The Heritage Center Program

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Mennonites and Brethren have lived in the Shenandoah Valley for more than two centuries, but they have truly been the "quiet in the land." Their creative labor as farmers and craftsmen and their unique forms of Christian piety and faith have been largely invisible. One purpose of the Heritage Center is to unveil this historical and spiritual legacy and serve as an interpretive center.

By identifying and interpreting this legacy, Brethren and Mennonites can satisfy the yearning to know more about themselves - who they are and how they came to be. The Heritage Center, which opened to the public on June 18, 2006, honors forebears and their tradition of living according to the convictions of their faith, thus encouraging members in their own faith journeys.
Brethren and Mennonites represent a significant religious minority in the Shenandoah Valley. Their emphasis on pacifism, voluntary service, disaster relief work, and international understanding are major themes in the Center, highlighting the contemporary work of the denominations.

The Center interprets these values as expression of faith. The walk through the facility helps the visitor ponder these values as an option for one's life and invites them to the Christian faith.

The Heritage Center Facilities

BurkeholderMyersThe Heritage Center is situated on Garbers Church Road in Harrisonburg, with a hilltop site providing vistas spanning the Valley. The 14-acre campus has been designed as a farmstead with a central garden. At the present, the 1854 Burkholder-Myers house, and the Whitmer School and Cove Mennonite Church, a one-room school house and a meetinghouse have been moved to the site.

Facilities can be rented for group use; download reservation information and form here.

The Burkholder-Myers House (above): In 1854 Mennonite Bishop Martin Burkholder built this house, the first building to open at the center. A Myers family, descended from early Brethren settlers, owned the house in recent years and donated it to CrossRoads. It was moved up the hill to the CrossRoads site in 2002 to make room for Harrisonburg High School's relocation.

The Whitmer School (right)

Whimer SchoolThis one-room structure was built about 1904 above Mathias, WVA, by Mennonite and Brethren folks who had settled the area. When the school closed about 1940, it continued to serve as a meetinghouse for Sunday school and church, known later as Cove Mennonite Church. After the church closed, the five children of the Jesse and Beulah (Whitmer) Halderman family donated the building to CrossRoads. It was sawn in thirds and reassembled at the CrossRoads site in late 2004 to illustrate early education and mission work in the mountains. (see photos of the reconstruction)


Welcome CenterThe Welcome Center (left):

This three-bedroom house was purchased and remodeled in 2005 to serve as a gateway and orientation place for visitors to the Center.

Blacksmith Shop (right): This 1900s era shop was moved to the CrossRoads site in 2008 and is now fully equipped with blacksmithing tools and equipment, including a new forge. Blacksmiths are shown at work in it for special events, such as Harvest Day the last Saturday in September, and for group tours, including schools or home-schooled students and their parents. See photos of Larry Martin at work at the forge at CrossRoads.

Welcome CenterWash House (left): This 1854 era Wash House is typical of the structures built near farm houses of the time. It includes an inside fireplace where water could be heated for washing clothes or making soap. During butchering days, the fireplace was used to boil fat for pressing into lard or cooking side meat to grind into a pudding that was stored in crocks and eaten with corn meal. This Wash House was moved to the current CrossRoads site in 2002, along with the nearby Burkholder-Myers House, but was set on the current foundation in 2008 and finished in 2009.

vespers

During July and August, visitors can experience the serenity of Sunday evenings in a peaceful woodland setting with a mediation and inspirational music. At the top of the hill at CrossRoads, follow the 100-foot trail down the gently sloping hillside to the Amphitheater. Bring a chair to sit on. Services begin at 7:00 p.m. and end at 7:45.


BurkeholderMyers

In addition to the above facilities on the site, construction of the 1829 Weaver-Brunk Log House is now underway. See photos of the building process of the Weaver-Brunk Log House at CrossRoads. J. Allen Brubaker, photo credit.

Plans for the site include a Welcome Center, summer kitchen, and vintage Rockingham County barn.

site map

A work in progress. The CrossRoads site is very much a work in progress. “Farmstead” is often used to describe the 14-acre site, where visitors will experience life as it was lived by Brethren and Mennonites in the 19th and 20th centuries. The 1829 log house and an 1800s barn (still to be erected), and the 1854 farmhouse will depict 19th century life. A 20th century set of buildings, such as the Whitmer School, a still to be erected church and an outdoor amphitheater help to tell the stories of 20th century life.

The site will also feature a Visitor Center with a gift shop offering books, art, crafts, and special momentos.

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