Including Atkins, Chilhowie, Marion, Saltville, and Whitetop

Smyth County

VIRGINIA

Southwest Virginia's Premier Motorcycle Trails! See why bikers nationwide come to ride these trails!

Kaitlyn Baker Project Update

    Over the past several months the Heart of Appalachia Tourism Authority has worked with Pound native Kaitlyn Baker, an up and coming artist in Nashville, to create a song and music video highlighting the assets and heritage of our beautiful region.

NEW! Southwest Virginia TRAILS brochure. MAPS, PHOTOS and DESCRIPTIONS of

12 Southwest Virginia Hiking, Biking and Horseback Riding Trails! Click here to view online. FREE GUIDES available on request. See page 28 for more information.

Trips close to home: Marion, Va.,
called ‘America’s coolest hometown’
By Clayton Hensley, Special to the News Sentinel

 

Every Saturday night, thousands of people in East Tennessee and across the country tune in to "Song of the Mountains" on PBS. The showcase of old time Americana and bluegrass music originates from a historic theater along Main Street in Marion, Va.

 

The Lincoln is one of only a handful of Art Deco Mayan Revival theaters still operating in the United States. It opened in 1929 as a movie theater and then closed twice in the 1970s. In 2004 the Lincoln reopened following a $1.8 million renovation.

 

This Main Street Marion treasure blends art inspired from an ancient culture with the history of the state of Virginia. This is probably the only place to see Mayan figures and artwork surrounding larger-than-life portraits of Daniel Boone and Gen. Robert E. Lee. The juxtaposition of the artwork provides the perfect setting for performances as well as lessons in history. The historic murals were originally painted at a cost of $50 each, but it took $20,000 each to restore them.

 

Behind the stage is a wall made of dark bricks, a sharp contrast to the multiple shades of gold throughout the theater. Because there is an alley on the other side of the wall, the stage can't be expanded, and it is more suited to musical acts than theatrical productions. From the stage you can look into the rows of the balcony. Looking closely, you will notice a wall dividing the last couple of rows from the rest. During the renovations, the division was left as a reminder of the era of segregated seating.

 

The Lincoln Theater's neighbor, the General Francis Marion Inn, provides guests with a mix of elegance and history while they spend the night. The Speakeasy Gastropub inside the hotel serves up creations like Fried Green Tomato BLTs and Sweet Tea Chicken. It's just one place to grab a bite to eat before a show at the Lincoln. Wolf's BBQ, Macado's (a regional chain) and the Wooden Pickle are all part of an expanding menu of options in this small Virginia town. You can even lift your spirits with a visit to the Appalachian Mountain Spirits Mercantile & Stillhouse Store on Main Street. In the back, visitors of legal drinking age can sample the company's award-winning Virginia Sweetwater Moonshine and War Horn Whisky.

 

While there are many dining options downtown, folks heading out on U.S. 11 will find a real taste of Marion tradition. The Dip Dog stand opened in 1957. A few years later, Interstate 81 was finished and traffic by the stand dropped dramatically. However, the unique version of corn dogs served there remained a local favorite, and the Dip Dog stand is still going strong. In addition to its spin on the corn dog, this greasy spoon offers mouth-watering onion rings and a wide variety of items you would come to expect from a drive-in restaurant.

 

Marion is also home to a drive-in movie theater. The Park Place Drive-in shows first run movies and offers guests rounds of mini-golf. You can also immerse yourself in art, antiques and local crafts at the Herb House on Pendleton Street.

 

The crowning jewel of the area lies just a few miles out of town on state Highway 16. Just before the road winds its way through the mountains, the sparkling waters of the lake at Hungry Mother State Park come into view. A white sandy beach stretches out along the shores of the lake. In the summer months, thousands of people head to this "beach" to enjoy the cool waters of this mountain lake. Fishermen and kayakers also come to the park, which offers a wide variety of outdoor recreation and plenty of amazing views.

 

The name for the park comes from the legend of Molly Marley, an early settler in the region who was taken by Native Americans who ravaged the frontier settlements. Marley was said to have escaped with her child. After collapsing, Molly's child apparently wandered down the mountain looking for help, only being able to tell the people he found the words "Hungry Mother."

 

Today, the mountain where the legend unfolded is called Molly's Knob. The hike to the top can be a grueling one but offers the reward of a stunning view of the rugged landscape surrounding the park. Just beyond the state park is one of the most popular stretches of road for motorcycle riders. Called "The Back of the Dragon," this 32-mile stretch of road boasts 260 curves and elevations up to 3,500 feet.

 

Stepping back in time is easy to do in this part of Southwest Virginia. In fact, one town boasts that it has been preserving history for more than 10,000 years. Coming into the town of Saltville from I-81, there is an overlook along Highway 107. The town of about 2,000 stretches along the valley floor where the Saltville River flowed for thousands of years. Eventually, the river backed up, creating a lake and later a marshy area that provided perfect conditions for preserving plant and animal remains. Remnants of the lake and marsh are still clearly visible from the overlook.

 

Today at the Museum of the Middle Appalachians in downtown Saltville, visitors get a chance to see what's been unearthed along with a detailed history of life in the valley. The prizes of the collection are a mastodon skeleton and a woolly mammoth skull and tusks. Both animals roamed the valley floor in the days when the Saltville River flowed. The water and the ground around it were filled with abundant amounts of salt, which attracted a wide variety of animals, and later those deposits of salt would help fuel an army and the industrial revolution.

 

During the Civil War, the salt deposits helped cement the town's status as the salt capital of the Confederacy. Later, the salt below the soil became a key ingredient the Olin Company's production of chemicals used to make fuel for the Air Force and the U.S. Space program. The Olin Company built homes, schools and stores for workers and Saltville became a company town, much like its coal country counterparts. Gypsum mining also became an important part of Saltville's economy. The mine was one of the deepest of its kind in the country. The mine and the chemical factory are both gone, but Saltville continues to use its historic assets to bring people into town.

 

While not as well known as its neighbor Abingdon, Marion and the surrounding area is filled with surprises. Marion recently received a top honor from a national marketing firm, which named it "America's Coolest Hometown." It's an image the town seems to be happy with adopting as Marion welcomes people not only to Main Street, but the surrounding area filled with more than 10,000 years of history.

 

 

Music Events, Jam Sessions,

Concerts and Festivals

Southeastern Traveler

Travel Photography and Blog by Jason Barnette

Great article on Marion from Jason Barnette!

Regional Visitor Center • 408 Whitetop Road • Chilhowie, VA 24319 • I-81, Exit 35

(276) 646-3306 • Toll Free 877-255-9928 • ron@visitvirginiamountains.com