres on the National Register of Historic Places
  • Hundreds of vineyards, wineries, orchards, and local markets

The Lincoln Monument at Gettysburg National Military Park, part of the Journey Through Hallowed Ground NHA

With 400 years of multicultural American heritage, it’s no wonder the heritage area’s official slogan is “Where America Happened.” But this region is more than a place—it’s a passage into American history in one of the most eventful corners of the United States.


The Land of Leadership

No fewer than nine presidents have called this region home, including Thomas Jefferson (whose home, Monticello, is the only private residence declared a World Heritage Site), James Madison, James Monroe, Dwight D. Eisenhower, and John F. Kennedy. Here, presidents and world leaders have been inspired to write some of the most important doctrines of our time, including the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution, the Emancipation Proclamation, the Gettysburg Address, the Monroe Doctrine, and the Marshall Plan.


The Land of Conflict

The most significant battles of the Civil War—including Harpers Ferry, Manassas, Gettysburg, Antietam, Wilderness, Monocacy, and dozens of others—took place within the Hallowed Ground National Heritage Area. Underground Railroad sites dot the land, highlighting the struggle for freedom. This is where the Union was preserved and the cradle of democracy was forged. From Civil War to civil rights, there are many stories to tell from this place.


The Land of Beauty

Amidst the history, you will also find vibrant historic downtowns: Gettysburg in Pennsylvania; Frederick, Hagerstown, Westminster, and others in Maryland; Harpers Ferry in West Virginia; and Leesburg, Middleburg, Warrenton, Washington, Culpeper, Orange, Madison, and Charlottesville in Virginia. Each has its own unique charm and culture, with restaurants, cafés, museums, galleries, shops, inns, and festivals. The bucolic countryside is a tapestry of orchards, farms, and wineries crossed by pristine rivers and sparkling streams. The heritage area’s 13 national parks are also ideal for hiking, horseback riding, canoeing, and other recreational pursuits.

Connecting the presidential homes and battlefield sites is a historic artery that predates Colonial America. Now known as the Journey through Hallowed Ground National Scenic Byway (formerly the Old Carolina Road), this 180-mile historic road spans a four-state region, including parts of Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia.


The Land of Learning

The Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership is working with our national parks and other partners on two major initiatives. The partnership’s nationally award-winning Of the Student, By the Student, For the Student service-learning project engages middle-school students in interpreting the history in their own backyards. The students use primary source documents, humanities scholarship, music, dance, dramatic readings, role-playing, and digital technology to create vodcasts or mini-movies in partnership with the National Park Service. The students serve as scriptwriters, actors, directors, choreographers, set designers, costume creators, videographers, and film editors to gain a deeper connection with our national history. These vodcasts become official interpretative material for the National Park Service and can be viewed on YouTube,, and other sites. The project is currently working with Orange County Public Schools and Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park during the 2013-14 school year to interpret the Battle of the Wilderness. The vodcasts will premiere as part of the 150th anniversary commemoration in May 2014.

Students film a vodcast at the Journey Through Hallowed Ground National Heritage Area

To commemorate the sesquicentennial of the American Civil War, the Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership has also launched an initiative of national significance called the Living Legacy Project. The goal of this sweeping and ambitious effort is to plant or dedicate a tree for each of the more than 620,000 soldiers who died during the America Civil War. Today, on the 150th anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, a tree-planting project will take place at Gettysburg National Military Park.

For more information on these and other projects, visit www.hallowedground.orgThis story is part of our monthly series on national heritage areas, the large lived-in landscapes managed through innovative partnerships to tell America’s cultural history. See more stories in this series.

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