As the keepers of their region's heritage, members of the Historical Society of Western Virginia know that best way to spread political traditions is through engaging public exhibits. That's why they operate two museums dedicated to Western Virginia's unique culture.
As a key battleground in the Civil War, West Virginia has no shortage of history for the curators at the History Museum of Western Virginia to draw upon. They leave no manuscript, periodical, or photograph unturned, using the museum's own vast library to build exhibits that celebrate formative moments in the Commonwealth's history. Sometimes, they go back even further. The museum's primary exhibit, Crossroads of History, interprets 10,000 years of heritage through artifacts such as Native American arrowheads, pottery, and the "Rawrenoke" beads that lend their name to the city of Roanoke.
At the O. Winston Link Museum, exhibits focus on more recent?and locomotive?history. Drawn from the collection of photographer Winston Link, the museum continues its namesake's quest to document and memorialize the bygone steam engines of the Norfolk and Western Railway. In addition to housing more than 300 images of these country-conquering machines, the museum also hosts temporary exhibits of other historically significant photos; recent shows featured a collection of Winston Link's work in the world of advertising, and lithographs from engine designer Raymond Loewy.
Like narrow, perfectly coiffed clearings, the fairways at Hunting Hills Country Club slide through the dense forest that covers the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The 18-hole layout was unveiled in 1971, realizing the visions of tight, tree-lined shots and hilly traverses first pictured by architect Raymond F. Loving, Jr. The course's commitment to upkeep and aesthetics has never wavered over the ensuing four decades, and golfers today continue to contend with daunting drives and unsettling elevation swings.
These concerns leave foursomes thoroughly tuckered out by the 18th hole, at which point they might ask a caddy for a piggyback ride to the clubhouse for drinks and lunch.
When they're not swinging away on the golf course, members test their sports skills at the tennis facility's four lighted hard courts and four Har-Tru clay courts. They can then cool off in the swimming pool, which features an adjoining wading pool perfect for kids or pet turtles.
Captain Josh Laferty channels more than two decades of experience fishing the local waters to help people find and reel in striped bass from Smith Mountain Lake. During his chartered trips, up to three fishermen hang out on an Angler center-console boat equipped with refreshments, safety gear, and fishing equipment such as Orvis fly tackle and Outcast planer boards. Since the boat comes stocked with everything needed for a day—or half-day—of fishing, participants only need to bring their Virginia freshwater-fishing license and arrive dressed in season-appropriate apparel and mermaid tails.
Hot Shots Family Fun Center enchants guests of all ages with four outdoor attractions. Three streams, six ponds, and a waterfall line the par-40 miniature golf course, cultivating peace of mind as players grapple with creative hazards. Friends can test their fear factor on the 24-foot drop slide, attack one another with a barrage of cushy Nerf balls using Cannonball Air Blasters or enjoy the Hot Shots bounce house. Everyone enjoys the food at the Nineteenth Hole Cafe, where adults can even enjoy a sip while kids wear themselves down.
On the scenic Smith Mountain Lake, run-about motorboats and WaveRunners create arcing, white-capped wakes atop the water. Nearby, slower-moving pontoons host anglers and picnickers. The captains of each of these vessels owe their enjoyable day to the family-owned Hales Ford Marina & Boat Rentals, which loans its equipment to locals and visitors alike. In addition to pairing clients with the right boat, staffers also perform repairs and maintenance, including winterization for a variety of vehicles.
While stationed on Long Island to conduct secret war research for the U.S. government during World War II, O. Winston Link started snapping photographs of the Long Island Railroad tracks behind his lab. Eager to capture large-scale railroad pictures at night, he built his own customized flash equipment. After the war, Link harnessed that creative curiosity by spending five years photographing the Norfolk and Western Railway, the last large steam-powered American railroad. From his 20 trips to the railway's tracks in four states, Link collected 2,400 pictures.
His work didn't garner attention until the 1980s, when he published his first collection of railroad photos in the lauded book Steam, Steel & Stars. The West Virginia Historical Society continues to preserve his legacy with the O. Winston Link Museum, which showcases Link's Norfolk and Western project while filling in its historical context. Throughout seven galleries, patrons hear the sounds of bustling locomotive engines, adjust the lighting of an interactive diorama's photograph, and ogle Link's original photographic equipment, including flashbulbs, power boxes, and super power boxes. The museum underscores its edifying galleries with a plentitude of tours, workshops, and ongoing photography programs.