We watch the Smithsonian Channel on our Roku. What does this say about us? Well, this means we don’t have cable TV, we are nerds, and we will watch nearly anything. Recently, we came across a show called Aerial America in which various structures and geographic features are photographed from above. Nearly napping, we were jolted awake by the image of Foamhenge, a life-sized replica of Stonehenge located in Natural Bridge, Virginia. As connoisseurs of American roadside attractions, we were both shocked and excited to learn that this gem not only existed but was located less than two hours from our home. We knew instantly that we must go there. In fact, we looked forward to it perhaps more than we might an actual visit to the real Stonehenge in England.
Foamhenge is the brainchild of creative genius Mark Cline. He designed and built the foam facsimile in 2004 and debuted it on April Fool’s Day. It is located atop a scenic hill surrounded by beautiful Blue Ridge views, just minutes up the road from Natural Bridge.
Natural Bridge is a famous and real rock formation located on land that was actually purchased by Thomas Jefferson from King George III. It is a National Historic Landmark and its beautiful image appears in much of Virginia’s state tourism advertising. However, it is not located in either a state or national park and, if you want to actually see it and you don’t have a spare $18 per person, your best bet is to look at pictures on the Internet. This past year the ownership of the property changed, but no word yet on plans for making the site more accessible to the public.
That is all beside the point because we did not have $52 for the Caverns and Bridge Combo Ticket—what we did have was the burning desire to see a giant foam facsimile of a 5000-year-old wonder of human construction. Our dedication to journalism was challenged, however, when we ran into a fence and a padlocked gate rather than the entrance to Foamhenge. What to do? What to do? After an excruciating half hour of debating the various entry methods and the consequences of each, we rose to the demands of the occasion. Yes, we put on our big-boy pants, parked our car discretely, and sneaked over hill and dale, through tick-covered briars and through poison ivy patches to witness the grandeur of this closed roadside attraction. (Important Legal Notice: Anything written herein shall not be misconstrued as an admission to any state, federal, or local offense.) Really, we got ticks, four of them. And it was quite a hike, but once we got there, it was magnificent—a true monument to human achievement in artificial materials.
We really admire the kind of a man who dreams up something like this. The original prehistoric men who built Stonehenge likely did so as a burial ground, something powerful, spiritual, and culturally significant. A thousand years later, it was a handy calendar. But Foamhenge is something better. A roadside attraction is about joy and wonder, and the builder is to be admired for his contribution to human happiness. It is unfortunate that an achievement like this is being kept from the public’s enjoyment.
A representative of Naturalbridgeva.com reported to us that they “do not own or operate the Foamhenge display.” Further, they occasionally open the gates to allow landscapers to maintain the property. So…if you want to see it, bring your riding mower and bolt cutters. That’s our plan for our next visit.