As you drive along Interstate 81 towards the town of Verona a gaze along the side of the road can provide a hint of where the town’s name came from. The interstate is paralleled by a train track. Where that track crossed a local creek they needed a bridge. When the track was being laid in the late 19th century master Italian stonemasons were brought to the United States to do the job. The result was a four-span arched structure that was 130 feet in length. The stonemasons also gave the area just outside of Staunton where they camped the name of their hometown in Italy.
The area around Verona was farming country and mills grew up along the local streams to process the grain. The area that would later become Verona was known as Bowlings Mill and later Rolla, after the local roller mills. Local farms and mills became a target during the Civil War. One local mill wright hosted a Union general to dinner and had his property spared as a result.
In the late 19th century Anna Moses, later known to the world as Grandma Moses, lived in the area and painted local scenes. Her final home in the valley was the Mount Airy house in Verona.
While the Baltimore & Ohio railroad called the town the “Verona Station” the post office kept the former name of Rolla. It wasn’t until 1940 that the post office designation officially changed to Verona.
By the early 20th century the train station began to become a community with houses and establishing businesses. Local farmers would bring their grains to the numerous mills in the Verona area and then to the town’s train station to be shipped around the country. Verona’s close proximity to U.S. Route 11 and later the interstate made it an ideal location for businesses, drawing such companies as Westinghouse to open factories there.
By the mid-twentieth century other industry was moving to the area as well. Currently Daikin Applied, an HVAC manufacturer, and American Safety Razor, two of the top employers in the county, have factories there. Verona is home to the Mill Place Commerce Park, a 175 acre facility that is run by the Augusta County Department of Economic Development, and is home to companies like Shamrock Farms and DASCOM Americas.
Though Staunton is the county seat Verona has become the center for local government and is home to the Augusta County Government Center, the Augusta County Sheriff’s Department and the county’s Agricultural Extension Office.
Verona’s Factory Antique Mall, opened in a former manufacturing facility, is one of the largest antique malls on the East Coast and draws collectors from around the country.
Just outside of Verona is one of Augusta County’s premiere artistic venues. The outdoor Oak Grove Theater began in 1954 and over the past 60 years has enthralled regional theater goers with performances every summer.
Situated a few miles down U.S Route 11 from Staunton, a regional hospital and medical center and numerous colleges are close at hand. There are 4,300 people in the seven square miles Census Designated Area around Verona. Situated in the central Shenandoah Valley Staunton is in the middle of some of the best natural areas on the East Coast. To the east lies the Shenandoah National Park, Appalachian Trail and the Blue Ridge Parkway and to the west the George Washington National Forest, one of the largest areas of public land in the eastern United States..
Today both the town’s name and the remains of the stone mason’s handiwork are the only reminders that they were once here. But like that stone bridge Verona is a community that stands out to those passing through the Shenandoah Valley.