Thanksgiving upon us, our minds can't help but wander toward thoughts
of good feelings and of course, good food. Fortunately for us, Smithfield,
Virginia the "Ham Capital of the World" is just a day-trip away.
Located along the banks of the Pagan River on Rt. 10 in Southeastern Virginia,
Smithfield proudly lives up to its motto of "hams, history and hospitality".
Smithfield's most famous resident is a real ham - literally. The Isle
of Wight Museum located on Main Street is home to the "World's Oldest
Smithfield Ham". If any of you have visions of challenging this status
with any of the old leftovers hanging out in your refrigerator, don't
bother. This "pet ham" has been around since 1902. P.D. Gwaltney
discovered this ham from a missed delivery and wanted to see just how
long it would last. To insure its safekeeping he even had the ham insured.
To this day, this infamous celebrity enjoys a life of leisure incased
in glass in one of the museums "ham galleries".
can you possibly top being home to the world's oldest ham? Naturally,
you bake the world's largest ham biscuit. Smithfield attempted just that
on September 28, 2002 in celebration of the town's 250th anniversary.
The giant biscuit was over 8 feet in diameter and piled high with about
500 lbs of ham. If cut up, it would have served 1752 people (symbolic
representation of the fact that the town was incorporated in 1752). Something
this spectacular shouldn't end up just being eaten, so the town decided
to bake 1752 individual biscuits to serve to its visitors and save the
actual biscuit for posterity.
think of Smithfield only as a place for ham lovers would be extremely
remiss. The town itself is worth the visit, with or without ham. Unlike
many reconstructed historical towns, this river town has been spared the
ravages of the Revolutionary and Civil War. All the old colonial and Victorian
homes lining the streets are original. Additional information on these
homes can be found at the Visitor's Center and a walking tour map of the
town is available.
Smithfield's Main Street has a variety of unique shops where you can
find antiques, art galleries, collectibles and of course a Smithfield
Ham Shop. The town is suited for the pedestrian and its brick walkways
are lined with benches so that visitors can just sit back and relax or
perhaps listen to an outdoor concert played from the bandstand in the
center of town.
As you stroll along Main Street, one of your first stops should be the
Isle of Wight Museum, located in a building erected in 1913 that includes
a unique tiffany-style domed skylight. Exhibits include a re-creation
of an old general store, duck decoys carved by a native Virginian, war
memorabilia from arrowheads to muskets and bullets, fossil shells and
other archaeological artifacts and of course, ham exhibits, which include
a 65 lb ham, cured in 1955 from a 900 lb. hog. Other items of interest
include a gilded eagle taken from a Union Ship destroyed in the Battle
of Smithfield during the Civil War.
point of interest along your route is the Old Isle of Wight Courthouse.
Once typical of courthouses across Virginia, this is one of only four
remaining arcaded colonial court buildings. Built in 1750, it features
a distinctive semi-circular apse popular in English churches of the era.
Today this important colonial building serves as the Isle of Wight Tourism
Bureau. Here you can learn about the law in days when justice was swift
and harsh from a time when stocks, whipping posts and pillories were used
to carry out sentences, as well as a hanging tree used for the worst offenders.
a town famous for its food, you would expect to find many wonderful places
to eat. It only takes a few minutes to stroll down Main Street before
wonderful smells from the town bakery begin to fill the air. You can't
help but be lured in for some of the wonderful creations. In addition
to the bakery, the town is home to several restaurants, a tavern and an
ice cream parlor. There are so many wonderful choices to consider, your
waistline will begin to expand just considering all the possibilities.
A great place to taste the tradition of the town is Smithfield Inn. This
Bed and Breakfast, Tavern and Restaurant combination have been around
since 1752. From the moment you cross the threshold you become engulfed
in the warmth and charm of this building. The unmistakable smell of ham
fills your senses and adds to the anticipation of the meal to come. The
menu is filled with home-style cooking featuring ham, peanut soup and
sweet potato pie.
Other areas of interest in the area are Historic St. Lukes Church and
Fort Boykin. The church is located 2 miles south of Smithfield on Rt.
10. Built in 1632, it is the oldest surviving original gothic church in
the USA. The church also houses the nation's oldest intact organ. Fort
Boykin, built in the shape of a 7-point star, was created in 1623 to protect
the settlers against Indians and raiding Spaniards and has been involved
in every campaign on American soil.
so many Virginia destinations, getting there is part of the fun. Smithfield
is no exception and in fact offers one of the most unique travel opportunities
offered in Virginia - The Jamestown Ferry. Located off Rt. 31 next to
the old Jamestown Settlement, the ferry offers a 15 minute ride across
the James River into neighboring Scotland, which is only a few miles from
Smithfield. The ferry is the only 24-hour state-run ferry operating in
the state and is free of charge.