Martinsburg Frontier Town by Renee Sklarew

Berkeley County Courthouse in Martinsburg, Photo by Renee Sklarew
Berkeley County Courthouse in Martinsburg, Photo by Renee Sklarew

For being a quintessential American frontier town, historic Martinsburg makes an ideal movie set. It was recently the location for the History Channel’s docudrama The World Wars; National Geographic’s inventor rivalries in American Genius; and AMC’s miniseries Making of the Mob, about notorious American gangsters. Long before the first Scottish settlers claimed the land, these Appalachian foothills were prime hunting grounds for the Iroquois. After surveying the area for Lord Fairfax, George Washington (age 16) wrote about its abundant natural resources and healthful springs. That’s all it took for pioneers to settle in droves in what is now Berkeley County; they built mills, Scotch whisky distilleries and homesteads. After America declared its independence, Martinsburg enjoyed two centuries as a thriving industrial town, home of the first terminus of the B&O Railroad. This same Roundhouse was fought over and even burned down by rebel Gen. Stonewall Jackson. After reconstruction began in 1866, Martinsburg became a leader in manufacturing woolens, textiles and other garment-related products. Besides gracefully preserved architecture dating back to the early 1700s, Martinsburg’s surrounding farmland is as verdant as Germany’s Upper Rhine Plateau. It’s dotted with dairy farms, cornfields and orchards. The locals here warmly welcome visitors, and they’ll share how historic Martinsburg played a pivotal role in the development of the Shenandoah Valley. Main Street has charming locally owned shops and vintage-era restaurants, while nearby farms, like Orr’s and Butler’s, allow visitors to pick their own or buy homegrown produce at their markets. Just 90 minutes away, consider exploring this hidden gem on your next day trip.   MustStopSpots

For The Kids: By George. Courtesy of For the Kids: By George
For The Kids: By George. Courtesy of For the Kids: By George

Martinsburg sits on the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia—an easy day trip on scenic country roads with a friendly downtown and a few attractions worth the drive.  Martinsburg B&O Roundhouse Center: If possible, time your visit around a Roundhouse tour or call for an appointment. You’ll be impressed by this engineering marvel, where locomotives were repaired on a giant turntable and iron ore was shaped into railroad tracks. It was rebuilt in 1866 after Stonewall Jackson burned down the original version containing 42 locomotives, 36 miles of track and 300 railcars. This is the last surviving structure of its kind. // martinsburgroundhouse.com For the Kids: By George: This hands-on, high-touch museum tells the story of how America’s first president surveyed the American frontier and why Berkeley County eventually became an industrial railroad hub. With Native American, Log Cabin and General Store immersion rooms, kids can play through time. Located trackside, the museum is attached to Martinsburg’s actual train station. // forthekidsbygeorge.org Belle Boyd House: This is the childhood home of Belle Boyd, the infamous femme fatale who conducted espionage during the Civil War; she was known for crossing Union lines to pass on information to Stonewall Jackson. Boyd’s clothing, artifacts and possessions are on display in the Berkeley County Historical Society Museum. // bchs.org Adam Stephen House: Martinsburg’s founder Adam Stephen built this home. Docents guide tours through this colonial period house, illuminating the history of the region. The main level is decorated in period antiques, while stairs in the basement lead to the underground tunnel system used as an escape route from the American Indians and British soldiers. This tunnel connects to other tunnels in Martinsburg’s historic homes. // orgsites.com/wv/adam-stephen Main Street Martinsburg: These shops and art galleries are all owned by local entrepreneurs and beautifully showcase their affordable, curated collections, whether it’s glassware, African art, floral arrangements or handmade chocolates. Set aside an hour or two to investigate the vintage antiques, original art and haute fashion objects. // mainstreetmartinsburg.com     OutdoorFun

Orr's Farm Market. Courtesy of Orr's Farm Market
Orr’s Farm Market. Courtesy of Orr’s Farm Market

• Orr’s Farm Market: Buy or pick your own produce from this 1,000-acre family-owned orchard. Orr’s Market sells pies, cakes, doughnuts and bread. Check out Orr’s peaceful herd of grazing bison. // orrsfarmmarket.corecommerce.com • Geocaching in Berkeley County: Among the top geocaching locations in the U.S., this real-world outdoor treasure hunt using GPS navigation draws hundreds of visitors per month for the 200 caches. Three geocaching trails are active with trackable coins awarded for successful completion. // travelwv.com • Poor House Farm Park: This county-owned recreational center, playground and park encompasses 137 acres and features a 5-mile biking/hiking trail and fishing in the well-stocked trout stream. // mbcparks-rec.org     culture

Berkeley Art Works. Courtesy of Berkeley Art Works
Berkeley Art Works. Courtesy of Berkeley Art Works

Martinsburg’s Appalachian culture is distinctive and affordable. You’ll be impressed by the quality of the fine art produced by these regional artists. Three venues drive the art scene here: Queen Street Gallery, with expansive rooms filled with sculpture, paintings and collectibles as well as African carvings; West Virginia Glass Outlet, featuring renowned West Virginia glassmakers Fenton and Blenko; and Berkeley Art Works, a cooperative showcasing regional wood, iron and woolen crafts. Another cultural attraction is Wonderment Puppet Theater’s weekend marionette shows. Martinsburg also hosts culture-driven festivals, including Circa Blue Fest on May 6-8, featuring country and bluegrass music, and the annual Wine & Arts Festival on Memorial Day Weekend.     WhereToShop Downtown Martinsburg has a small sampling of shops, but they carry quality merchandise. Flowers Unlimited has an array of home decorating accessories. De Fluri’s Fine Chocolates offers a bounty of premium handmade chocolates. Antique(ish) and Crim de la Crim are overflowing with antiques and vintage finds. Van Allen is a sophisticated women’s clothing boutique.     WhereToEat

inexpensive option Daily Grind 778 Foxcroft Ave., dailygrindunwind.com You’ll find barista drinks, cozy chairs, muffins, doughnuts and unique breakfast sandwiches near Martinsburg’s commercial section. This Internet cafe has trivia and open mic nights, is open all day and has a drive-thru. more expensive option Asian Garden 970 N. Foxcroft Ave., asiangardenmartinsburg.com The all-you-can-eat sushi/seafood buffet on Sundays is a bountiful bargain. The Japanese owner, John Lu, holds the title of “Best Sushi in the Tri-State Area.” local favorite Blue White Grill 101 N. Queen St., facebook.com/bluewhitegrill A 1950s-style diner serving homemade Southern cuisine, including grits, sausage gravy and biscuits, and vegetarian omelets. Also known for its friendly staff and delicious pies.
inexpensive option Habanero Mexican Grill 100 N. Queen St.; facebook.com/habanero.grill If Chipotle were owned and operated by some local guy, it would be Habanero. Serving only freshly prepared ingredients with plentiful portions and fast service, Habanero rotates specials like black bean hummus and spicy shrimp. more expensive option Good Natured Market and Vegetarian Café 209 S. Raleigh St.; goodnaturedllc.com This locally owned market and restaurant serves high-quality, locally sourced products and features gluten-free, raw and vegetarian dishes. Open for lunch and early dinner, they serve soups, frittatas, flatbreads and veggie burgers. local favorite Everything Cheesecake Bakery and Internet Café 324 W. Stephen St.; facebook.com/Everything Cheesecake Two married police officers bake the mini and full-size cheesecakes and savory croissants. They also sell coffee drinks. The most popular flavors are red velvet, snickerdoodle and Reese’s.
inexpensive option Finn Thai 304-262-2201, finnthai.com Bangkok-style Thai food with hearty portions big enough to share. Traditional Thai dishes are heavily spiced and flavorful. Try the crispy duck or firecracker shrimp. more expensive option La Trattoria 148 Lutz Ave., latrattoriawv.com For 22 years, the Romo family has served traditional Italian dishes adding their unique signature sauces. Also open for Sunday brunch, with generous portions, lots of personal choices and friendly service. local favorite Boyd’s Steakhouse 109 N. Queen St., facebook.com/boydssteakhouse This bar is a must-see. Two local guys created a 1930s-style speakeasy featuring Al Capone’s Whiskey Bar. Stop in for Black Draft Moonshine and award-winning prime rib.

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