The Natural Bridge of Virginia is one of the oldest tourist destinations in the United States. It's located in the city of Natural Bridge, in Rockbridge County.
Popular with Europeans in the 18th and 19th centuries, Natural Bridge and Niagara Falls were the two wonders of the new world. The Bridge has been included in several "Seven Natural Wonders of the World" lists, mostly in the 19th and early 20th centuries.
It has been designated a National Historic Landmark, a Virginia Historic Landmark, and is listed in the National Register of
History of the Natural Bridge
In 1774, Thomas Jefferson purchased 157 acres of land including the Natural Bridge from King George III of England for 20 shillings. It has remained privately owned since. Jefferson also built a two room log cabin, with one room was reserved for guests.
The Bridge served as a shot tower during the Revolutionary War. Bullets for American firearms were manufactured by dropping molten lead 245 feet from the top of the Bridge into Cedar Creek's cold water below.
In 1833, Jefferson's heirs sold the site and the new owner erected the Forest Inn to accommodate the increasing number of people.
In the 1850s Herman Melville references the Natural Bridge when describing the whale in Moby Dick: "But soon the fore part of him slowly rose from the water; for an instant his whole marbleized body formed a high arch, like Virginia's Natural Bridge..."
From 1861-1865, Civil War soldiers made ammunition in Saltpeter Cave and Lost River locations along the trail, just beyond the Bridge.
In 1927, U.S. President Calvin Coolidge inaugurates the night light presentation, The Drama of Creation.
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