The Town of Dayton, Virginia

 “Discover Historic Dayton:  Small Town, Hometown, Downtown”

Dayton is a small town located in the center of the Shenandoah Valley, two miles south of Harrisonburg along Route 42, and is one of the oldest settled communities in Rockingham County, and the County’s second oldest incorporated town.  Home to about 1,500 people, Dayton is surrounded by prime agricultural farmland, mostly owned by members of the Old Order Mennonite community.  With working farms and open spaces, traveling through Dayton and the surrounding area is a step back to an earlier time where horse-drawn buggies remain a common form of travel on rural roads throughout the community.  Although Dayton has grown in sections to the west and north, the older part of town is largely unchanged.

Dayton is also rich in history and tradition.  Through the quiet streets, some very picturesque and richly decorated buildings can be found.  A walking tour of Dayton begins at The Heritage Museum, located at 382 High Street, which is also the official Historic Dayton Welcome Center.  The Heritage Museum offers galleries, changing exhibits, electric map of Stonewall Jackson’s Valley Campaign of 1862, and an extensive genealogy library.  Some of the interesting buildings in Dayton were once part of the Shenandoah College campus.  Founded in 1875 by A. P. Funkhouser and J. N. Fries, the school was first known as Shenandoah Seminary.  In 1960, the college moved to Winchester and later changed its name to Shenandoah University.

Shopping in Dayton is a unique experience as you browse through the Dayton Market, a place where you can feel welcome with more than 20 specialty shops featuring a wide variety of merchandise, including items made with local, skilled hands.  There are other unique shops around town where you will find glass art, gifts, crafts, primitives, modern furniture, antiques and collectibles, as well as a place to find all of your sewing and quilting needs.  Also, nearby is the Silver Lake Mill, a landmark structure that now houses a store offering mill themed products, gifts and commemorative collectibles.

Dayton is also home to a national historic registered landmark, The Daniel Harrison House, also known as Fort Harrison, which is the oldest house in Dayton and one of the oldest in Rockingham County.  The two-story stone house was built around 1749 by Daniel Harrison, the first settler of Dayton, and is open to visitors every weekend from May through October, and for groups by appointment.

The Town of Dayton also offers lots of fun-filled events from spring until the winter holidays.  Dayton’s oldest and most popular event is the “Dayton Days” Autumn Celebration,  an arts and crafts festival held annually on the first Saturday in October.  The festival attracts an estimated 20,000 attendees annually to indulge in the culture, arts and handmade crafts of over 300 vendors from numerous states, and a wide variety of delicious foods.  Other events include the Dayton Redbud Arts & Crafts Festival held in the spring, movie nights and live music during the summer, and the annual Dayton Christmas Parade.

If you’re up for tough competition by testing your physical abilities, while helping to support our wounded veterans at the same time, be sure to sign up to compete at the annual Dayton Muddler, a 3.2 mile adventure course through historic Dayton on the first Saturday in August.

Come visit the Town of Dayton to “take a step back in time,” enjoy a unique shopping experience, and indulge in lots of fun and adventure!