Named in honor of the third President of the United States who stood here and declared it the finest view of the most beautiful section of Virginia he had ever seen, Jefferson Rock is a highlight for those who visit what is now Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. This site is near the Appalachian Trail and is a popular destination for hikers. With the exception of the bridge a mile downstream and the steeple of St. Peter's Church, built in 1833, the view from this rock has changed little since the time of Thomas Jefferson’s visit.
Backstory and Context
Thomas Jefferson stood on the rock on October 25th, 1783, enjoying the view so much that he waxed eloquent about its beauty in his famous work, Notes on the State of Virginia. According to Jefferson, the view alone was “worth a voyage across the Atlantic."
Jefferson Rock is a shale formation that overlooks the area where the Potomac meets the Shenandoah River. The area has changed some since 1783, as the natural foundation holding the part of the rock where Jefferson stood began to erode over time it became so unsteady that one could sway the rock back and forth with a simple push.
Since the natural foundation had become unsafe, four stone pillars were placed under each corner of the top slab
in sometime between 1855 and 1860.
Jefferson Rock continues to captivate visitors today with its scenic views of the rivers and mountainous landscape. The steeple of St. Peter's Roman Catholic Church is visible through the trees. Nearby are ruins of St. John's Episcopal Church, used as a hospital and barracks during the Civil War, and the Harper Cemetery. Visitors also can walk part of the Appalachian Trail, which runs from Georgia to Maine.
Stowell Jr., Walton Danforth "Jefferson Rock." e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia. 02 March 2012. Web. 20 June 2016.
Jefferson Rock. National Park Service. August 25, 2016. May 23, 2019. https://www.nps.gov/hafe/learn/historyculture/jefferson-rock.htm.
Crossroads of War. "Harpers Ferry." Crossroads of War. Accessed September 2017. http://www.crossroadsofwar.org/galleries/harpersferry/