Our Story

Our History

It all started on August 13, 1878…

…when Andrew Campbell, William Campbell, and Benton Stebbins were walking in a field and felt a rush of cold air coming from a limestone sinkhole which was unusual on a hot summer day. And so, the discovery was on! Andrew, three other men, and his 13-year-old nephew, Quint, began exploring the area searching for a cave. They dug away loose rocks and sticks for four hours before Andrew and Quint slid down by a rope into the cave with candles in hand. When they got down there, they could hardly believe their eyes. The men had just discovered Luray Caverns, the largest series of caverns in Eastern America.

Luray Caverns History Timeline

4 Million Centuries in the Making

2023
2023
1st Discovery Tour
2020
2020

Shawnee Farms Estate hosted its first wedding.

2019
2019

New Entrance to Luray Caverns

2019
2019

Shawnee Farms Estate opened for lodging.

2015
2015

The Caverns began offering souvenir photos.

2013
2013

Heartpine Café joined the Shenandoah Heritage Village. The two-bay log “Switzer” barn was originally built by Israel Burner on his Shenandoah River farm.

2012
2012

The Rope Adventure Park was added. This two-level rope course challenge offers unending opportunities for self-discovery and growth.

2009
2009

Shenandoah Heritage Village is a presentation of 19th-century structures, from the 1750 to the 1920s. The Main Museum is named the Luray Valley Museum. Around this museum are other smaller buildings that have been transported to the site and restored to represent a small 19th century farming community.

1998
1998

The Garden Maze was created by John Schneider. It is separately owned and rented from Luray Caverns. The Maze is the largest garden maze in the mid-Atlantic.

1977
1977

The Luray Fudge Company was started by Jim Garrahy. Erik Atkins took ownership in 2000.

1976
1976

Designed by Mal Purdy of Livingston, New Jersey, Caverns Country Club Resort opened in May 1976 by the Luray Caverns Corporation. It covers 6,499 yards with an 18-hole, par 72 course. The first hole has a nearby small sink hole and there was no penalty if a golf ball went in there.

1974
1974

Luray Caverns was designated a Registered Natural National Landmark.

1967
1967

Tower Motels, now known as Luray Caverns East Motels, were built. They were previously owned by Cletus Presgraves, moved from the foot of New Market Mountain, and were restored in the late 1960s.

1957
1957

The Car and Carriage Caravan Museum was opened, housing, 140 items related to transportation, including fully restored cars, carriages, and coaches dating from as early as 1727. Prizes in the collection of restored authentic vehicles include an 1898 Benz and the oldest car in operating condition in the country.

The Wishing Well was started after management noticed visitors throwing coins into various pools of water throughout the caverns and decided to dedicate one place along the tour for them to do so

The West Motel was built in 1954 and was originally owned and operated by Mr. Augustus M. Modisett.

1954
1954

The Great Stalacpipe Organ was invented by Leland W. Sprinkle of Springfield, Virginia. Mr. Sprinkle was inspired as he was taking a tour and watched as a tour guide tapped on a formation with a mallet. The organ was dedicated in 1957.

1950’s
1950’s

The cave in the 1950’s

1950
1950

Paved walkways were constructed. They replaced wooden planks that were used as pathways.

1937
1937

The Luray Carillon Singing Tower was built in memory of T.C. Northcott’s wife, Belle Northcott. It is 117 feet tall and contains a carillon of 47 bells. The largest bell weighs 7,640 pounds and is six feet in diameter. The smallest bell weighs 12 ½ pounds. It is recognized as one of the country’s major carillons where regularly scheduled recitals are held, free-of-charge through the spring, summer, and fall.

1905
1905

The Luray Caverns Corporation, created by T.C. Northcott, purchased the cavern’s property.

1901
1901

T.C. Northcott purchased Luray Caverns and built a sanatorium house (a specialized house made to treat specific ailments) named “Limair” for his wife, Belle, who had a respiratory illness. “Limair” became the first air-conditioned building in America by connecting a shaft to the Caverns that allowed the naturally purified underground air to fill every room.

1893
Pluto's Chasm circa 1893

J. Kemp Barlett of Baltimore and T.C. Northcott of Emira, New York, leased the cave from The Luray Caverns Company until 1901.

1890
1890

David Kagery of Luray, and George Marshall of Uniontown, Pennsylvania, purchased the property. In October, The Valley Land and Improvement Company bought the Caverns.

1881
1881

Sam Buracker owned the land but it was up for sale at the time of the discovery to pay for his delinquent taxes. The Campbells bought the land without telling Mr. Buracker of their findings until after they had purchased it.

The Virginia Supreme Court ruled against the Campbells and the land was given back to Mr. Buracker’s creditor, Mr. William T. Biedler, who was also his son-in-law. Once Mr. Buracker’s family got the land back, Mr. Biedler sold the property to the Luray Cave and Hotel Company.

Thirteen arc lights were installed in the cave and powered by an engine-driven generator near the train station, seven miles away. In the United States, this was the first instance on record that the cave was lighted by electricity.

1878
1878

Luray Caverns was discovered on August 13 by Andrew Campbell, William Campbell, and Benton Stebbins. As they walked through a field, they began to move rocks and sticks anywhere they felt cool air coming up from the ground.

1878
1878

Benton Stebbins at discovery point

Hours & Location
Hours & Location

Luray Caverns is open every day of the year.

Open today from 9am — 7pm

101 Cave Hill Road
Luray, VA 22835

540-743-6551