Front Royal, Virginia
Town of Front Royal
Aerial view of Front Royal
Canoe Capital of Virginia, Fro Ro
Front Royal
Front Royal
Front Royal
Front Royal
Front Royal
Front Royal
Coordinates: 38°56′N 78°12′W / 38.933°N 78.200°W / 38.933; -78.200Coordinates: 38°56′N 78°12′W / 38.933°N 78.200°W / 38.933; -78.200
CountryUnited States
 • MayorChris W. Holloway
 • Total10.52 sq mi (27.24 km2)
 • Land10.27 sq mi (26.61 km2)
 • Water0.24 sq mi (0.63 km2)
568 ft (173 m)
 • Total14,440
 • Estimate 
 • Density1,487.05/sq mi (574.17/km2)
Time zoneUTC-5 (Eastern (EST))
 • Summer (DST)UTC-4 (EDT)
ZIP code
Area code(s)540
FIPS code51-29968[3]
GNIS feature ID1498480[4]

Front Royal is the only incorporated town in Warren County, Virginia, United States. The population was 14,440 at the 2010 census.[5] It is the county seat of Warren County.[6]


Several theories regarding the origins of the name "Front Royal" have been suggested.

A common theory is that the town was named for a giant oak tree – the "Royal" Tree of England – that stood in the public square during colonial days where Chester and Main Streets now join. It was there that the local militia were drilled. During drills, a frequent command given by the drill sergeant was, "front the Royal Oak!" The command was repeated and eventually shortened to simply "Front Royal".[7][8] This theory is supported by a bulletin published by the United States Geological Survey in 1905, which states that the town was first known as Royal Oak, with the current name being derived from the commands of a confused colonel.[9]

A second account holds that when local militia were stationed around the town during the American Revolution, the sentry would call out "Front", to which the required entry password was to respond "Royal". Eventually their military post became known as "Camp Front Royal".[7][10]

A third version holds that, in early decades of European settlement, the area was referred to in French as "le front royal", meaning the British frontier. French settlers, trappers, and explorers in the Ohio Country of the mid-18th century were referring to the land grant made by King Charles II, then in control of Thomas, Lord Fairfax, Baron of Cameron. In English, "le front royal" is translated to the "Royal Frontier". The British themselves may have called the area "Front Royal" after 1763, when they set the so-called Proclamation Line along the spine of the Alleghenies to demarcate the settled portion of the colonies from the Indian Reserve in the interior.[citation needed]


The Battle of Front Royal was fought during the US Civil War
The Battle of Front Royal was fought during the US Civil War

The entire Shenandoah Valley including the area to become Front Royal was annexed and claimed for hunting by the Iroquois Confederation during the later Beaver Wars, by 1672. Some bands of the Shawnee settled in the area as client groups to the Iroquois and alternately to the Cherokee after 1721. The Iroquois formally sold their entire claim east of the Alleghenies to the Virginia Colony at the Treaty of Lancaster in 1744.[11] Front Royal, originally settled in 1754 under the name LeHewtown, had been known to European explorers as early as the 1670s, and the nearby settlement of Chester's Ferry was in existence by 1736. The town also had a well-known nickname by the 1790s, "Helltown," due to the many livestock wranglers and boatmen on the Shenandoah coming through the area, who came into town looking for alcohol. It was incorporated as "Front Royal" in 1788.

Rail service was established in 1854 with the construction of the Alexandria, Orange and Manassas Gap Railroad between Manassas and Riverton. This line was soon extended to Strasburg in time to become a factor in the Battle of Front Royal on May 23, 1862 and throughout the Civil War. Lumber, agriculture, manufacturing and grain mills provided employment in the region for decades after the Civil War.

Mid-20th century postcard showing an aerial view of the American Viscose Corporation Plant in Front Royal, Virginia.
Mid-20th century postcard showing an aerial view of the American Viscose Corporation Plant in Front Royal, Virginia.

The American Viscose rayon plant, once Front Royal's principal employer, with 3,000 workers at its peak, operated between the 1930 and 1989. The plant manufactured rayon for tires during World War II and later produced rayon for rocket nozzles for the Defense Department and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.[12]

National Register of Historic Places

Sonner Hall at Randolph-Macon Academy is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Within Front Royal, the following buildings, properties and districts are listed on the National Register of Historic Places:[13]

2019 Warren County Economic Development Authority financial scandal

In 2019, the Warren County Economic Development Authority was embroiled in a massive financial scandal that some observers have characterized as the largest embezzlement scheme in the history of the state of Virginia.[14] The fraud scheme, which involved the alleged embezzlement of $21 million in county funds through fictitious development schemes and insider deals, was uncovered by the Virginia State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation's Culpeper Field Office, which launched a probe in 2018 into the business practices of the EDA in conjunction with the Front Royal Police Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.[14] 14 current and former municipal officials were indicted and are facing criminal charges, including the entire Warren County board of supervisors as well as the former Warren County Attorney and the head of the Warren County schools division.[14][15]


Front Royal is approximately 76 miles (122 km) west of Washington, D.C., 13 miles (21 km) southeast of Middletown, 12.5 (20 km) miles east of Strasburg and 26.3 miles (42 km) northeast of Woodstock.

According to the 2010 United States Census, the town has a total area of 9.5 square miles (24.6 km2), of which 9.3 square miles (24.1 km2) is land and 0.2 square miles (0.5 km2) (2.52%) is water. In 2014, the town annexed additional land, increasing the town's total land area to 10.5 square miles (27.2 km2).[16]

Front Royal is located at the confluence of the North and South Forks of the Shenandoah River.[17]


Front Royal experiences a Humid subtropical climate, with summer highs in the low to mid 80s and winter lows in the upper 20s. Front Royal averages 41 inches of precipitation per year, with 24 inches of snowfall per year.[18]


Front Royal is governed by a mayor and six-member town council with four-year terms. The current government of Front Royal, as of January 2020,[19][20] is listed below.


Chris W. Holloway

Town council

Appointed positions


Historical population
Census Pop.
2019 (est.)15,278[2]5.8%
U.S. Decennial Census[25]
Homes in Front Royal
Homes in Front Royal

As of the census[3] of 2000, there were 13,589 people, 5,425 households, and 3,585 families residing in the town. The population density was 1,464.9 people per square mile (565.4/km2). There were 5,752 housing units at an average density of 620.1 per square mile (239.3/km2). The racial makeup of the town was 88.31% White, 8.68% African American, 0.28% Native American, 0.63% Asian, 0.04% Pacific Islander, 0.66% from other races, and 1.40% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 2.13% of the population.

There were 5,425 households, out of which 32.2% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 46.8% were married couples living together, 14.1% had a female householder with no husband present, and 33.9% were non-families. 28.9% of all households were made up of individuals, and 12.5% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.46 and the average family size was 3.01.

In the town, the population was spread out, with 25.7% under the age of 18, 8.2% from 18 to 24, 28.7% from 25 to 44, 22.8% from 45 to 64, and 14.6% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 37 years. For every 100 females, there were 89.9 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 86.0 males.

The median income for a household in the town was $34,786, and the median income for a family was $42,675. Males had a median income of $32,373 versus $24,182 for females. The per capita income for the town was $17,901. About 9.1% of families and 14.8% of the population were below the poverty line, including 15.2% of those under age 18 and 13.2% of those age 65 or over.


The gazebo at the Village Commons in Front Royal
The gazebo at the Village Commons in Front Royal
Bing Crosby Stadium
Bing Crosby Stadium

Front Royal is the home of Randolph-Macon Academy (founded 1892) which features an Air Force JROTC program. Front Royal is also the home of Christendom College and the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI). Along with these institutions are the two rival high schools, Skyline High School and Warren County High School.

Commercially, Front Royal hosts the Virginia Inland Port, a U.S. Customs-designated port of entry, situated on U.S. Route 522.[26]

Front Royal is home to the 440-acre (1.8 km2) Avtex Fibers Superfund Site. Once Virginia's largest Superfund site, remediation activities at this former rayon manufacturing facility have been ongoing since 1989. The site is intended to eventually house a 175-acre (0.71 km2) eco-friendly office park, 30 acres (120,000 m2) of soccer fields, and 240 acres (0.97 km2) of conservancy park along the Shenandoah River.[27] The plant, which was built by the American Viscose Corporation in the 1930s and at one time employed nearly 3,500 workers, was closed in 1989 after being cited for more than 2,000 environmental violations over five years, including emissions of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) into the Shenandoah River.[28][29] The plant's main buildings were demolished in 1997 as part of the cleanup.[30]

Front Royal is also home to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection's Canine Center Front Royal (CCFR), formerly known as the Canine Enforcement Training Center (CETC).[31] This facility has trained dogs and their handlers in various detection abilities for federal and law enforcement agencies since 1974.[32]

Important tourist attractions include Skyline Caverns, the northern entrance to Shenandoah National Park, and Skyline Drive, which were both created during the Great Depression. It also has a large number of American Civil War attractions, both in the town and the surrounding Shenandoah Valley.

The Front Royal Cardinals baseball team joined the Valley League in 1984. Games are played in Bing Crosby Stadium. Bing Crosby helped raise funds for the building of the original stadium by arranging for his film "Riding High" to have its world premiere in Front Royal on April 1, 1950. Crosby's initial involvement came about on April 30, 1948 when after acting as grand marshal of the Grand Feature Parade of the 21st. Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival in Winchester, Virginia, he went on to Front Royal where he sang on the courthouse steps as part of a concert to help raise money for a new stadium. Bing was the first contributor to the Front Royal Recreation Center Building Fund when he donated $1,000. On April 1, 1950, Front Royal celebrated "Bing Crosby Day" and starting at 11 a.m., Crosby led a two-hour parade through the streets in front of a crowd of 20,000 to Recreation Park for the dedication of the baseball stadium. Park Theater was the venue for the official world premiere of Riding High at 8:30 p.m. where Crosby entertained the audience with several songs. During his appearance at the Park Theater, Bing wrote out a personal check for $3,595 to bring the gross receipts of the day to $15,000.[33]

In 1953, Frank Nesbitt coached a Little League team from Front Royal which came in 3rd in the world tournament. Freddie Moore was one of the players on that team, and later became active in Front Royal Little League. After Moore died of cancer one of Front Royal's Little League fields was named in his honor.

The Confederate Museum on Chester Street has many interesting artifacts from the 1860s, as have the museum buildings of the Warren Heritage Society, the Ivy Lodge (c. 1859), the Belle Boyd Cottage (c. 1836) and the Balthis House (c. 1788).

Front Royal was designated the "Canoe Capital of Virginia" in February 1999.[34]


View south along US 340/522 and east along SR 55 in Front Royal
View south along US 340/522 and east along SR 55 in Front Royal


Front Royal is located at the intersection of US 340 and US 522. SR 55 also passes through Front Royal. I-66 passes just north of Front Royal.

Virginia Regional Transit operates the Front Royal Trolley, which provides local bus service.[35]

Ride Smart Northern Shenandoah Valley provides commuter bus service between Front Royal and the DC area.[36]

The state-operated Virginia Breeze intercity bus provides service between Blacksburg and DC and stops in Front Royal.[37]


Together with the County of Warren, it owns and manages the Warren County Economic Development Authority, an independent agency that is responsible for promoting economic development within the county and town.


Primary and secondary schools

Colleges and universities

Smithsonian-Mason School of Conservation
Smithsonian-Mason School of Conservation

Public libraries


Three radio stations and two weekly newspapers are based and licensed to Front Royal.

On radio, FM stations WZRV and WFQX are licensed to the town. WZRV is actually based in Front Royal, while WFQX is based in nearby Winchester. Also, on radio, AM station WFTR is based and licensed to the town.

The Northern Virginia Daily is a daily newspaper serving the area. Weekly newspapers The Sherando Times and The Warren County Report are based in Front Royal. The Warren County Report serves Warren County, while The Sherando Times serves the Stephens City, Middletown, and Kernstown areas of nearby Frederick County, Virginia. The Warren Sentinel is the county's oldest newspaper, dating back over 150 years. It is published each Thursday.

Notable people


  1. ^ "2019 U.S. Gazetteer Files". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved August 7, 2020.
  2. ^ a b "Population and Housing Unit Estimates". United States Census Bureau. May 24, 2020. Retrieved May 27, 2020.
  3. ^ a b "U.S. Census website". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved January 31, 2008.
  4. ^ "Front Royal". Geographic Names Information System. United States Geological Survey. Retrieved March 28, 2015.
  5. ^ "Front Royal (town) QuickFacts from the US Census Bureau". Archived from the original on March 29, 2015. Retrieved March 28, 2015.
  6. ^ "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Archived from the original on May 31, 2011. Retrieved June 7, 2011.
  7. ^ a b Federal Writers' Project (1952). Virginia: A Guide to the Old Dominion. US History Publishers. p. 443. ISBN 1603540458. Retrieved February 8, 2015.
  8. ^ Lillard, David Edwin (2002). Appalachian Trail names: Origins of place names along the AT. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books. p. 42. ISBN 081172672X. Retrieved February 8, 2015.
  9. ^ Gannett, Henry (1905). The Origin of Certain Place Names in the United States, Issue 258 of the U.S. Geological Survey Bulletin. U.S. Government Printing Office. p. 132. Retrieved December 11, 2015.
  10. ^ Willis, Carrie Hunter; Walker, Etta Belle (1940). Legends of the Skyline Drive and the Great Valley of Virginia. Dietz Press. pp. 35–36. Retrieved February 5, 2015.
  11. ^ Hofstra, Warren (2005). The Planting of New Virginia: Settlement and Landscape in the Shenandoah Valley. Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins University Press. pp. 10–12. ISBN 0801882710.
  12. ^ Finn, Peter (November 12, 1997). "POLLUTION LANDMARK DEMOLISHED IN VA". Washington Post. Retrieved June 30, 2018.
  13. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. July 9, 2010.
  14. ^ a b c McCaslin, John (September 24, 2019). "Warren County's top officials indicted in Front Royal embezzlement scam". The Rappahannock News. online. Retrieved September 26, 2019.
  15. ^ Olivo, Antonio (September 24, 2019). "Millions of dollars are missing. The sheriff is dead. A small Virginia town wants answers". The Washington Post. Internet. Retrieved September 26, 2019.
  16. ^ Daily, The Northern Virginia. "Judges OK deal for annexation". The Northern Virginia Daily. Retrieved October 2, 2019.
  17. ^ Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. "Shenandoah River – South Fork". Retrieved March 28, 2015.
  18. ^ "Climate Front Royal - Virginia and Weather averages Front Royal". Retrieved March 31, 2019.
  19. ^ "About the Mayor". Town of Front Royal ( March 7, 2011. Retrieved January 25, 2015.
  20. ^ "Town Council". Town of Front Royal ( January 7, 2015. Retrieved January 25, 2015.
  21. ^ "Town Manager". Town of Front Royal ( November 18, 2014. Retrieved August 22, 2018.
  22. ^ "Town Attorney". Town of Front Royal ( August 6, 2013. Retrieved January 25, 2015.
  23. ^ "Clerk of Council". Town of Front Royal ( January 7, 2015. Retrieved January 25, 2015.
  24. ^ "Police Department Administration". Town of Front Royal ( October 28, 2014. Retrieved January 25, 2015.
  25. ^ "Census of Population and Housing". Retrieved June 4, 2015.
  26. ^ The Port of Virginia. "Virginia Inland Port (VIP)". Retrieved March 28, 2015.
  27. ^ "Avtex Fibers Superfund Site – Community Homepage". Retrieved March 28, 2015.
  28. ^ U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (January 2015). "Mid-Atlantic Superfund – Avtex Fibers, Inc". Retrieved March 28, 2015.
  29. ^ Ayres, B. Drummond Jr. (November 21, 1989). "Jobs Are Lost in Plant Shutdown, but So Is Foul-Smelling Air". The New York Times. Retrieved January 14, 2017.
  30. ^ Finn, Peter (November 12, 1997). "Pollution Landmark Demolished in VA". The Washington Post. Retrieved January 14, 2017.
  31. ^ "Canine Program History". Retrieved March 28, 2015.
  32. ^ Brian Handwerk (July 12, 2002). ""Detector Dogs" Sniff Out Smugglers for U.S. Customs". Retrieved March 28, 2015.
  33. ^ Macfarlane, Malcolm. "Bing Crosby - Day by Day". BING magazine. International Club Crosby. Retrieved January 25, 2016.
  34. ^ "The Winding Road to the Canoe Capital of Virginia". Warren County Chamber of Commerce. Archived from the original on February 9, 2012. Retrieved March 26, 2015.
  35. ^ "Culpeper – Virginia Regional Transit". Retrieved January 20, 2020.
  36. ^ "Commuter Bus". Ride Smart. Retrieved January 20, 2020.
  37. ^ "The Virginia Breeze: Bus from Blacksburg to Washington, DC". The Virginia Breeze: Bus from Blacksburg to Washington, DC | DRPT. Retrieved January 20, 2020.
  38. ^ "Mountain Laurel Montessori School".
  39. ^ "Chelsea Academy: A Liberal Arts Education in the Catholic Tradition for Grades 4-12". Chelsea Academy.
  40. ^ National Zoological Park. "Smithsonian-Mason School of Conservation Facilities and Program Fact Sheet". Smithsonian. Archived from the original on September 7, 2015. Retrieved October 17, 2015.
  41. ^ Madden, W. C. (2001). Baseball's First-year Player Draft, Team by Team Through 1999. McFarland. p. 364.
  42. ^ "Dana Allison". The Baseball Cube. The Baseball Cube. Retrieved August 20, 2010.
  43. ^ Hearn-O'Pry, Maude (1978). Chronicles of Shreveport. M. Serio. p. 470.