Introduction to Harrisonburg, Virginia
The independent city of Harrisonburg is located in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley. The city is served by two major highways: U.S. Route 33 and U.S. Route 11, with local access to Interstate 81. Harrisonburg is home to both James Madison University and Eastern Mennonite University.
The origins of the city can be traced back to 1779, when local landowner Thomas Harrison deeded two and a half acres of his land to Rockingham County, which then used the property to build the first courthouse on what is still Court Square. The following year an additional 50 acres of Harrison's estate were added and Harrisonburg was recognized as the county seat. The city played an active role in the Civil War, being passed through by both Union and Confederate troops. Although Harrisonburg and Virginia were part of the Confederacy, the city's representatives in Richmond opposed secession. In 1916 Harrisonburg was incorporated as an independent city. Today, the city is a processing center in a dairy, livestock, and poultry area (Rockingham County is known as the poultry capital of the world), whose other industries include computers, clothing, paper and metal products, building materials, and machinery.
Harrisonburg offers attractions and amenities for all members of the family, including museums, caverns, corn mazes, farmer's markets, and historical sites. The Hardesty Higgins House is the historic home of Harrisonburg's first mayor, Isaac Hardesty. Harrisonburg Children’s Museum features a theater, a farmer’s market, a country kitchen, and many workshops for kids. Natural Chimneys offers an array of family activities including camping, biking, and swimming. Augusta County's Grand Caverns has its own unique recreational opportunities with cavern tours, picnicking, and hiking. "Back Home on the Farm" is the name of a 3.5 acre corn maze located less than five minutes from the city. Other local attractions include:
- Edith J. Carrier Arboretum
- D. Ralph Hostetter Museum of Natural History
- Suter Science Center
- M.T. Brackbill Planetarium
- Daniel Harrison House
- Harrisonburg Fire Museum
- James Madison University Meteorite Collection
- Menno Simons Historical Library & Archives
- Miller Kite House
- Plains District Memorial Museum
- Port Republic Museum
- Valley Brethren-Mennonite Heritage Center
- Valley Turnpike Museum
- The Virginia Quilt Museum
- Endless Caverns
- Luray Caverns
- Shenandoah Caverns
Harrisonburg has no major league professional sports teams (neither does the state of Virginia), but a local baseball staple is the Harrisonburg Turks of the Valley Baseball League. The Valley League is an NCAA sanctioned baseball league in the Shenandoah Valley, many of whose alumni have moved on to play in Major League Baseball. The Turks franchise, whose name is based on Rockingham County's reputation as a poultry center, traces its history to before World War II, when the team was part of the Class C Virginia League. After the war, Harrisonburg entered its team in the Massanutten League before getting into the stronger Valley League in 1950. The team then was semi-professional, but since 1961 the league has been sanctioned by the NCAA and its teams are limited to players with college eligibility. The Valley League teams recruit only the top players, which is why college players from around the country jump at the opportunity to be invited to play on one of the Valley League teams. The Valley Baseball League has been called "Gateway to the Majors" because of the large number of players who have gone on to compete in the majors. Notable Turks alumni include Chicago Cubs outfielder Juan Pierre.