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Portal Stone Project

This two-piece portal stone, or plaque, once filled the now-empty space you see at the highest point of the western portal entry arch. It features the names of public figures important to the tunnel’s planning and completion in the 1850's. The western portal stone was most likely erected in 1856. Historic photos tell us that the plaque likely broke into several pieces almost immediately after installation. Join us in restoring and returning this piece of history back to the Crozet Tunnel.

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The Stone Journey

The portal stones have quite a story to tell. Retired civil engineer and Waynesboro resident, Francis Bruner noticed the cracked portal plaque in the early 1970’s and felt it should be preserved. Bruner was also a World War I veteran and Virginia Military

Institute (VMI) class of 1921 graduate.  In a series of letters beginning on April 6, 1970, Bruner encouraged the Chesapeake & Ohio (C&O) railroad to donate the broken western portal stones to VMI. Bruner connected Rada Armentrout, the curator of the VMI museum, with C&O railroad public affairs manager Albert J. Sicnolf to plan moving the portal stone pieces to the museum for display. It was agreed that the portal stone gift would be a part of VMI’s Founder’s Day program. Founders Day, celebrated each year since the Institute’s beginning, marks the anniversary of a snowy Monday – November 11, 1839 – when the first cadets arrived to relieve the guard at what had been a state arsenal. Virginia Military Institute is the nation’s first state-supported military college and is still in operation today in Lexington, Virginia. In October of 1970, just before the dedication ceremony, Sicnolf, fell ill and could not meet with VMI officials to discuss the ceremony or how to ultimately display the large tablets. Plans to conduct a spring ceremony never materialized and the broken portal tablets have remained in storage at VMI ever since.

Restoring  

a piece of history 

The VMI Museum has agreed to return the portal stones back the Blue Ridge Tunnel Foundation and Nelson County, the owner of the tunnel. With your help, we can restore and return this tangible piece of tunnel history back to the western portal entrance for all to enjoy. 

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Come aboard 

on this journey 

The foundation intends to restore/reinterpret the original stone plaque that once graced the western portal arch. The dynamic interpretive exhibit will be located nearly a mile from the west portal parking area, encouraging visitors to get outside and walk to see this unique piece of Virginia’s  history. The exhibit will also include interpretive signage about the laborers—enslaved African Americans and Irish immigrants—who built the tunnel as well as information about the hand tools that they used to create this engineering marvel. The display area for the stones and the interpretive signage will require custom fabrication in order to properly tell this important story.

Artist Rendering of Portal Stone Display

Please consider contributing to this important project. 

Bricks & Blocks

Portal Stone Fundraiser

While all monetary donations are welcome, donors of $1000 and above will receive a custom engraved brick that will be incorporated into the interpretive display of the portal stones. Financial supporters who contribute above $2500 will receive a brick and 2 VIP passes to a private unveiling ceremony followed by a reception at a local vineyard. Click the donate button to join us on this journey or reach out to us

with any questions at info@blueridgetunnel.org.

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