In 1779, Thomas Harrison deeded two and a half acres of his land to the public good, creating the City of Harrisonburg, Virginia (population 40,468), seat of Rockingham County in the fertile Shenandoah Valley. When the Civil War broke out, Harrisonburg and Virginia were part of the Confederacy, but the City of Harrisonburg’s representatives in Richmond opposed secession. Nevertheless, the valley's productive farms helped feed the Confederate army, and Stonewall Jackson used Harrisonburg as one of his headquarters.
Today, Harrisonburg’s economy has pushed beyond its traditionally strong agricultural base through tremendous growth in business, industry, and education. Efforts toward the revitalization of the downtown area went into high gear in the early 2000s, and the city is now a Virginia Main Street Community, with a National Historic District and a State Historic District.
One of Harrisonburg’s recent preservation projects is the renovation of the historic Hardesty-Higgins House. The structure dates to 1848 and was the home of Harrisonburg’s first mayor, Isaac Hardesty. The building also served as the headquarters of Union General Nathaniel Banks during May of 1862. Today it houses the visitors center, the Valley Turnpike Museum, a tea room, and offices for Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance.
The city’s annual Court Days Festival recreates Harrisonburg in the 1850s. Court Square is filled with costumed re-enactors, period music and crafts, and walking and wagon tours of the historic district. Visitors can enjoy a Victorian tea, take part in a court case drama, and attend the Grand Ball as part of the festivities.
Designated a Preserve America Community in April 2006.