time you're travelling the twisty back roads of southwest Virginia, plan
to spend some time in Blacksburg. Home to the Fighting Gobblers of Virginia
Tech, Blacksburg is a small university town with just enough culture and
history to be an interesting place to live, or to visit. The University
is home to 25,000 lively students during the school year, and on football
weekends, it may be one of the largest towns in southwest Virginia. But
visit in summer when the students are mostly gone, and the pace slows
down a bit, and then you can almost have the place to yourself. And the
weather's a little more predictable, too. We have a saying here that there's
an equal number of days in summer, fall, winter and spring, but they're
not all grouped into 3-month seasons.
can get to Blacksburg by way of US 460 from I-81, or if you're inclined
to avoid the freeways, from US 11, known in Virginia as Lee Highway. If
you keep your eyes peeled on the way into town, you'll see a historical
marker for Smithfield Plantation, near the exit for Prices Fork Road.
on the edge of the frontier in 1774, just a mile from the site of the
Draper Meadows Massacre, Smithfield is a colonial-style frame house originally
home to Colonel William Preston and his wife Susanna. Colonel Preston
was a surveyor, farmer, patriot, and leader during a critical period in
American history. In 1777 Governor Patrick Henry garrisoned soldiers here
to protect the household from the threat of both Indians and Tories.
Many of the local children were educated at Smithfield, usually by one
of Colonel Preston's apprentice surveyors. The Prestons were a wealthy
family, and it shows: from the Chinese Chippendale staircase and transom
windows in the entryway, to the Raleigh Tavern-inspired fireplace surround
in the drawing room and the Prussian blue paint in the master chamber.
In the winter kitchen you'll learn how to tell if a person was considered
family or a guest. In the above-stairs chamber, you'll hear how the phrase
"Sleep tight and don't let the bed bugs bite" entered our vernacular.
And in the master chamber, you'll see what it means to be "turned
Plantation was donated to the Association for the Preservation of Virginia
Antiquities (APVA) in 1959, renovated, and opened to the public in 1964.
Each year, costumed interpreters guide thousands of visitors through the
rooms, happily answering all their questions about the house and surrounding
area. To get to the Plantation from Prices Fork road, turn south onto
West Campus Drive, then right on Duck Pond Drive and right again on Plantation
the Plantation, you can easily walk to the Virginia Tech Campus, taking
the footpath by the Duck Pond and across the Drill Field. Consider stopping
at the underground War Memorial Chapel before strolling down University
Mall under the Torgerson Hall Bridge to the original downtown of 16 blocks
laid out by William Black. By this time you'll definitely be looking for
something to eat, and Blacksburg has a lot of college-town grub designed
to satisfy college students' appetites and wallets. Restricting our attention
to Main Street, we heartily recommend the awesome hamburgers at Mike's
Famous Burgers and Pizza, the Razorback at the Hokie House, and the Buffalo
Wings Pizza at PK's.