Memories of the past mingle with sights of new growth in Bluewell

by Samantha Perry is editor of the Daily Telegraph.  Follow her @BDTPerry.

I smile when I hear Bill Archer referring to me as “our Lorton Lick reporter.” He is on the skyway1phone running down a story about new business development in the greater Bluewell area. His source, a friend to both of us, gets the joke.

They know I reside in Duhring, and that my daily commute includes the quick drive up Lorton Lick Road, where I then hit Route 52 and travel on in to Bluefield. Having lived in the small community my entire life, it is a journey I have taken thousands of times.

On this day I tell Bill about current construction at a former gas station. He soon learns skyway2that an all-terrain vehicle welcome station is in the works, and is slated to open in just a few short weeks.

It is good news for the neighborhood once known for its waterfall and greenhouse. It is not the only Bluewell story to grace our newspaper of late. A week or so ago, during a rare few days off work, I call the newsroom and alert Charles Owens to a traffic light problem at the same intersection where the construction is ongoing.

I tell Charles the light has been out at the intersection of Lorton Lick and Route 52 for almost a week, and an accident has now occurred there. He quizzes me for more details.

“You’re talking about the red light at the bank?” he asks.

“No,” I respond. “The second red light. The one at the Lorton Lick intersection.”

His response confounds me: “There’s only one traffic light in Bluewell.”

“No, there are two,” I reply. When he starts to dispute it, I interrupt, and note, “Charles, I have no motive for lying.”

He later tells me photographer Eric DiNovo shared his response when given the photo assignment, asking, “What second stoplight in Bluewell?”

I shake my head, but forgive my staffer’s lack of intimate knowledge of the Route 52 community. The area is my figurative backyard; they visit it only occasionally.

Hanging up the phone, I continue thinking about the stoplight. At one point in our conversation, Charles asks me how long the light has been there. He thought it was a recent addition. Amazingly, I remember the traffic light being installed at some time in the late 1970s or early ’80s. I recall, as a child, my parents attempting to pull out onto Route 52 from Lorton Lick. With no red or green lights directing traffic, it could be a harrowing experience.

In those days, the scenery in Bluewell was much different as well. Once on Route 52 and headed toward Bluefield, one would pass through the stoplight at the bank (the intersection of routes 52 and 20, and obviously the most well known), and travel past Lynn’s Drive-In — a fixture back then that remains today.

Past Lynn’s on the right was one of Bluewell’s landmark businesses — Woodlawn Greenhouse. The rows of windowed greenhouses spanned impressive acreage. It was a place where folks from across the region would visit each spring to select bedding plants, decorative flowers and young, tender vegetable seedlings that would, within months, blossom into a harvest enjoyed for dinner and canned for winter use. Who can forget the childhood memories of carrying flats of plants through the sweltering greenhouse on warm spring days?

Traveling on down Route 52 was another impressive Bluewell fixture — the waterfall in front of Woodlawn Cemetery. The waterfall was most impressive at night, when it was lit from behind with an array of lights. Driving through Bluewell after dark, there were always “oohs” and “aahs” from children when the stunning water display came into view.

Leaving Bluewell, there were a few other favorite childhood sights, including the old Skyway Drive-In in Brushfork (the best place ever to view a movie, which also included a playground for kids), and, once entering into the city limits, the old Bluefield Drive-In restaurant with its famous chicken-on-a-bicycle neon sign.

Random fact for the day: Years ago, when interviewing an expert on local place names for a Lifestyles story, the subject of Bluewell came up. The expert told me that it is surmised that Bluewell was named for its proximity halfway between Bluefield and Bramwell. The “blue” coming from the city, and the “well” from the town. Much has changed in Bluewell during the past few decades. The old greenhouse and waterfall are long gone, but new businesses have sprung up, many catering to the ATV tourism traffic.

Buffalo Trail Resort, the owner of which is building the new ATV welcome center ,is notably the gem in the new development. The resort has lush wood-and-stone cabins and a restaurant with incredible fare.

But for Bluewell, Montcalm and Duhring old-timers, the resort also features an iconic fixture: a waterfall visible from its outdoor dining area.

Yes, much has changed in Bluewell through the years, but a nod to the timeworn and familiar past remains ever present.