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population in Kilmarnock is 1,244. It was incorporated in 1930 and has an
elevation of 89 feet.
A taste of Scotland in old Virginia
could very well describe Kilmarnock, Virginia.
The area of Kilmarnock goes back to the
late 1600s, first called “Steptoe’s Ordinary,” later “The
Crossroads,” and finally Kilmarnock. Over the years it has been the
center of commerce, not only for town residents, but for area fishermen
The community, which straddles Lancaster
and Northumberland counties, has survived three devastating fires that
occurred in 1909, 1915 and 1952. Kilmarnock was incorporated in 1930, and
with the leadership of Mayor Mike Robertson and new Town Manager Lee Hood
Capps, planning is underway for a gala celebration for the 75th
anniversary during 2005.
Manager Lee Hood Capps.
Kilmarnock was named by Scottish
merchants in the 1770s for Kilmarnock, Scotland. These two towns maintain
sister-cities relationship to this day.
Kilmarnock, Virginia, though much smaller than its Scottish counterpart,
features an authentic pub, complete with British food, a wide selection of
British beer, musical entertainment and an English dart board. The town
even has its own bagpipe band. The Kilmarnock Museum has an exhibit of
Scottish memorabilia direct from Kilmarnock, Scotland.
Kilmarnock is located in an area known
as the “Land of Pleasant Living,” Virginia’s historic Northern Neck.
The Northern Neck, or “the Neck,” as it is often called, is bound on
the north by the Potomac River, on the south by the Rappahannock River,
and to the east by the Chesapeake Bay. As one would expect, the area was
occupied by Native Americans and visited by Captain John Smith.
Kilmarnock is the home of Henrietta Hall
Shuck, the first woman missionary to China. Her original house that was
located in the middle of downtown is no longer standing, having been
replaced in 1957 by an auto-repair shop. A state marker notes the home’s
Christ Church is recognized as the finest Colonial church in North
Close by is Historic Christ Church,
recognized as the finest Colonial church in North America. It was built in
1735 by Robert “King” Carter, one of the wealthiest citizens in
Colonial America. It is built in the shape of a cross with
three-foot-thick brick walls. A national historic landmark, the original
limestone slabs still pave the floor and a three-level pulpit towers over
the high-backed pews.
Also nearby is Morattico Baptist Church
(est. 1778), the mother Baptist church of the Northern Neck, and White
Marsh United Methodist Church, the mother Methodist church in the Neck.
Located in Kilmarnock, New St. John’s Baptist Church is considered a
good example of eclectic architecture with Gothic arches and Victorian
features handsomely joined.
Pub & Tea Room is one of more than 20 eateries in town.
Another historic site, Ditchley (est.
1686) is just a few miles outside of town. Built by Hancock Lee, it was
home to descendants of presidents Zachary Taylor and James Madison, and
was later owned and restored by noted philanthropist, Mrs. Alfred I.
duPont. Mrs. duPont grew up here and taught school in the area.
Not too far from Ditchley is Cobbs Hall,
built around 1850 on the foundation of an earlier home from the 1720s. It
was the home place of Richard Lee, from whom Robert E. Lee, President
Zachary Taylor, and Chief Justice Edward White descended.
Many other attractions are all situated
within a few minutes’ drive from Kilmarnock, including Indian Creek
Country Club, the former home of silent film star Helen Vincen and the
free Merry Point Ferry, one of the last cable ferries in the country.
In addition to the Kilmarnock Museum,
the town can boast of three more very different museums. The Welch Farm
Museum depicts the history of farming, the old Lancaster Roller Mill,
which operated from 1843 to 1872, and the fledgling Northern Neck Wall of
Fame Museum that honors those who have excelled in sports in the area.
Kilmarnock also has five Sears homes,
all located within easy walking distance of the downtown area.
For the nature lover, there is Hughlett
Point Natural Area Preserve. Over 200 acres of sand beaches, hiking trails
and observation decks give one a view of shore birds, deer, turkey and
migratory waterfowl. The beaches are home to the threatened Northeastern
There is also the Hickory Hollow trail
with two miles of marked paths. Hunting for deer, quail, duck, geese,
turkey and salt-water fishing is the best here with many charter boats
Thomas, a desk clerk at the Holiday Inn Express, was excited to
find that she had been selected as the Kilmarnock Chamber of
Commerce's Employee of the Month for May. She was presented with a
plaque and a flower from the hotel's general manager Roger
Harshbarger and chamber president Dr. Matthew Shifflett. The
program recognized the extra efforts and hospitable service of
employees at the chamber's businesses.
The Kilmarnock Chamber of Commerce, led
by newly elected president, Dr. Matthew Shifflett, hosts many special
events throughout the year including the Rivahfest street festival on
Memorial Day weekend, Scottish Days during October, and the Illuminated
Christmas Parade in early December. The Christmas parade has been voted
one of the best small-town parades in Virginia.
The chamber also recognizes an Employee
of the Month and honors a fireman, EMT and officer of the year with
The annual Volunteer Firemen’s
Festival takes place each year during the last week of July, as it has for
more than 65 years. It is believed to be one of the longest-running
carnivals in the nation, and is second only to the Chincoteague carnival
in Virginia. All rides and concessions are owned by the fire department,
and are operated by firemen and volunteers for the nine-day event. The
carnival has become a homecoming for many who come back each year just for
The annual Holly Ball of the Northern
Neck that started in 1895 as a private Yuletide party, is one of the
oldest debutante balls in the country. Held each year between Christmas
and New Year, it has long been the premier social event of the holiday
season. The original holly tree from which the ball got its name is no
longer standing, but remnants are on display at the Kilmarnock Museum.
Kilmarnock Museum is one of four unique museums in the community.
Now billed as the Antique and Art
Capital of Virginia’s historic Northern Neck, Kilmarnock can boast of
two large antique malls and two art galleries, all located within easy
walking distance downtown. Three smaller antique shops are nearby.
The Center for the Arts opened in 1991
and is home to live community theater with at least four productions a
year, including a spring musical. The Academy for Performing and Creative
Arts offers instructions in dance, instruments and karate in the same
building located on Church Street.
The town has recently purchased several
acres of open land near downtown with committees working on how best to
utilize this property for the community. Plans call for it to be called
“Crossroads Commons,” if approved by the public.
The town is also moving forward with the
Main Street renovation project, with most of the construction to begin in
early 2005. When completed, the entire face of downtown Kilmarnock will
have changed dramatically to be more pedestrian friendly.
Adding the gala 75th anniversary
celebration to the mix makes an exciting future for Kilmarnock and the
surrounding area for many years to come.