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Washington County, VA: Awash in New Developments

Check out what's in the works in Abingdon and the surrounding area.

By Kevin Litwin on March 1, 2023

The Trail Town USA mural in Damascus, VA, is a popular spot for visitors.
Lynne Harty

New downtown developments in Washington County are underway, sparking exciting momentum for residents and businesses along the main street districts.

For starters, Washington County is revamping its historic courthouse – the only courthouse in Virginia to be constructed during the Reconstruction Era, specifically in 1868.

Meeting the guidelines of the Virginia Supreme Court, the project in downtown Abingdon includes renovation and expansion to many of the building’s corridors, with a total price tag that will exceed $30 million. The construction project is expected to continue until 2025.

Courthouse Renovation

Upgrades include adding 28,000 square feet of space, renovating an existing 23,000 square feet, removing lead and asbestos, and making the building compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Upgrades include adding 28,000 square feet of space, renovating an existing 23,000 square feet, removing lead and asbestos, and making the building compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

“Along with the courthouse restoration, we have plans for some other building renovations but aren’t quite ready to make announcements yet,” says Tonya Triplett, Town of Abingdon director of economic development and tourism. “We want to make sure downtown Abingdon remains a vibrant district.”

Adding to its vibrancy is a new restaurant called Summers Roof and Cellar, which has opened in the historic Summers Building. The Summers menu features a wide variety of options along with an extensive wine list and a rooftop bar.

“Summers was born out of a desire to create a space where families and friends can gather, experience a sense of comfort and restoration, and feast on fare that’s grounded in the health of great natural ingredients,” says Charlie Berg, Summers owner. “Our goal is to offer world-class fare in an approachable atmosphere, so that guests can feel as comfortable here as they would at home.”

Spend Time in Damascus

Another Washington County community with action happening downtown is Damascus, where a Scattered Site Housing Rehabilitation Project began in 2022. The project started after the town was awarded a $771,300 Community Development Block Grant from the state to rehabilitate six houses and demolish three uninhabitable structures, thereby making substantial improvements to the downtown business district.

Also making news in downtown Damascus is the recent opening of Brinkwaters, a boutique-style, short-stay lodge located in a refurbished former business site. The site was once a large industrial building that is now transformed into 13 overnight guest rooms for travelers hiking along the Appalachian Trail.

Rooms at Brinkwaters are designed to retain the building’s old industrial feel, with polished concrete floors, cinder block walls and exposed rafters. An interesting aspect of the lodge is that it provides a contactless experience, meaning that guests book online, get a code emailed to them, then use the code to enter the building and their room.

Damascus Trail Center
Lynne Harty

Trail Blazer in Damascus

Another recent project in downtown Damascus is the opening of the $650,000 Damascus Trail Center. Located on West Laurel Avenue across from Damascus Town Hall, the center provides information to the tens of thousands of Appalachian Trail hikers who pass through town each year.

“This is only the third center along the entire 2,200-mile Appalachian Trail, and it’s fitting that this newest one is located in Trail Town USA,” says Julie Kroll, Town of Damascus recreation program director.

Kroll says other additions to the town’s district include waterfront improvements along Laurel Creek, highlighted by the opening of a new Laurel Creek Park. The town has also embarked upon a Riverwalk redesign to link together the Appalachian Trail, Virginia Creeper Trail and the Laurel Creek waterfront.

The main goal of the Riverwalk redesign is to attract the more than 150,000 annual cyclists on the Virginia Creeper Trail to downtown Damascus to visit, and also attract daily motorists to visit the district as well. There are also plans to install more signage throughout the downtown area as well as eventually construct an amphitheater to host events.

“We have a lot of exciting things happening in Damascus,” Kroll says. “My goal is to increase awareness that Damascus is a premier outdoor recreation destination within the Southwest Virginia region.”

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