An Historical Scavenger Hunt
Want to get to know your town as an explorer? This activity is called Letterboxing, and it’s a type of treasure hunt started accidentally in southern England in 1854. According to legend, a Victorian gentleman put his “business card" in a bottle and hid it in a remote area of Dartmoor, England, to be found by curious visitors. The idea caught on, and there are now reported to be over 10,000 letterboxes in Dartmoor.
The idea came to the United States in 1998 when the Smithsonian Magazine published an article on the Dartmoor letterboxes. Letterboxes began to be placed in interesting places all over the U.S. They are hidden on public land in places that will not upset the natural features of the area. They are hidden well enough so that common passers-by will not pick up the box and walk off with it.
Three letterboxes have been hidden in Scottsville for common letterboxing folk. For the Scottsville Museum for Kids, an additional two boxes were added to the adventure, and the course was slightly rerouted. So what you now have created just for you is an almost one mile-long letterboxing hunt with FIVE different points!
WHAT YOU WILL NEED: a rubber stamp, an ink pad of any color, a writing utensil, a map of Scottsville found in the “Scottsville on the James” pamphlets that are all over town (check any local store on Valley Street; it’s the map used as a background for this website), a print-out of the clues below, and a chaperon!
WHAT YOU DO: With all of the things listed above, go to the starting point designated on your Clues List. When you find a box, try not to let non-letterboxers know what you are doing. Carefully remove the box from its location, open it up, stamp your stamp into the box’s Guest Book (small note pad), and then use the box’s stamp to stamp your personal Log Book. You may leave a message in the Guest Book next to your stamp as well. When you are finished, carefully put everything back in the box, gather up your own materials, and rehide the box exactly the way you found it so that other explorers may come after you and record their discoveries.
ARE YOU READY? Any additional questions concerning the art of letterboxing can be answered by going to the official letterboxing website: www.letterboxing.org. This site will give you more clues for letterboxes hiding all over the United States, as well as teach you how to make your very own rubber stamp!
With your chaperon, park in town on Valley Street and start walking NORTH up this busy Scottsville road. To figure out which direction you should turn to go north, take a look at the compass rose at the top right hand corner of your map. The compass rose is the thing at the top right of your map that tells you which way the cardinal directions North, South, East, and West are in relation to the items on the map. For example, the compass rose tells you that the Confederate Cemetery is NORTH of Victory Hall.
Turn right on Moores Rd., which runs parallel to Hardware St. and is safer to walk up. Follow Moores up to Confederate St. Then walk up the Confederate St. path until you get to the end of the stone wall on your right and are about to reach the gate for the small cemetery in front of you. Hidden under the last few stones at the end of that stone wall is your first letterbox! Be sure to stamp your pad with its stamp and stamp its pad with your stamp.
Good work! One site explored, four more to go. Now, exit the cemetery and go back out onto Valley St. and head SOUTH down this busy Scottsville street. To figure out which direction you should turn to go South, take a look at the compass rose at the top right hand corner of your map. (The compass rose is the thing at the top right of your map which tells you which way the cardinal directions North, South, East, and West are in relation to the items on the map. For example, the compass rose tells you that the Confederate Cemetery is NORTH of the Scottsville Museum.) You want to turn left onto Moores Rd. again and go back South towards the town.
Disguise the intentions of your hunt by acting casually and doing a little window shopping along the way. Don't dawdle too long; you're on an historical mission! Your first point of business brings you to Victory Hall.
Victory Hall is Scottsville’s current municipal (municipal is a fancy world that basically means government) building. It was originally designed by a local architect to commemorate the end of World War I. Victory Hall is also known as Victory Theatre because it originally held live performances and “Talking Pictures.” (FUN FACT: Before the movies you know of today, there were silent films. When technologies advanced so that films could also have sound, they were originally called "Talking Pictures!”)
Once you reach Victory Hall going SOUTH on Valley Street, take a left in the open area just after the building. Follow along the side of the building until you get to an area by the steps with a stone plaque. Take a look at the plaque and then look behind it. The Victory Hall Letterbox is behind and to the right of this plaque. Be sure to stamp your pad with its stamp and stamp its pad with your stamp. Then rehide it carefully.
Wonderful, mission well done! If you are getting tired or thirsty, feel free to stop for a break. Continue SOUTH on Valley Street until you reach the intersection of Valley and West Main Streets. Go West (take a right hand turn) down West Main Street until you find yourself at the steps of the Bruce Park area.
This park was named after the Bruce family. Thomas Ellison Bruce was a very important business man in Scottsville and the owner of the Bruce's Drug Store. His wife, Mary Estes Bruce, was a well-known elementary school teacher. Pay special attention to the inscription pressed into the top step dedicating the park in their honor.
Go further down the sidewalk, turn right on Harrison Street, and walk to the red fire hydrant. Turn towards the park's stone wall with your back to the hydrant and Harrison Street. Walk straight to the wall and look over it. The James River Fish Letterbox is hidden under some rocks just over the wall and a little bit to your left. Be sure to stamp your pad with its stamp and stamp its pad with your stamp. Then rehide it carefully.
Point Four :
Now look across the street at the historical marker on the brick platform in front of the animal hospital. Can you believe the flood waters really got up that high? As beneficial as the James River has been to the Scottsville community, it has also been the bearer of much destruction due to flooding. Since 1870, Scottsville has experienced 21 floods of twenty feet or more. During Hurricane Camille in 1969, some residents of Main Street had to be evacuated from their second story window by boat!
From this historical landmark, head EAST down West Main (back the way you came) on the right side of the street and cross over Valley Street to where West Main becomes Main Street. This was at one time truly the main street of Scottsville. Today, most would say that Valley Street is the most important, or main, street. Notice the landmark in front of the police station explaining how Scottsville used to be the county seat of Albemarle.
Continue EAST until you reach Canal Basin Square. Look on the back of the welcome sign, and you'll see markings from the other floods of Scottsville. Take your time enjoying this historic section of the town, which covers the historical floods and transportation of Scottsville. The Batteaux Letterbox is just under the Edward Scott (the big boat you should see directly in front of you). The box is hidden just behind some rocks under the boat's front near its name, 'Edward Scott,' and next to a wooden support. Be sure to stamp your pad with its stamp and its pad with your stamp. Please rehide the box carefully.
Bravo! You only have one left! And this one is not far. Simply look across the street and notice the two brick buildings. The one to your left is the Scottsville Museum. The one to your right is the Barclay House where the museum workers house their archives and other materials. Head directly up those steps and, where the path splits, go up the right-hand set of steps. The Handcar Letterbox is to the right of the town bell (from 1916-1976). As you stand facing the bell with the street behind you, the box is among the rocks on the other side of the short flight of five steps to your right. Be sure to stamp your pad with its stamp, and its pad with your stamp. Rehide it carefully.
YOU’VE FINISHED! CONGRATULATIONS ON REACHING ALL FIVE POINTS! Now it is time, to take a break. Head on over to the museum if it is open and take in some more of the sights and sounds of Scottsville through the museum’s displays. There is so much more exploring to be done! You've done a great job with today's mission!
If while on your hunt you noticed any missing boxes or missing items from the boxes, please let the site administrator know via email at: [email protected].