A drive through historic Fincastle is a treat for those who love quaint buildings, small town charm, and history. Indeed, the Fincastle Historic District and eight nearby structures are on the National Register of Historic Places. Time spent in this place is time well spent.
A Bit of History
Fincastle was created by westward moving settlers, including John Miller, owner of Miller’s Mill, and Israel Christian, a merchant and landowner who donated acreage to establish a proper town layout of half-acre lots and space for a jail, courthouse, and church. Formal establishment of Fincastle dates to 1772; by 1784 there were 59 dwellings recorded plus taverns and ordinaries. As the seat of Botetourt County, it was a booming destination...for a while.
New avenues emerged for those headed west and Fincastle’s growth began to stall. Without improved routes, the future for the village was uncertain. With that revelation, a group of concerned citizens petitioned the 1845 General Assembly to make improvements. Their efforts and those of others paid off; the James River and Kanawha Canal was extended to Buchanan, making Fincastle more accessible by water. A future as a railroad town was not in the cards, but when historians look back, that may have been a blessing.
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Lewis & Clark
Meriwether Lewis and William Clark are known for their great expedition into the wild west, but Fincastle boasts a piece of the voyage as well.
On January 8, 1807 William Clark returned to Fincastle and was warmly greeted. In 1808, he married Julia Hancock (he called her Judith) at Santillane, a plantation also known as the Col. George Hancock Mansion. Santillane (ca. 1795) is one of only three residences that are associated with either Clark or Lewis, according to the National Park Service.
Fincastle was officially recognized as a Meriwether Lewis and William Clark Community on November 3, 2012. Visitors can find the NOAA Lewis & Clark disc on the lawn of the Botetourt County Courthouse.
Santillane and the Botetourt Museum received Lewis and Clark Portrait Signs in February 2019, which signal their position on Virginia’s Great Valley Lewis & Clark Eastern Legacy Trail. A developing network of Lewis & Clark sites in Virginia, this trail is one to keep an eye on for future travel adventures.
Like many destinations, it’s best to experience Fincastle in person. Fortunately, there are guided tours of the Historic District. Available by appointment at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m., reservations are required.
On the guided tour you can expect to learn about the founders of Fincastle; German and Scots-Irish immigrants traveling through the Great Valley from Pennsylvania. Sites include the Thomas Jefferson-designed courthouse (the fourth to stand since the original), the 1771 Fincastle Presbyterian Church, the 1772 Israel Christian House, the 1791 Crowder House, the 1792 Thompson-Carper-Slicer Home, the 1795 Old Saddler Shop, the 1809 Western Hotel, the 1840 Blacksmith Shop, and many more historic locations.
See & Do:
- 25 East Main B&B, an 1870 Victorian
- Fincastle Gallery: Jake Cress, Master Craftsman
- Ride the Springwood Loop
- Virginia Mountain Vineyards
Those who care to conduct on-site research while in Fincastle and Botetourt County will want to contact the Botetourt County Historical Society for assistance. A visit to the Historical Society Museum is a must for anyone interested in documents, photographs, journals, and artifacts from the time of westward migration through today.
Visit our Botetourt County section for more ideas on things to do and places to see in this special part of Virginia's Blue Ridge.