Down Home
Again in the year 2003, we’re making our way around the region, each issue visiting a small town and meeting some of the folks who make up the heart of electric co-op country. On this year’s seventh stop, we’ll be  ...

Down Home in White Stone
by Robb Hoff, Contributing Writer

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"Heaven and Earth never agreed to frame a better place for man's habitation." 

Incorporated 50 years ago, the town of White Stone covers one action-packed square-mile with a population of 358. It is a business hub in 350-year-old Lancaster County, where the scenic beauty of the Rappahannock River and the Chesapeake Bay is as ripe today as it was four centuries ago when explorer Captain John Smith wrote “heaven and earth never agreed to frame a better place for man’s habitation.”

Town officials and Virginia Department of Transportation engineers cross the White Stone gateway intersection during a walk-through review of the town's Main Street project.

Lore has it that White Stone was named after a large millstone landmark. The legendary stone is nowhere to be seen today, but another much larger landmark is here — the steel-trussed Robert O. Norris “White Stone” Bridge.

Gateway Community

Built in 1957, the bridge connects Route 3 from Virginia’s Middle Peninsula to the southern half of the Northern Neck Peninsula between the Rappahannock and Potomac rivers. Its two-mile span offers an unforgettable crossing 100 feet above the Rappahannock with the Chesapeake Bay unfolding in the distance.

Less than a mile past the bridge is White Stone, the Northern Neck gateway to Lancaster

White Stone mayor Lloyd B. Hubbard, Jr., is a fixture of the civic and business community of the town. His family history in the White Stone area dates back to the 17th century.

 and Northumberland counties.

An estimated 12,000 vehicles pass daily through the Main Street intersection of Rappahannock and Chesapeake drives during summer, which matches the county population. For the last two years, added appeal and traffic safety along the Main Street corridor have been a town priority.

“We’ve taken a proactive position to enhance our town for ourselves, the businesses here, and the many visitors who travel to this part of the Northern Neck,” says Mayor Lloyd B. Hubbard, Jr. “Through our Main Street project, we’re working to showcase our gateway community.”

Under the direction of the engineering firm Vanasse Hangen Brustlin, Inc. (VHB), the town’s $1.2-million Main Street project includes landscaped traffic buffers, brick-paved sidewalks, and underground utilities at the gateway intersection. It also includes a traffic roundabout as a replacement for the intersection traffic signal system, which would make the roundabout the first approved for a Virginia primary highway if it is given the green light. Unlike a traffic circle, the roundabout does not use stop signs to regulate incoming traffic.

The Lancaster Players present dinner theater in White Stone at the Lancaster Playhouse, where musical performances are also staged. (Picture 2) 

“We’ve got a lot of reservation about it,” Virginia Department of Transportation resident engineer of Warsaw Joseph Staton says of the roundabout. “But the concepts that VHB have come up with show that it will work.”

Bridge of Business

Whether the intersection changes dramatically or not, the future and past are bridged by the role of the town as a business center, which predates the opening of the first town post office in the 1830s. The town’s business history is rooted in the neighboring farming heritage and ties with more than a century of water harvesting for blue crabs, Virginia oysters, and other Chesapeake Bay fisheries. Whereas transportation to the town was once served by steamboat and ferry service, the opening of the White Stone bridge ushered in the modern era of the town’s history.

 

Town businesswoman Jean Robertson displays ton and local history at her Ceramics Etc. store.

Town businesswoman Jean Robertson rode in one of the 5,579 vehicles that crossed the bridge the day it opened in 1957.

“The feeling was a wonderful feeling,” she says of her historic trip. “A ferry boat is nice and it’s fun to ride a ferry boat, but no one likes to wait for a ferry. The bridge has done exactly what the bridge should have done.”

The bridge has helped create a workforce that rivals the town population. Robertson’s ceramics store is one of the many specialty shops today in a business community that encompasses a range of professional and commercial services from real estate agencies, law offices, and banks to construction companies and equipment rental.

Community Groups

Like its history as a business center, White Stone has a longstanding tradition of community activity.

The White Stone Volunteer Fire Department stages the premier town events each year--the White Stone Country Fair and the Rappahannock River Waterfowl Show. 

The White Stone Volunteer Fire Department, formed in 1947, is the primary responding unit to calls for emergency service in town and the surrounding area. Besides meeting emergency needs with its all-volunteer force, the department also stages the town’s showcase events.

 

For the past 25 years, the fire department has held the Rappahannock River Waterfowl Show, which is the major annual fundraiser for the department. The waterfowl show has earned the distinction of being designated a “Top 20 Event in the Southeast” by the Southeast Tourism Society. Every third weekend in March, the event transforms the town with crowds that come for the showcase of waterfowl and Chesapeake Bay artwork.

 

Waterfowl carver William Bruce and his wife Pat organize the Rappahannock River Waterfowl Show in White Stone. Thousands of visitors attend the event every year.

“The crowds have increased a lot since the first show,” says waterfowl carver William Bruce, who has organized the event from its start. “In the past 10 years, we’ve maintained a crowd of 2,500 to 3,000, and a lot of our exhibitors have been here for years and years. We’ve got some of the nation’s best waterfowl artists, carvers, and sculptors.”

The waterfowl show is held in the former White Stone High School, now owned by fire department affiliation. The weekend after the show, the community building holds the White Stone Bridal Showcase, which features a bridal fashion show and wedding vendor services.

The fire department also stages the White Stone Country Fair annually. September 20 will mark the 30th year for the festivities, which include a parade, entertainment, lots of food, and arts-and-crafts vendors.

During the Christmas season, the fire department teams with the White Stone Business Association for breakfast with Santa and a children’s gift shop. The business association itself sponsors more festivities during the year, including the illumination of the town’s Christmas tree and outdoor “Fridays by the Rivah” gatherings in the summer.

The White Stone religious community is also an active presence. The White Stone Baptist Church, Mount Vernon Baptist Church, and White Stone United Methodist Church all predate the incorporation of the town itself by more than a half century. The White Stone Church of the Nazarene has its own ministry center in town and holds worship at the former White Stone High School community building.

Two other religious organizations, the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of the Rappahannock and New Hope Christian hold their services at the White Stone Woman’s Club, which itself was formed in 1928 and has maintained a student loan fund since the 1960s.

ifeBoy Scouts parade in front of the firehouse for the White Stone Country Fair--a town tradition for 30 years.

White Stone remains anchored by its town government of mayor, seven council members, town attorney, treasurer, town manager, and police chief. Past councils were led by mayors George W. Sanders, Jr., Lloyd B. Hubbard, Sr., Harmon C. Treakle, and Lloyd B. Hubbard, Jr. Town coffers have grown primarily through state sales tax and bank franchise fees without taxing resident or business property.

Enid Sullivan Somers was there from the start as treasurer and served in that position for 35 years in addition to being a council woman for nine years. Her husband Pete served with the first council and she recalled the excitement of the time of incorporation.

“It was very exciting because we felt like we were going places,” she says. “Everybody was interested in the town being improved. One of the things we wanted to do was get the stoplights at the intersection. Traffic was getting heavier in town because of the bridge.”

What was true half a century ago remains true today for a town steeped in history and tradition, as it meets the challenge of its 21st century future with excitement.

 

If You Go…

History surrounds White Stone. The mother of America’s foremost forefather, George Washington, was born in Lancaster County. Her namesake, the Mary Ball Washington Museum and Genealogical Library, is located just 12 miles from White Stone on Route 3 in historic Lancaster Court House. Historic Christ Church, built in 1735, and the Carter Reception Center Museum are just four miles from White Stone (www.christchurch1735.org). The history of watermen is commemorated at the Reedville Fishermen’s Museum 25 miles away in historic Reedville, which is lined with stately Victorian mansions from the early 20th century (www.rfmuseum.com).

For recreation, charter boat captains at Locklies Marina (www.lockliesmarina.com) or Ingram Bay Marina (www.captbillyscharters.com) are available for Bay outings to land rockfish, flounder, bluefish, sea trout, or Spanish mackerel. Car and aviation fans can visit the Virginia Motor Speedway 25 miles away near Saluda for dirt-track racing action (www.

virginiamotorspeedway.com), Hummel Air Field in Topping just three miles way for the annual Wings and Wheels antique car and aircraft show set for Sept. 27 this year (www.wingsandwheels.us), and Bay Adventures Air Sports in White Stone for paraplane fun (www.u-fly.com).

For accommodations, the Holiday Inn of Kilmarnock is five miles from White Stone and offers fishing and golf packages. Family full-service waterfront camping is available at Bethpage Camp Resort in Urbanna (www.

bethpagecamp.com) and RV camping at Grey’s Point Campground at the other end of the White Stone Bridge. Directly in White Stone is the Whispering Pines Motel. One mile away are the resorts, the Tides Inn (www.tidesinn.com) and the Hope & Glory Inn (www.hopeandglory.com) in Irvington, where a farmers’ market is held the first Saturday of each month. Or for a weekly vacation rental, try Crab Point Manor, situated on 20 acres with 2,500 feet of waterfront and dock access on nearby Carter Creek.

 Whether it's a White Stone burger, a bottle of Tidewater tonic, or seafood fare, Willaby's Restaurant is a White Stone favorite for lunch.

For regional specialties at unique restaurants in White Stone, try The Sandpiper, Rivah Market, White Stone Wine & Cheese, and Willaby’s (www.

willabys.com). Also, dinner theater and musical performances are held in town by the Lancaster Players community theater group (www.lancasterplayers.org).

Events and activities in White Stone and the surrounding area are featured weekly in the Rappahannock Record newspaper (www.rrecord.com).

 

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