The Massanutten Mountain, spanning 50 miles from Strasburg to Harrisonburg, splits the northern end of the Shenandoah Valley in two. The mountain has defined the Valley, both physically and historically, as well as the community that grew up at the base of its southern most peak.
The mountain’s name comes from the title given to it by the Native Americans who made the land their home before European settlers arrived. To the early Europeans it was also known as the “Peaked Mountain.” The community that developed near its base at a Native American trading site was called “Massanutting Town.”
The Massanutten Mountain attracted hunters, trappers and farmers who made the slopes their home. During the Civil War famed Confederate General Stonewall Jackson used the mountain strategically as an obstacle to confound his enemies and divide his forces. The southern Massanutten Peak, which rises nearly 3,000 feet above sea level, was used for observation and signaling.
There were many mineral springs in the mountains, the water of which local residents considered good for their health. These springs began to attract visitors from around the region. One of these springs, known as “Rockingham Springs,” was owned by G. T. Hopkins. Hopkins built a three-story hotel near the spring and opened up a health resort in 1875 that drew vacationers from around the Mid-Atlantic region. It closed in 1915 and the hotel was destroyed by arson.
In 1966 plans for a resort community were started by John Hopkins, the great grandson of the man who had first opened the springs to the public. A corporation was formed that studied the feasibility of the weather for using the mountain as a skiing area during the winter months. By 1971 development started on 5,300 acres that would become Massanutten Resort. It would be one of the first developed ski areas on the East Coast. More than just a ski area the resort became a year round vacation spot. Today, along with its 16 ski slopes, the resort features hiking trails, mountain biking trails, a golf course and a water park.
As the resort began to grow the lands around it began to be developed with year-round homes for local residents. Situated along the eastern slope of the Massanutten Mountain the homes combine majestic views, resort amenities and local conveniences. The community of Massanutten sits about 10 miles from Harrisonburg, the county seat of Rockingham, with a population of 40,000, with the city’s retail, medical and educational services. The Massanutten Mountain, a geographic feature that has defined the Shenandoah Valley, continues to draw those seeking to visit its natural wonder and those who seek to make their home in the mountain’s shadow in the community of Massanutten.
- Date established: First settled in the early 1700s.
- Largest local employer: Massanutten Resort
- Claim to fame: Poet Sidney Lanier wrote “The Science of English Verse” while staying at Rockingham Springs in 1879.
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