In 1924 another flood ravaged the lower Shenandoah, shutting down the pulp mill, carrying off logs and damaging its dam, raceway, and floodgates. The flood wreckage forced more residents to permanently leave the island. By the end of the 1920s, only two families remained. Sometime between 1924 and 1930, the National Electric Power Company, the corporate owner of the old Savery enterprises, ordered the demolition of the remaining rowhouses. In 1935, the company closed the Shenandoah Pulp Mill, thus finalizing years of irrevocable economic decline. However, the floods that followed in 1936 and 1942 marked the real end of the historic Virginius Island. During the subsequent decades, when the island was uninhabited and overgrown, the solitary rumble of a freight train passing along the old W&P rail line was the only reminder of the old industrial activity that had formerly characterized life on Virginius Island.
Congress included Virginius Island among the properties for acquisition
when they enacted the legislation to create Harpers Ferry National Monument
(now Harpers Ferry National Historical Park) in 1944. Since that time,
the National Park Service (NPS) has focused the majority of its efforts
on the preservation, restoration and rehabilitation of the Lower Town
area of Harpers Ferry. Because these efforts initially concentrated on
the events of the 1859 John Brown raid and the Civil War, little attention
was directed toward Virginius Island, where cultural resources mostly
lay underground. The NPS treated this naturalized island habitat as a
wooded archeological preserve, consisting of mill ruins, remnants of historic
waterways, and the foundations of old residential structures. Once archeological
testing and investigation on the island began in the late 1960s, the public
began to express a heighten appreciation for the hidden historical resources.
This renewed interest coincided with preservation projects, such as the
construction by the NPS of a pedestrian bridge (1974) across the Shenandoah
Canal. Discussions on this and subsequent preservation projects are outlined
in the sections of the Current that follow.