Allen Hale, representative of the East District on the Nelson County Board of Supervisors and chairman of the Claudius Crozet Blue Ridge Tunnel Foundation, will be the featured speaker at the Nelson County Historical Society’s September 15, 2013 program at the historic Rockfish Presbyterian Church. Mr. Hale will speak on the history and historical significance of the Blue Ridge Tunnel as well as the progress of the Foundation’s efforts to preserve and restore the tunnel.
Rockfish Presbyterian Church is located at 5016 Rockfish Valley Highway (Highway 151) two miles north of Nellysford.
The Blue Ridge Tunnel was constructed between 1850 and 1858 under the leadership of the brilliant French Engineer Claudius Crozet (1789-1864). Construction of the tunnel was a major engineering feat, employing mostly Irish laborers and African-American slaves simultaneously excavating the tunnel from each end using only hand drills and black powder for a distance of nearly 1 mile (4,273 linear ft.) It was the longest tunnel in America at the time of its completion, and allowed safe Westward expansion from the Eastern part of the United States. The tunnel ceased operation in 1944 and was designated as a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark in 1976.
The mission of the Claudius Crozet Blue Ridge Tunnel Foundation is to restore and preserve the Claudius Crozet Blue Ridge Tunnel as a valuable historical asset and recreational destination for both Nelson and Augusta counties in Virginia. The tunnel project will incorporate a trailway through the restored tunnel, accessible from both sides by trail hikers, walkers and bicyclists, linking to existing trail systems. The tunnel is located in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains at Rockfish Gap. The eastern entrance is in Afton, in Nelson County
The Blue Ridge Tunnel is ready for restoration. The initial planning process and design for the trails, parking areas and amenities has been completed, and will be realized upon additional funding and the settlement of easements. Groundbreaking for Phase I of the project is expected to begin in the coming months.