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Front Royal, Virginia
Town
Town of Front Royal
Main Street in Front Royal, April 2009.
Main Street in Front Royal, April 2009.
Official seal of Front Royal, Virginia
Seal
Nickname(s): Canoe Capital of Virginia
Country United States
State Virginia
County Warren
Founded 1788
Area
 • Total 9.5 sq mi (24.6 km2)
 • Land 9.3 sq mi (24.0 km2)
 • Water 0.2 sq mi (0.6 km2)
Elevation 568 ft (173 m)
Population (2010)
 • Total 14,440
 • Density 1,520/sq mi (586.99/km2)
Time zone Eastern (EST) (UTC-5)
 • Summer (DST) EDT (UTC-4)
ZIP code 22630
Area code(s) 540
FIPS code 51-29968
GNIS feature ID 1498480
Website http://www.frontroyalva.com

Front Royal is a town in Warren County, Virginia, United States. The population was 14,440 at the 2010 census. It is the county seat of Warren County.

History

The entire Shenandoah Valley including the area to become Front Royal was annexed and claimed for hunting by the Iroquois Confederation during the later Beaver Wars, by 1672. Some bands of the Shawnee settled in the area as client groups to the Iroquois and alternately to the Cherokee after 1721. The Iroquois formally sold their entire claim east of the Alleghenies to the Virginia Colony at the Treaty of Lancaster in 1744. Front Royal, originally settled in 1754 under the name LeHewtown, had been known to European explorers as early as the 1670s, and the nearby settlement of Chester's Ferry was in existence by 1736. The town also had a well-known nickname by the 1790s, "Helltown," due to the many livestock wranglers and boatmen on the Shenandoah coming through the area, who came into town looking for alcohol. It was incorporated as "Front Royal" in 1788.

Rail service was established in 1854 with the construction of the Alexandria, Orange and Manassas Gap Railroad between Manassas and Riverton. This line was soon extended to Strasburg in time to become a factor in the Battle of Front Royal on May 23, 1862 and throughout the Civil War. Lumber, agriculture, manufacturing and grain mills provided employment in the region for decades after the Civil War.

Origin of name

Several theories regarding the origins of the name "Front Royal" have been suggested.

A common theory is that the town was named for a giant oak tree – the "Royal" Tree of England – that stood in the public square during colonial days where Chester and Main Streets now join. It was there that the local militia were drilled. During drills, a frequent command given by the drill sergeant was, "front the Royal Oak!" The command was repeated and eventually shortened to simply "Front Royal". This theory is supported by a bulletin published by the United States Geological Survey in 1905, which states that the town was first known as Royal Oak, with the current name being derived from the commands of a confused colonel.

A second account holds that when local militia were stationed around the town during the American Revolution, the sentry would call out "Front", to which the required entry password was to respond "Royal". Eventually their military post became known as "Camp Front Royal".

A third version holds that, in early decades of European settlement, the area was referred to in French as "le front royal", meaning the British frontier. French settlers, trappers, and explorers in the Ohio Territory of the mid-18th century were referring to the land grant made by King Charles II, then in control of Thomas, Lord Fairfax, Baron of Cameron. In English, "le front royal" is translated to the "Royal Frontier". The British themselves may have called the area "Front Royal" after 1763, when they set the so-called Proclamation Line along the spine of the Alleghenies to demarcate the settled portion of the colonies from the Indian Reserve in the interior.

National Register of Historic Places

Sonner Hall RMC 20150328
Sonner Hall at Randolph-Macon Academy is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Within Front Royal, the following buildings, properties and districts are listed on the National Register of Historic Places:

  • Balthis House
  • Erin
  • Fairview Farm
  • Flint Run Archeological District
  • Front Royal Historic District
  • Front Royal Recreational Park Historic District
  • Killahevlin
  • Mountain Home
  • Riverside
  • Riverton Historic District
  • Rose Hill
  • Sonner Hall
  • Warren County Courthouse

Geography

Front Royal is approximately 76 miles (122 km) west of Washington, D.C.

According to the 2010 United States Census, the town has a total area of 9.5 square miles (24.6 km2), of which 9.3 square miles (24.1 km2) is land and 0.2 square miles (0.5 km2) (2.52%) is water. In 2014 the town annexed additional land, increasing the town's total land area to 10.5 square miles (27.2 km2).

Front Royal is located at the confluence of the North and South Forks of the Shenandoah River.

Demographics

Historical population
Census Pop.
1850 504
1860 807 60.1%
1870 705 −12.6%
1880 829 17.6%
1890 868 4.7%
1900 1,005 15.8%
1910 1,133 12.7%
1920 1,404 23.9%
1930 2,424 72.6%
1940 3,831 58.0%
1950 8,115 111.8%
1960 7,949 −2.0%
1970 8,211 3.3%
1980 11,126 35.5%
1990 11,880 6.8%
2000 13,589 14.4%
2010 14,440 6.3%
Est. 2015 15,070 4.4%
U.S. Decennial Census
Downtown Front Royal
Homes in Front Royal

As of the census of 2000, there were 13,589 people, 5,425 households, and 3,585 families residing in the town. The population density was 1,464.9 people per square mile (565.4/km²). There were 5,752 housing units at an average density of 620.1 per square mile (239.3/km²). The racial makeup of the town was 88.31% White, 8.68% African American, 0.28% Native American, 0.63% Asian, 0.04% Pacific Islander, 0.66% from other races, and 1.40% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 2.13% of the population.

There were 5,425 households out of which 32.2% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 46.8% were married couples living together, 14.1% had a female householder with no husband present, and 33.9% were non-families. 28.9% of all households were made up of individuals and 12.5% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.46 and the average family size was 3.01.

In the town, the population was spread out with 25.7% under the age of 18, 8.2% from 18 to 24, 28.7% from 25 to 44, 22.8% from 45 to 64, and 14.6% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 37 years. For every 100 females there were 89.9 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 86.0 males.

The median income for a household in the town was $34,786, and the median income for a family was $42,675. Males had a median income of $32,373 versus $24,182 for females. The per capita income for the town was $17,901. About 9.1% of families and 14.8% of the population were below the poverty line, including 15.2% of those under age 18 and 13.2% of those age 65 or over.

Arts and culture

Points of interest

Front Royal gazebo
The gazebo at the Village Commons in Front Royal
Bing Crosby Stadium
Bing Crosby Stadium

Front Royal is the home of Randolph-Macon Academy (founded 1892) which features an Air Force JROTC program. Front Royal is also the home of Christendom College and the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI). Along with these institutions are the two rival high schools, Skyline High School and Warren County High School.

Commercially, Front Royal hosts the Virginia Inland Port, a U.S. Customs-designated port of entry, situated on U.S. Route 522.

Front Royal is home to the 440-acre (1.8 km2) Avtex Fibers Superfund Site. Once Virginia's largest Superfund site, remediation activities at this former rayon manufacturing facility have been ongoing since 1989. The site is intended to eventually house a 175-acre (0.71 km2) eco-friendly office park, 30 acres (120,000 m2) of soccer fields, and 240 acres (0.97 km2) of conservancy park along the Shenandoah River. The plant, which was built by the American Viscose Corporation in the 1930s and at one time employed nearly 3,500 workers, was closed in 1989 after after being cited for more than 2,000 environmental violations over five years, including emissions of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) into the Shenandoah River. The plant's main buildings were demolished in 1997 as part of the cleanup.

Front Royal is also home to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection's Canine Center Front Royal (CCFR), formerly known as the Canine Enforcement Training Center (CETC). This facility has trained dogs and their handlers in various detection abilities for federal and law enforcement agencies since 1974.

Important tourist attractions include Skyline Caverns, the northern entrance to Shenandoah National Park, and Skyline Drive, which were both created during the Great Depression. It also has a large number of American Civil War attractions, both in the town and the surrounding Shenandoah Valley.

The Front Royal Cardinals baseball team joined the Valley League in 1984. Games are played in Bing Crosby Stadium. Bing Crosby helped raise funds for the building of the original stadium by arranging for his film Riding High to have its world premiere in Front Royal on April 1, 1950. Crosby’s initial involvement came about on April 30, 1948 when after acting as grand marshal of the Grand Feature Parade of the 21st. Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival in Winchester, Virginia, he went on to Front Royal where he sang on the courthouse steps as part of a concert to help raise money for a new stadium. Bing was the first contributor to the Front Royal Recreation Center Building Fund when he donated $1,000. On April 1, 1950, Front Royal celebrated “Bing Crosby Day” and starting at 11 a.m., Crosby led a two-hour parade through the streets in front of a crowd of 20,000 to Recreation Park for the dedication of the baseball stadium. Park Theater was the venue for the official world premiere of Riding High at 8:30 p.m. where Crosby entertained the audience with several songs. During his appearance at the Park Theater, Bing wrote out a personal check for $3,595 to bring the gross receipts of the day to $15,000.

In 1953, Frank Nesbitt coached a Little League team from Front Royal which came in 3rd in the world tournament. Freddie Moore was one of the players on that team, and later became active in Front Royal Little League. After Moore died of cancer one of Front Royal's Little League fields was named in his honor.

The Confederate Museum on Chester Street has many interesting artifacts from the 1860s, as have the museum buildings of the Warren Heritage Society, the Ivy Lodge (c. 1859), the Belle Boyd Cottage (c. 1836) and the Balthis House (c. 1788).

Front Royal was designated the "Canoe Capital of Virginia" in February 1999.

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