Building on a Legacy
Once deemed one of Virginia’s Most Endangered Historic Sites, the former Konnarock Training School (KTS) has been given a new life as the future home of Blue Ridge Discovery Center.
The Konnarock Training School - 1924
The property’s story began in 1924 through the efforts of mountain missionary Kenneth Killinger and lay leader Laura Scherer Copenhaver who saw a need to address poverty in the Appalachian Mountains. They made an impassioned plea to the Women’s Missionary Society of the United Lutheran Church, eventually convincing them to appropriate funds to construct the school.
The Konnarock Training School served the community as a place of learning. Although they primarily served young girls who boarded there, they also hosted some boy day students. Many of the teachers that came to the KTS made it part of their mission to connect with and understand the local culture, stating that the goal of KTS was “to educate our girls not away from the mountains, but back to the mountains.”
Sold to United States forest service - 1967
In 1959 after 34 years of service, the Women’s Mission Society decided to close the Konnarock Training School, partly because it had achieved its original purpose and partly because the community now had roads that allowed travel to nearby public schools. The Lutheran Church used it as a summer youth retreat until 1967 when 680 acres of land and the building was sold to the United States Forest Service as part of the formation of the Mount Rogers National Recreation Area. It was here that the famed Konnarock Trail Crew was established. Although no longer hosted in Konnarock, the crew still actively maintains the region’s trail network.
Origin of the NATURALIST RALLY - 1974
In 1974 the Mount Rogers Naturalist Rally (MRNR) was formed, with rallies held annually on the KTS grounds. Due to the deteriorated condition of the property, the MRNR relocated to the Konnarock Community Center in 1983 where the tradition continues today, hosted by Blue Ridge Discovery Center.
Konnarock Retreat House - 2006
In 1997 the KTS was added to the National Register of Historic Places. In 2006, through the efforts of Dr. Jean Hamm, Peggie Baldwin, and other private citizens, a non-profit organization, the Konnarock Retreat House, was formed to restore the property. Fundraising and restoration efforts continued until 2016.
Blue Ridge Discovery Center - 2017
After years of parallel paths, Blue Ridge Discovery Center and the Konnarock Retreat House came together, seeing an opportunity to both provide a “Center” for BRDC’s mission and to provide a mechanism to fully realize the vision of restoring the historic structure. In 2017 the KRH board moved to gift the property to BRDC, continuing its long history of education and community service to the region.