The following are pictures of Culpeper, Virginia, which I was lucky to see again, even if it was only briefly, on the way to the Blue Ridge Mountains this past Labor Day weekend. (There was a time I would name Fredericksburg as America’s best small town, of course, but I’m not sure that Fredericksburg meets the definition of a small town any longer — more on that in the future.)
I remember Culpeper fondly indeed. I found my first job after college here — working as a reporter for the Culpeper Star – Exponent newspaper. (Third photo.) I lived right on Main Street, which is pictured in the first two photos. It wasn’t New York, but it was a warm community of good neighbors that I was lucky to join.
Yes, I did say newsPAPER. There was time, kids, when news was actually printed in ink on a refined paper product that required hand delivery to your home. Either that, or you could purchase it from a mechanical metal box on the street corner.
Check out the fourth photo of Mount Pony at the edge of town– this is something my friend pointed out to me. (I know you can hardly see it — the picture is blurry because taken from a moving car.)
Until nearly the end of the Cold War, this was a 140,00-square-foot, federally operated “continuity of government” facility, housing people underground and designed to keep our government going in the event of a nuclear war. There were dormitories, food supplies and wells, protected from blasts and radiation by steel-reinforced concrete and lead shutters — it even had an indoor pistol-range and a helipad. There were also just billions of dollars housed there by the Federal Reserve, to jump-start a post-apocalyptic economy.
It was decommissioned in 1992, and was bought in 2007 by the David and Lucile Packard Foundation. It’s now a national film archive operated by the Library of Congress, with more than 6 million pieces of original film and television artifacts. (Apparently old film stock can be dangerous to store, because it’s extremely flammable?) It’s open to the public, and has its own theater that screens classic films for free — it even has an organ that ascends to the screen when the theater shows silent films. The Library of Congress has a running schedule right here:
That sounds pretty damn cool. I’ve been dying to see a bunch of silent films I’ve never seen (particularly “Nosferatu” and “The Phantom of the Opera.”) I might try to take a trip out there if they screen any such vintage movies around Halloween. Because seeing classic horror films in an underground facility designed for the end of the world has got to be a unique experience.