Wednesday, May 28, 2014


Shepherdstown, West Virginia
Last weekend, Peter and I decided we wanted a break from city life and decided to drive a couple of hours away to Shepherdstown, West Virginia. Neither of us had ever been to West Virginia before, and I was intrigued to check out small town life. Shepherdstown has a population of only 1,700 people (though there is a university there and when in session, the 4,200 students more than triple the population). It's tiny--we walked around the entire town in one afternoon--so I'm guessing when students arrive it probably feels overcrowded quickly. In fact, we ate lunch at a restaurant that was very busy--it took over an hour to get our food--so I don't know what even happens during the school year. But anyway, there were lots of cute things to photograph, and I took about a million pictures for your viewing pleasure. :)

Public library in Shepherdstown, West Virginia
Here is the tiny public library. It was closed, so we couldn't go inside. I love that little tree out front.

Peter guessed that this building may have been a fire station at one point because of all the garage doors, but I'm not sure what it's used for now. It's pretty though; I love the large windows.

There's a little stream that runs through town that you keep seeing, and crossing over, as you walk around.

Little House in Shepherdstown, West Virginia
The "Little House" is the cutest thing I've ever seen; I think I squealed when I saw it. It was built in 1929 by the college as a teacher training project, supposedly so they could observe children playing, a.k.a. "lab brats," which made me laugh. It's only 10 feet high by 9 1/2 feet wide. It has five rooms and two stories--there were little tiny stairs going up the back of the house. I so wish we could have gone inside, but it wasn't open, so we just peeked in the windows. I decided I will absolutely build a real-life dollhouse just like this when I'm rich whether I have kids or not.

German Street shops in Shepherdstown, West Virginia
German Street is lined with lots of little shops selling antiques, jewelry, some handmade things...all sorts of stuff really.

The Opera House in Shepherdstown, West Virginia
The Opera House shows indie movies and has live music. I'd never heard of any of the bands on the upcoming schedule, so I looked a few of them up later. Most of them seemed to be bluegrass/folksy type bands (and more than one listed the Grateful Dead as their main inspiration), so I don't really think it's my type of music but probably typical for a college town.

small town life in Shepherdstown, West Virginia
We passed by lots of cute houses with dogs and cats napping on porches and also saw some roosters and chickens in backyards.

View of Potomac River from The Rumsey Monument in Shepherdstown, West Virginia
At the end of our visit, we walked up to Rumsey Monument, which is on a hill at the edge of town to see views of the Potomac River. I imagine it's probably very pretty in autumn when the leaves change.

I definitely had romantic notions about small town life that were pretty much dispelled on this trip. I thought that small towns and less people would mean it wouldn't feel crowded, but that wasn't true at the restaurant for sure. And I also naively thought that people would be really friendly and neighborly to each other, but we didn't see people in the town chatting or even acknowledging each other when they passed on the street. We even saw a car honk and sort of road rage, which surprised me. I thought people moved to a small town to get away from that.

So I guess people are still people no matter where they live. And I also realize you can't judge an entire town from just a few hours spent walking around. The few people we interacted with were really nice. I was standing on one lady's front step to get a photo of a building across the street when she came home. We apologized for blocking her door and loitering-lol-and she was like "no no, take as many pictures as you want" and was really sweet about it.

Anyway, I definitely recommend a weekend visit to Shepherdstown if you're in the area. I think most people are more likely to visit nearby Harpers's Ferry (where there's lots of outdoorsy things to do like river rafting and zip lining) or Charles Town (where there's a casino and horse racing), but Shepherdstown is super cute.

One more thing: the directions we got from Mapquest were to take VA 267 to get there, which I would not recommend. Lots of traffic and two tolls (about $8 in nonpeak times) meant it took twice as long to get there as it was supposed to take. We also got turned around a couple of times on country roads once we were in West Virginia due to Mapquest's confusing directions. We finally just looked at a map on my phone and found an alternate route to get there once we were close. On the way back, we took Leesburg Pike the whole way. It took a little less time and was much more scenic...lots of farms and cows and horses to see and way less traffic.

Now that we've seen one small town, I'm anxious to visit others and compare. We'd been wanting to take some weekend road trips this summer anyway, and now I think we'll definitely try to find some cute smaller towns to visit along the way. If anyone has any suggestions for towns within driving distance of DC for a weekend getaway, please share in the comments! xo, Mary


  1. Such cute buildings!! Also that cute house is adorable!! What made you want to visit Shepherdstown?? Did you hear about it prior to going? I'm actually not a big fan of small town life. I have always been a fan of large cities and love the feelings of not being known by people. I'm starting to feel smothered in C'ville because I'm meeting and starting to get to know a lot of people. It's just going to get worst once I start my teaching and meet parents. I'm not going to be able to act a fool in public anymore!

    Just took another look at the pictures and I just love the purple shutters!

  2. Commenting here, too. :-) That old firehouse is now a privately owned residence! It was up for sale a few years ago. Such a cool space. I went to Shepherd for a year (in 1997-1998) and loved the town more than the school. I worked on German Street at Van Tol's Village Florist (which is now something else), got Wet Dog (a coffee drink) at the Lost Dog as often as I could, dangled my feet in the Shepherdstown Run (the little creek that runs through town) and so on. It's a great town, and like you said, overrun by college kids 9 months out of the year. It slows down quite a bit in summer, so perhaps give it another try if you can. It's a great place with a really progressive, educated, and enlightened community of residents.

  3. I want to go there!! I love little towns like that -- there is one I like to go to that's about an hour's drive away -- areas closed to traffic with lots of cute crafty shops, an old theater showing live performances, yummy food, a gazebo in the middle, and B&B's nearby to stay in!
    Loved your pics -- they really captured the feel of the town. That little house is just adorable! I guess I could share it with my granddaughter...

    Thanks for stopping by my blog, and for your sweet comment :)
    I think the same about those huge houses... and there's probably only two people living in them LOL!

  4. I love the little creek that runs through town! And this town has a lot of cute little buildings and shops for a small town.
    I live in a town (well outside of town actually) of 800ish. Feel free to stop by if you're in Iowa :)

  5. Looks like the perfect destination for a weekend of wandering around. I love the gorgeous buildings! Looking forward to the other roadtrips you'll be having this summer (assuming you'll be sharing more photo's over here!)

  6. What a great little town! The children's house was adorable! People are people anywhere, but it's all better when you're in a little town full of character :-)

  7. What a charming looking town despite some of the things you saw that may have been off-putting, but that's with any town really. This reminds me of a lot of the towns in the Hudson Valley. Puts me in the mood for a day trip! :)

  8. Your photos make me want to visit this lovely small town! It looks really nice and those buildings (especially the little house) are unique.
    I love road trips, can't wait to see more of yours!

  9. I moved from Chicago to a region full of tiny towns, and I am appreciating them more and more every day. Shepherdstown looks beautiful! I love the architecture and that pretty little stream.

  10. OH my god, what a CUTE place! We moved to a small town when I was going into 7th grade, and that's where I ended up going to high school. Places like that (and this!) are nice to visit for a day or two, but to live there is just epically dull. Shepherdstown is cuter than where I lived, though. That tiny house is just the most adorable thing ever.