© by Mary and Bill Burnham
In the 1850s, the Orange & Alexandria and the Manassas Gap railroads joined in a tiny hamlet known as Tudor Hall. The railroads formed a long-awaited transportation link shipping farm goods from the Shenandoah Valley to East Coast port cities. Overnight the small village became a bustling railroad depot and crossroads and was renamed Manassas Junction.
It was such an important location that in 1861 the Confederates built a ring of earthen forts around the entire town. The same year they built the world's first military railroad, which supplied the Confederate Army at Centreville during the winter of 1861-1862.
Manassas is still an important link for Virginia produce, evidenced by the Farmer's Market held every Thursday and Saturday morning April through mid-November in Old Town. Vendors come from as far away as the Shenandoah Valley. Whether tomatoes, pork products, or scones, it's all hand-grown, raised or baked.
The rebuilt 1914 train depot houses the visitor center and a small railroad exhibit. Pick up the walking tour brochure of Old Town, a small, six-by-three-block pedestrian-friendly town center surrounded by a the larger, modern city of Manassas.
The walking tour includes the 1914 Old Town Hall, a 1908 candy factory, the Connor Opera House, where the last reunions of Mosby's Rangers were held, and the Manassas Museum.
Union and Confederate troops twice fought battles over this town, with the northern army burning many of the buildings around the railroad in March 1862. The story of the battles are told at the Manassas National Battlefield Park.
For more on visiting Manassas, go to www.visitManassas.org.
Manassas is one of the many towns included in the Burnhams' upcoming book Backroads of Virginia.