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Rich in Civil War history and southern
charm, the town of Remington has endured nearly two centuries of change,
yet has somehow retained its identity. Located in southern Fauquier County
on the banks of the Rappahannock River, Remington is a community whose
story has been repeated in small towns across the Commonwealth.
First founded in the early 19th
century as the village of Millview, the area grew due to its proximity to
the river and its location between Charlottesville and Manassas. Around
1850, it was renamed Bowenville after a prominent family in the community.
When the Orange and Alexandria
Railroad laid tracks through the developing town during that time,
Bowenville quickly became known as Rappahannock Station. The railroad
contributed to the town’s early prosperity as milk, grain, and passenger
trains stopped there daily.
The presence of both the railroad and
the swift Rappahannock River waters grew in strategic importance during
the Civil War as fighting slowly led north from Virginia’s southern
small towns. Soon the developing town became the site of some of the
fiercest fighting of the war.
The first Battle of
Station took place between Aug. 22 and
25, 1862, as part of the Northern Virginia Campaign. Over several days of
fighting, the two armies met in a series of conflicts along the
Rappahannock River, resulting in a few hundred casualties.
In the spring of 1863, the battle
raged on again as the two armies met at Kelly’s Ford in Culpeper County,
only seven miles down the Rappahannock from Remington. This clash set the
stage for the largest cavalry battle of the Civil War, the Battle of
Brandy Station, also in Culpeper.
The war continued and in the fall of
1863, fighting returned to Rappahannock Station as 1,600 Confederate
troops were captured in a surprise attack by Union troops crossing the
river at dawn. Traces of the war’s presence can still be seen in
Remington, as a bridge built by the raiding troops still stands today.
The years that followed the Civil War
were some of the finest times for the budding town. “Remington
has been around a long time,” says current Mayor Gerald Billingsley.
“It was a pre-Civil War community and then developed more after the war.
It probably saw its best times economically between 1890 and the Second
Rappahannock Station became Remington
in 1890, after a request by the Post Office Department, which frequently
confused mail with Rappahannock and Tappahannock.
According to one story, the town is
said to have been named after a Southern Railroad
conductor, a Capt. Remington. Although some locals swear the story is a
myth, Remington resident Elizabeth Hoffman says
it’s true. “This
gentleman worked on the passenger train and he was so good to the
ladies,” says Hoffman. “He had a nice little step-stool so they could
pull up those long skirts and climb into the trains. People used to dress
and go down there on Saturday evenings to see who was coming in on the
train.” Hoffman was born in nearby Bealeton and
has lived in Remington since 1945. At the age of 92, she’s witnessed her
fair share of goings-on in the town. “When I was a youngster, we had two
or three grocery stores, a doctor and a dentist, and even a movie theater.
But when the roads got better, people got automobiles. It was mostly a
horse-and-buggy town when I was little,” Hoffman says. She
recalls a fire that burned down many of the wooden buildings along Main
Street in 1924, when she was only eight years old. According to Hoffman,
the fire originated in the oven of a bakery and burned to the ground all
the buildings along the street. “There were no
fire trucks, so they had to bring a fire engine from Culpeper and even
brought one down on the railroad from Alexandria,” she recalled.
With the town’s proximity to the
Rappahannock River — it’s only a half-mile from Main Street —
Hoffman has seen two floods cross the streets of the town in her lifetime.
The first was in April of 1937, when floodwaters reached the steps of the
Remington Drug Company. In 1942, Hoffman witnessed floodwaters rushing
across the railroad tracks on Main Street “like a waterfall.”
The Remington of today has changed
very little and still looks much like it did in the 1940s. Its small-town
tradition is reflected in some of the downtown shops, such as the
old-fashioned grocery and deli, The Farmer’s Wife.
Owned by Remington native Lorie Andes,
the shop opened in 2004. Andes became its owner in January of this year.
The grocery sells organic foods, milk delivered in glass bottles once a
week, fresh baked goods, and Boar’s Head deli meats, with prices
comparable to grocery stores. Remington business owners stop in the shop
for a bite to eat and to chat with friends while enjoying a cup of coffee.
“It’s a fun place to shop, but
it’s also peaceful. We have a variety of items, such as flour and sugar,
but we also have the old-time candy. People want things now that remind
them of times when things were maybe a bit simpler,” Andes says.
Another stop along Remington’s
peaceful Main Street is Archer’s House of Flowers. Owned by retired
Methodist minister Ashton Archer, the flower shop is both welcoming and
enchanting, with the smell of fresh-cut flowers and a friendly face behind
the counter. Having lived in Remington since 1975, Archer knows just about
everyone in town, like most of his Main Street colleagues.
Just down the street, former Town
Councilman Joe Korpsak’s Variety Building houses anything and
everything. On the first floor of the building, a consignment and antique
shop shelves electronics, sports memorabilia, coins, glassware, and just
about anything else under the sun. Next door, Korpsak operates a small
jewelry store and an art gallery around the corner. The second floor of
the building is used for apartments and storage.
On the next block is Remington’s new
and improved fire department. Assistant Fire Chief Sam Haught, Jr., has
lived in Remington all his life, and is a proud third-generation fireman.
Haught boasts about being a fireman, especially his department’s new
home, now the biggest building in town.
The recent addition to the fire
department was completed last year and a renovation to the original fire
station built in 1952 is currently being completed. Remington’s fire and
rescue department covers much more than the small town: It covers a total
of 72 square miles through Fauquier and Culpeper counties.
The fire department’s main
fundraising event each year is also one of the town’s biggest. The first
week in June, Remington opens its doors to thousands during the
Fireman’s Carnival and Parade.
During the four-day event, vendors,
rides, and musicians file into town, followed by a parade on Friday night,
complete with fire engines, blushing beauty queens, and local bands. On
Wednesday night, the carnival welcomes children of all ages, while
Thursday is a night of good old-fashioned bluegrass music.
“It’s one of the main attractions
in the town during the year. A lot of people look forward to it,” Haught
says. “This is a tight-knit community where everybody knows everybody,
so it makes the carnival like a reunion.”
Restoration on the horizon
Although Remington stays true to its
small-town traditions, some changes have recently occurred, too. McLean
developer Chat Hughey, who owns property in the Remington area, is working
to restore some of Remington’s oldest buildings, which sit near the
train crossing on Main Street.
“I’m glad we are able to do
something to help the town, because when you look at the town, it’s
really one of the few in Northern Virginia that hasn’t been restored.
When you go to Culpeper or Warrenton, everything there has been
restored,” says Hughey. “Hopefully over the next 10 years or so,
we’ll have everything in Remington restored.”
Hughey bought the buildings two years
ago and has been working to restore them for the past 10 months. The most
prominent of the three Hughey is reviving is the former Farmer’s Co-op,
which was built in 1903 by Sanford Embrey, known as the cattle baron of
Northern Virginia because he owned 7,000 head of beef.
The Main Street building has housed a
variety of businesses over the decades, such as a hardware store,
pharmacy, and even a hotel. The second and third floors of the building
played host to Frank Hoff’s pool room and square-dance hall during the
1920s and ’30s. They have been unoccupied since 1948. Hughey hopes to
bring life back to the building by leasing it out as office and retail
Perhaps the building’s most majestic
feature is its white cast-iron-and-zinc storefront, which arrived from St.
Louis on the train. Hughey power-washed the façade with walnut shells to
take the rust off the iron without damaging it. “I
think it will be a very nice building, one of the first that’s been
restored here in a long time,” Hughey says. “Hopefully, it will spark
things up here a bit.”
Mayor Billingsley is glad that the
town has remained small, but is happy to see the changes that Hughey’s
restoration will bring. “The economic downturn that we’ve seen
recently has certainly impacted development,” Billingsley says. “So we
are for now still a very small town.”
“My perception is that it’s going
to add to the economic base and create more traffic, because the buildings
being vacant are not doing much for the town,” says business owner Joe
Korpsak. “Remington is really in a time-capsule from the 1940s or
’50s. It’s one of the few towns that has basically been held intact
over the past 50 years.”
For more information on the town of
Remington, visit www.remingtonva.org or www.fauquiertourism.com.