With the exception of John Brown’s Fortress, this is all that remains of the armory.
This telescope belonged to John Cook, one of those who participated in John Brown’s raid on the armory.
It is a wonderful feeling to be standing in a place where significant historical events occurred. Go to Harpers Ferry and that sentiment is amplified many times. This small town, which sets at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers, has been visited by a wide range of important figures from American history such as Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, John Brown, Robert E. Lee, Thomas Jonathan “Stonewall” Jackson, and W.E.B. Du Bois. (I’m sure significant women also visited, but my search for examples came up empty.)
Harpers Ferry National Park spans across three states: Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia. Another national park, the Appalachian Trail, runs right through it. The park’s official visitors’ center and parking lot are outside of town. After paying $10 to enter, a shuttle takes riders to their destination and back. It is best to do it this way because there is little parking in the town itself and the shuttles service runs continuously while the park is open.
After getting off the shuttle, my traveling companion and I headed to local visitors’ center (not to be confused with the one by the aforementioned parking lot). Run by the National Park Service, a volunteer ranger gave us one of the most entertaining, informative and enthusiastic lectures I’ve ever heard. Specifically, he spoke about the history of Harpers Ferry. The ranger in question is Bert, and if you are visiting and can attend his talk, you will not regret it. Among other things, he taught me the difference between armories and arsenals. Armories make weapons and arsenals store them.
President George Washington personally chose Harpers Ferry to become one of the United States’ armories in large part because the the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers run fast enough to move the waterwheels needed to power the town’s factories. I always envisioned the armory as a single building, but it was in fact a series of them, each a workshop with a specific purpose.
When federal troops abandoned the armory at the outset of the Civil War, they destroyed all the structures save for the one in which John Brown and his compatriots barricaded themselves during their ill-considered raid. Now known as John Brown’s Fortress, in 1891 it was moved to Chicago to be displayed at the world’s fair there, the one at which Doctor H.H. Holmes went on a killing spree. In 1895 after plans to convert the building to a stable were scrapped, was placed on a farm near Harpers Ferry. In 1909 Storer College purchased and moved it to their campus. In 1968 the National Park Service moved and placed it about 150 feet from its original location. It has two rooms, one of which you can enter and the other you can only look into through the windows. Both were disappointing. One contains a hodgepodge of assorted items and the other a couple of fire hoses.