By HEATHER ZIEGLER Assistant City Editor
Saturday mornings in the middle of summer are often reserved for some quality garage sale time for my mother, sister and me. So imagine our delight when, on a recent jaunt to Shepherdstown, W.Va., we learned that the whole town was planning a garage sale the day after we arrived!
Even with the high heat and humidity, the idea of exploring this haven for the artsy-crafty folks who make up a significant portion of the 1,800 residents of the town was quite appealing. The garage sales were just the icing on the cake. All three of us brought home a few "treasures" from the sales but the town itself held the most fascination.
McMurran Hall looms over the
campus of Shepherd University at
Shepherdstown. The building was constructed in 1859 as the town hall and courthouse and is now occupied by the Shepherd
University Foundation, Alumni Relations and Advancement offices.
The girls' weekend was intended for a little sightseeing in the quaint, historic area of Shepherdstown and turned into a delightful, laid back time that included free musical entertainment, watching hula-hooping in the middle of West German Street and discussing the state of the world with a man who carried a parrot on his shoulder and a puppy on a leash.
Shepherdstown is the oldest town in West Virginia. Situated in the Eastern Panhandle of the state, it sits along the Potamac River, presenting itself much like the days of its founding.
Because of its abundance of natural springs, the town evolved, attracting a host of artisans ranging from millers to potters to brickmakers. Most of the oldest buildings in the town, dating back to the early 1700s, have kept their original facade and charm but inside, offer modern world comforts and conveniences. In 1798, it was known as Shepherd's Town, but after the Civil War, its name was simply a one-word Shepherdstown.
Thomas Shepherd Inn
300 W. German St.
Bavarian Inn and Lodge
Route 1, Box 30
Clarion Hotel and Conference Center
233 Lowe Drive
2001 Maddex Square Drive
Yellow Brick Bank
201 German St.
Three Onions Restaurant and Lounge
117 E. German St.
Shaharazade's Exotic Tea Room
141 W. German St.
17 Lowe Drive
Blue Moon Cafe
Corner of Princess and High streets
From Wheeling, take Interstate 70 East toward Washington, Pa.; merge onto I-79 South via Exit 21 toward Morgantown; merge onto I-68 East via Exit 148 toward Cumberland, Md.; take the I-70 East/U.S. 40 East/U.S. 522 South Exit 82AB toward Hagerstown/Hancock/Winchester; merge onto I-70 East via Exit 82B on the left toward Hagerstown; take the Maryland 65 South Exit 29A toward Sharpsburg; turn right onto Maryland 65 South/Sharpsburg Pike; Maryland 65 South/Sharpsburg Pike becomes North Church Street; turn right onto East Main Street/Maryland 34; continue to follow Maryland 34 crossing into West Virginia; Maryland 34 becomes W.Va. 480; follow signs into Shepherdstown. Total travel time about four hours; total distance, 235.65 miles.
The town of stately and modest brick structures holds many tales of war and woe as it was a key battleground during the war between the states. The Battle of Shepherdstown on Sept. 20, 1862, saw more than 100 Confederate soldiers killed. The Elmwood Cemetery buried 185 Confederate veterans. The graveyard is located five blocks from the four-way stop on Route 480, and visitors are encouraged to take the self-guided walking tour. The tourist center in downtown Shepherdstown offers all the information you need to visit all of the local historic sites - too many for just one day.
Historians in the town retell the story about how in 1862, after the Battle of Antietam in nearby Washington County, Md., nearly 5,000 wounded Confederate soldiers made their way to Shepherdstown. Every building, street and alley was filled with these injured troops, some dying in the streets.
Still today, each structure holds a story of its origin. All you have to do is ask the residents and shopkeepers, and you are likely to spend some time over a cup of coffee or iced tea, soaking up the history and folklore.
One important thing to know before you begin your exploration of the shops in the downtown area: make sure to pay attention to the parking signs. There are residential streets that are permit parking only, and offenders will be towed and required to pay a fine. However, there are metered spaces in the downtown and some off-street parking up for grabs.
While the main thoroughfare is a hilly climb, the area is quite easy to navigate on foot. The shops and restaurants are side-by-side along the streets and easy to access. Hours vary for the shops and restaurants, but the shops are tourist-friendly. On this particular Saturday, we felt fortunate to meld with the local townspeople and tourists enjoying the music, artisans' wares and the quirky sights such as a "Civil War Parking Only" sign and gravesites between homesteads.
Shepherdstown also is known as a college town as Shepherd University's campus envelops the town. While the student population is absent during the summer months, locals say the students only add to the town's charm when they are present.
Even during the summer months, Shepherd University is abuzz with action as many children's theater groups are offered at the campus. Shepherd U, founded in 1871, is a public liberal arts college, offering hands-on experiences in a naturally-historic setting. Its campus is lush with greenery and flowers in the summer months, with several towering structures providing picture-postcard scenes. While situated in a town caught in a time warp, Shepherd University's campus is dotted with the most modern facilities including the $9 million Robert C. Byrd Science and Technology Center and an $18 million addition to the Scarborough Library.
Bill Marshall, a resident of the town for more than five years, said he was drawn to Shepherdstown from Pennsylvania, and after settling in, he never looked back. As he talked with a shopkeeper, Marshall had an 11-year-old pet parrot he calls Liberty on his shoulder. He also had a sleepy puppy at his feet.
"I restore Rolls and Bentleys ... I specialize in the diseases of the rich," Marshall quipped.
An obvious "character" of the community, Marshall said he has intuitive feelings about people. He said while Shepherdstown is far from a bustling mecca, he is quite content with "less being more."
"I've never been happier in my life. This is where I want to be."
The same can be said for former Marshall County resident Dave Ransom, a sergeant with the Shepherdstown Police Department. Ransom and his wife have been in Shepherdstown for several years and enjoy the atmosphere. Ransom said even during the school year when Shepherd University is in session, the town is pretty tame.
"There are some nice people here," Ransom said. "It's pretty laid back."
However, when visiting in the Ohio Valley, Ransom admits he heads straight for DiCarlo's Pizza and Coleman's Fish Market to enjoy the local pizza and fish specialties.
As far as food goes in Shepherdstown, the sky is the limit. From pizza at Tommy's Pizza to Chinese delights at the China Kitchen or "extraordinary cuisine" at the Yellow Brick Bank, you can tempt your tastebuds every day. Al fresco dining is available at several eateries when weather permits.
The Yellow Brick Bank restaurant offers some of the finest culinary experiences around, drawing a regular crowd of followers from the Washington, D.C., area, according to local patrons. Some casual dining with interesting menus include the Rumsey Tavern for sandwiches and more; Shaharazade's Exotic Tea Room with its specialty soups, salads, hummus, falafel, couscous and shish kabob; Three Onions Restaurant and Lounge with pan-seared Woodfired Halibut or Woodfired Pizza; or the Bavarian Inn and Lodge with its "warm elegance" and extensive menu of European and American dishes.
If you leave Shepherdstown hungry, it's your own fault. And with so many historic attractions to see, a weekend may not be enough to take it all in. For infomation on all that Shepherdstown offers, go online to www.shepherdstownvisitorscenter.com.