Rocktown Gift Shoppe
Outdoor Garden Patio
Valley Turnpike Museum
Heritage Bakery & Cafe
Where History and Hospitality Meet
The Hardesty-Higgins House Visitor Center welcomes visitors to Harrisonburg, VA! Inside you will find experienced Travel Specialists, a state-certified Visitor Center, Valley Turnpike Museum, Virginia Craftsmen Showroom, Rocktown Gift Shoppe, Heritage Bakery and Café, and one of five Civil War Orientation Centers in the Shenandoah Valley Battlefield Historic District. Other amenities include information and brochures on lodging, dining and entertainment options as well as concierge maps.
212 S. Main St. Harrisonburg, VA 22801
Hours of Operation
The Visitor Center serves visitors Monday through Sunday from 9:00am-5:00pm. It is closed on the holidays listed below. Call for hours on Memorial Day, Labor Day and Independence Day.
- Thanksgiving Day
- Friday after Thanksgiving
- Christmas Eve
- Christmas Day
- New Year’s Day
Hardesty-Higgins House History
Harrisonburg is the most diverse city in the Shenandoah Valley, where over 50 languages are spoken in high school. It has been welcoming travelers for over 150 years from all over the world. Home to Eastern Mennonite University and James Madison University Harrisonburg also holds the distinction of Virginia’s First Culinary District, an original Arts & Cultural District and the Outdoor Adventure Capital of the Valley. In the heart of it all is the Hardesty-Higgins House, home to Harrisonburg’s first mayor Isaac Hardesty, the house bears his name and the name of the physician, Henry Higgins, who began construction in 1848. Isaac Hardesty was born in 1795 and became the city’s first Mayor by charter on March 16, 1849, incorporating the town of Harrisonburg. Hardesty completed construction of the home by 1853 and lived in the house with his wife, Ann, and two children. The 1850 Slave Census lists Hardesty as owning three slaves: a black male age 65, a black male age 11, and a black female age 18. Hardesty was a successful businessman, apothecary, and merchant, and he served on the Board of Directors of the Valley Turnpike Company. He hosted Union General Banks in the house during the Civil War in 1862.
Isaac Hardesty supported the Union and moved from Harrisonburg during the early part of the Civil War. Later in the war, the Strayer sisters were renting the house when Union General Philip H. Sheridan’s army occupied the town in 1864. A young slave woman named Fanny cooked the soldiers’ rations in exchange for a share, which she took to wounded confederates in a nearby hospital. At the end of the occupation, Fanny and her elderly parents left for freedom with Sheridan’s army. The Strayer sisters also hosted Union General Phillip Sheridan in the house. After the war, the house served as an inn and later was home to Virginia Craftsman, makers of handcrafted furniture, from the 1920s to the 1980s.
In May 2001, the City of Harrisonburg purchased the house, thanks in part to a federal Transportation Enhancement Act grant in the amount of $420,000. In May 2003, a second TEA-21 grant was received in the amount of $175,000 to assist with renovation costs. The intention was to create a multi-use facility to serve the community as a visitor center and museum that would restore the home’s significance to the City of Harrisonburg. Today, the building is operated by Harrisonburg Tourism and Visitor Services and includes the Valley Turnpike Museum, a Civil War Orientation Center, Rocktown Gift Shop and bakery.