Northern Virginia Has Graffiti Trail
By Scott C. Boyd
(September 2012 Civil War News)
BRANDY STATION, Va. – A new tourist destination called the Graffiti Trail has been organized, linking five sites in Northern Virginia that have buildings with graffiti left by Civil War soldiers.
The stops along the trail are Graffiti House at Brandy Station, Historic Blenheim in Fairfax, Old Court House Civil War Museum in Winchester, Mt. Zion Historic Park in Aldie, and Ben Lomond Historic Site in Manassas.
“It’s more of an idea than bricks and mortar. There’s no central office and no office staff,” former Brandy Station Foundation (BSF) President Bob Luddy said.
“This is an idea that sprang from several minds at the same time,” he said. “The motivation for it emanated from a lady from England, Katherine Reed from the University of Manchester.”
In the summer of 2011 Reed visited Virginia to do research for her master’s thesis about American Civil War graffiti. She ended up finding about 25 sites with soldiers’ graffiti in the state.
Luddy said the significance is that the graffiti tells the story of ordinary soldiers, while battlefields tend to present history at the “higher management” level of generals moving large bodies of troops.
“You gain an appreciation of the contribution of ordinary Americans to an extraordinary event in our nation’s history,” he said.
“If we didn’t identify the 50 names people agree are at the Graffiti House, the vast majority of them would be practically unknown to Civil War history.”
Luddy said he spoke with BSF President Joe McKinney about Reed’s findings and the possibility of a trail linking the sites. The BSF board of directors endorsed the idea.
“With the sesquicentennial of the war here, this is the time to do it,” Luddy said.
After speaking with Andrea Loewenwarter at Historic Blenheim, Luddy discovered that the same idea had occurred to her as well.
Using Loewenwarter’s extensive contacts, they assembled a small group to brainstorm the concept.
Although Reed identified approximately 25 sites, the group decided to start small, with the five sites, and see if the idea “had merit in the marketplace,” according to Luddy.
“The biggest problem we have is ‘continuity of trail,’” he said.
This is shown by the fact that the sites around Virginia tend to be clustered in five discrete pockets: Northern Virginia on the Interstate Route 66 corridor, Fredericksburg, Hampton Roads, Richmond and the Shenandoah Valley.
Another challenge is that many of the sites with graffiti are in privately-owned homes, and the owners may not welcome tourists visiting.
Loewenwarter coordinated production of about 5,000 brochures for the graffiti trail. They were equally divided among the five sites and the cost was equally shared.
Luddy said he is encouraged by how several tourists at the Graffiti House have mentioned the trail brochure and having visited other sites on it as well.
Future possibilities include trail bus tours, trail seminars and inclusion in the Virginia Civil War Trails network, he said.
To download the brochure go