Annual meetings are great ways to meet with fellow EAIA members to learn about common interests, share knowledge about tools, trades and crafts and to visit exciting destinations. In May of 2020, the EAIA annual meeting will be held in historic Staunton, Virginia.
Staunton’s name is pronounced without the “u” so when you hear its name said it sounds like “Stanton.” The reason for this pronunciation is lost to history, but suffices it to say citizens of Staunton always pronounce it “Stanton,” so that’s what I’ll do too!
In 1915, Staunton mayor Hampton Wayt addressed a Convention “I always speak in a modest vein when I speak of Staunton, the Queen City of the Valley. It is called Staunton from the wife of a former governor of this State, who was a woman of queenly graces of mind and heart. It received its name of the Queen City of the Valley because at one time it was the county seat of the largest county in the world, larger than Germany or France, and even larger than most of the principalities of Europe.”
Staunton was settled in 1732. It was named for Lady Rebecca Staunton, wife of colonial governor Sir William Gooch. It was the capital of the Northwest Territory from 1738 to 1770. The Virginia General Assembly established Staunton as a town in 1761, and the town was formally incorporated in 1801. It became the home to several important public institutions early in the 19th Century. A “lunatic” asylum was established as well as a school for the “deaf, dumb & blind,” one of the first in America, there was also a seminary for women. Because the railroad joined the Shenandoah Valley and Richmond it became an important place for commerce in the region. Many mills and grain storage buildings were built and during the Civil War it was occupied by both Confederate and Union troops, the Union troops destroyed much of the industrial infrastructure but small businesses and private homes were sparred. No major battles were fought there but the battle of New Market just a few miles up the Shenandoah Valley was fought to protect the vital confederate railroad supply link to Richmond.
Today Staunton is home to several institutions of higher learning, a vibrant downtown, and several museums and historic sites of importance. It is the birthplace of Woodrow Wilson, so there is a museum and his Presidential library just a block from the historic Stonewall Jackson Hotel-our meeting headquarters. Adjacent to the hotel is the American Shakespeare Center & Blackfriars theatre, a recreation of Shakespeare’s original indoor theatre. Made of Virginia white oak it is a faithful reproduction of the London original, a must see even if there is no performance!
The Camera Heritage Museum is a quirky downtown storefront that exhibits cameras of every kind, size and type from Daguerreotypes to miniature spy cameras. Glassblowing demonstrations are presented daily at the Sunspots Studio, and art and history galleries are found at the Smith Center for History & Art.
The theme of the 2020 meeting? “From Forest to Farm, Tools that Tamed the Frontier”
As this is just a teaser to introduce you to the region, I will leave you with a few photos and a promise of lots of more information over the coming months!
John H. Verrill, Executive Director