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Smithfield, Virginia

     Dave (my husband) and I went to Smithfield, Virginia located in Isle of Wight County, a fifty-minute ride from our home in Virginia Beach.  What a day we had!  We felt like we had stepped back in time when we arrived in Smithfield.  The town of Smithfield was originally inhabited by the Warascoyak Indians and first colonized in 1634.  Located on the banks of the Pagan and James River, the town of Smithfield was incorporated in 1752 by Arthur Smith IV.  Smithfield occupies 10.1 square miles and has a population of approximately 7,000 residents.  Moderate temperatures year round make a visit to Smithfield/Isle of Wight ideal at all times.

     Smithfield had a battle in the Civil War that greatly impacted its citizens.  Union forces invaded Smithfield on a Sunday morning in January 1864.  They met strong opposition from a small band of Confederate soldiers in town, gunfire broke out, and a battle ensued.  The Union soldiers were chased back to their boat and their gunboat caught on fire and was blown to pieces.

     Smithfield is known as the “Ham Capital of the World” and is home to the Smithfield Foods, Inc.  Members of the English monarchy had standing orders for Smithfield’s famous hams prior to the Revolutionary War.

     Our first stop was the Visitor’s Center, where Cheryl Whitener is the Manager.  Cheryl and her staff gave us so much helpful information, including an audio CD to assist us in finding our points of interest. We were ready for our tour of Smithfield.

     We headed for Darden’s Country Store.  After all, we had driven 50 minutes.  We had to have cured ham on a biscuit.  The owners of the store, Tommy and DeeDee Darden were a delightful couple.   Tommy’s father built the store in 1952.  At the time his father built the store they did not have electricity.  We placed our order for two country ham biscuits and Tommy invited us to the back of the store where he had planted cotton and peanuts, and other plants so school children could see how they grew.

     Our next treat was a trip to the Darden’s smokehouse where at least 500 hams were curing.  The smell of curing hams has got to be one of greatest explosions of magnificent odors to our sense of smell that can ever happen.

     After we had our snack for the morning, we ventured on to St. Luke’s Church (circa 1632).  It is the nation’s oldest and only surviving original brick Gothic church of English foundation and was the site of both a Revolutionary and Civil War encampment.  We walked the grounds and looked at the dates on the burial stones.  Today, weddings, baptisms and other special ceremonies are scheduled at the church, and on the fifth Sunday of the month, an Episcopal service is held.

     Main and Church Streets in Smithfield’s Historic District are where you will find many points of interest, including period houses, shops, restaurants, five art galleries within three blocks, the old courthouse of 1750 and the Isle of Wight County Museum, among many other sights.  Look for the four famous bronze statues.

     The walking tour of Smithfield is self-guided, but you can arrange for a knowledgeable docent, if you wish.  The grandeur of some of the homes is breathtaking.  You will see 60 houses and businesses featuring Colonial, Federal, Georgian, and Victorian architecture side by side.

     The Smithfield Inn is located on Main Street and is a Historic Landmark.  For over 250 years travelers have dined and lodged at the elegant Smithfield Inn.  One of the many famous travelers was Paula Dean, restaurateur featured on the Food Network channel and author of several cookbooks, also promoting Smithfield Hams.  I would imagine she ordered one of their famous sweet potato rolls with cured ham.

     Is it lunchtime already!  We ate at The Smithfield Gourmet Bakery and Café and we highly recommend it.  They have a variety of selections for lunch and are reasonably priced.  It was a gourmet lunch!

     A few other restaurants located on Main Street are: Olde World Tea Company, Smithfield Ice Cream Parlor and The Smithfield Inn and Tavern.

     If you are coming by boat, you can dock your boat at the Smithfield Station, Waterfront Restaurant, Inn and Marina located on the Pagan River.

     The upcoming event in Smithfield is the Aiken and Friends Fest held Saturday, October 3, 2009, featuring national recording artist, Mike Aiken, and Grammy Winner, Brad David as well as local, regional and other national artists.  There is a guitar and songwriting workshop with Mike Aiken and Brad Davis on October 2, 2009.

     What a great day we had and thanks for the cherished memories, Smithfield, Virginia.  Hope to return soon.

Copyright © 2008-2015 DeeDee MacDonald

Reader Comments...
2009-10-03 20:49:18
"I love this article because this is where my husband is from. His parents still live in the same house he grew up in. His grandparents settled there years ago along the Pagan River buying acres of land in a little town called Rescue. Our favorite place to go is the Smithfield Station. This warmed my heart and thank you for sharing. :)"
        - Dawn

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