A piece of Bluemont history reopened to the public on Saturday, more than 70 years after the last business there closed.
Built by Edward E. Lake in about 1901, the two-story building at the corner of Snickersville Turnpike and Railroad Street has served as a post office, an ice cream parlor, a barbershop, and most famously a general store. A branch of the Loudoun National Bank of Leesburg operated in the store but closed after robbers opened the safe with explosives in 1907. The second floor was long used as a dance hall and meeting space.
The general store stayed open until the 1930s, leaving only the post office, which moved across the street in 1945. In the 1940s, the store opened again, but only stayed open for two years.
Since then, the building has opened only once a year during the Bluemont Fair. In 1970, Supervisor Geary M. Higgins (R-Catoctin)’s father Robert Higgins purchased the building with the intention of renovating it, but could not get the necessary water and septic permits. In the 1990s, Supervisor Higgins worked to give the building to the Bluemont Citizens Association, resulting eventually in an unusual arrangement that had the county government owning the building, while the association managed it.
Eventually, the county and citizens association were able to put together enough grant money to renovate the building, which was reopened Saturday as a welcome center and home of the new Plaster Museum of Bluemont’s Heritage, named for the driving force behind that effort, Henry Plaster.
“Looking back, as we always do out here, this community, this rural village, is in its fourth century of being a village,” Plaster said at the ceremony. “George Washington, when he was sixteen, rode right up through what was called the Shenandoah Hunting Pass, which now has a double yellow line on it.”
He recalled the long history of Bluemont, of which the general store was a central part. He also gave a tour previewing the Plaster Museum, which contains artifacts from the building and the village’s long history.
Loudoun Department of Parks, Recreation and Community Service Director Steve Torpy credited Plaster with providing the guidance, history, and pressure the get the building renovated, stabilized, and reopened.
“What really came to mind for me was these general stores were a central part of any community, and that’s what this is really about,” Torpy said. “It’s bringing back community, it’s bringing back the opportunity for folks to come here and see a part of our history.”
The ceremony was attended by other elected officials including U.S. Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-VA-10).
“It’s a piece of Loudoun that’s been saved, and I’m thankful for that and proud of that, and I’m sure my father would be proud too,” Higgins said.
The building will be open again May 20 for the 5th annual Spring Fling, a Bluemont community picnic, as well as a second ceremony for the store.