Strasburg (population 5,700) lies in the Shenandoah Valley on the North Fork of the Shenandoah River, an area occupied by Native Americans for thousands of years before settlers migrated to the frontier in the 1750s, bringing German culture to the valley. Chartered in 1761, the town was part of the earliest settlement west of the Blue Ridge Mountains and America’s initial movement westward. Strasburg prospered and grew due to its location on the “Great Wagon Road” that ran through the valley.
Native Americans clashed with settlers during and after the French and Indian War. Men from Strasburg served in the German Regiment (8th Virginia) during the American Revolution. At the time of the Civil War, Strasburg was a strategically important crossroads of the Valley Pike and the railroad to the east. In 1862, Gen. Nathaniel Banks occupied Strasburg and built Banks Fort. The Civil War caused the town great disruption, damage, and hardship. Battles at nearby Fishers Hill and Cedar Creek took place in 1864, and Strasburg lies within the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields National Historic District.
Grist mills and tanneries were among the earliest local industries. Production of pottery and stoneware led to the nickname “Pot Town” but this industry diminished in the early 20th century. A new limestone industry thrived. The town grew slowly through the Great Depression and WWII. In the 1960s, the new Interstate 81 bypassed Strasburg, diverting traffic away from Main Street.
Today, as the community prepared to celebrate its 250th anniversary, tourism is an important part of the local economy. Strasburg maintains a strong commitment to highlighting its historic resources through heritage-based tourism, understanding that these resources are capital assets and key to sustaining economic and cultural vitality. A downtown walking tour includes two historic museums among its 10 marked sites, and links to both the Civil War Traveler Web site and the interstate Civil War Trails Heritage and Tourism Program. A new bicycle tour is about to be introduced.
A local Architectural Review Board maintains the integrity of residential, industrial, and commercial buildings representing more than two centuries of settlement in the Shenandoah Valley and helps preserve the community’s quality of life. Partnerships with the Strasburg Heritage Association, the Strasburg Rotary, the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation, Hometown Strasburg, the Strasburg Museum, chamber of commerce, and library, and a recently revived tourism committee facilitate stewardship of Strasburg’s heritage resources and, according to the State Historic Preservation Officer, are a model for many other communities in Virginia to emulate.
Designated a Preserve America Community in November 2008.