A Counterfeit Road Trip: Virginia’s Weird Obsession with Replicas

article-2674076-1F3E8CCC00000578-97_964x701When you think of some states, certain things come immediately to mind. California – the beach. Louisiana – gumbo. Florida – insane shirtless people posing for mugshots. Colorado – mountains, white people with dreadlocks. Texas – cowboy boots, old men sitting in bed with shotguns praying for a burglar to break in so they can blow him away. Iowa – corn, boredom.

But what about when you think of Virginia? Pretty much nothing comes to mind. My theory is that’s why the state is chock full of replicas of famous buildings and monuments. (Maryland,  by comparison, seems to have none.)  They’re just trying to build character by the most common and obvious method: imitation. You could actually go on a day trip, driving around Virginia, doing nothing but looking at knockoff monuments. Just don’t buy any Louis Vuitton bags or a Rolex at nearby road stands.

97574446353-13The “White House”
Haymarket, VA and McLean, VA

Yes, there are two!  Don’t ask me why. I don’t even know why there’s one. The one in McLean was built by a Vietnamese immigrant to “pay tribute to American history and culture,” and the one in Haymarket – well, who knows.  I will say this, though – the Haymarket replica is not only the nicer of the two, it might be nicer than the actual White House.  And you could’ve had it for the extremely reasonable price of $865K after it went into foreclosure.

Both replicas have six bedrooms and seven-ish bathrooms; the real White House has sixteen bedrooms, and 35 bathrooms. Who says the private sector is better at making stuff?  The McLean one is by far the most authentic one – it even has an Oval Office! How many Monica Lewinsky jokes do you think the owner makes to his wife, per day? Three hundred? More? If she murdered him, I think this would be a legitimate defense in court. “Every time I walked into the fake Oval Office, he’d pick up a cigar and smirk.” “Jury finds homicide was justified.”

VANATfoam_clinealtar1“Stonehenge”
Natural Bridge, VA

The weirdest thing about Stonehenge is that no one knows what it’s for, but there seems to be a huge demand for more Stonehenges. Aside from this one, there’s a fake Stonehenge in Texas, another in Washington, and several overseas. The Virginia Stonehenge is nicknamed “Foamhenge” because … wait for it … it’s made of foam. Laugh all you want, but styrofoam lasts forever. This ersatz pagan monument will be here long after the real Stonehenge has been eroded away by acid rain from late-stage global warming.

Foamhenge was the brainchild of a fiberglass sculptor who walked into a office supply warehouse, saw a bunch of massive styrofoam blocks and decided to use them to recreate an ancient Druid temple. (Well, yeah.)  He put a lot of effort into making Foamhenge an exact replica of Stonehenge, even going so far as consulting a “psychic detective.” (Roll your eyes if you want, but you know Steve Jobs did plenty of things that were just as wacky.)

4596863401_eaef72f92c_bThe “Eiffel Tower”
Kings Dominion, VA

In the City of Light, you can go up to the top of the Eiffel Tower, survey the city, and then go to some of the finest restaurants in the world or see the world’s great masterpieces at the Louvre. At Kings Dominion, you can go up to the top of the Eiffel Tower, survey the park, and then go eat an $11 nacho corn dog with a side of deep-fried Coca Cola nuggets, and then stand in line for three hours to ride the “Rebel Yell,” which I’m pretty sure is low-key the world’s only Confederate-themed roller coaster.

Lord only knows what the logic behind this Eiffel Tower replica was. “Hm, we’re building a theme park predicated on cheap thrills and vulgarity, what should we build as its centerpiece? I know, how about a landmark everyone associates with the world capital of culture and sophistication!” Maybe it’s intended to be a subtle troll? Built in 1975, the tower is just over 300 feet tall, and from the observation deck you can see for 18 miles. You can literally see other fake monuments from the top of this monument. It’s meta.
FotoFlexer_Photo-Basic-Info-GEWAThe “Washington Monument,” “George Washington’s Birth House”
Colonial Beach, VA

Nestled behind a fake version of the Washington Monument (built to 1/10 scale) is a fake version of the house George Washington was born in. It’s not even technically a replica, since the original house was destroyed in 1779, and by the time the 1930s rolled around and they wanted to rebuild it, there were no surviving records of its original appearance. So the architect just guessed and built a regular, old-fashioned peasant-y house.  You know that feeling of quiet awe you get when you’re in the presence of genuine history?  You don’t get that feeling here.  It’s more like the feeling you get when your friends show you their “hilarious” old-timey “Wild West” novelty photo they got taken at the state fair.

VARICliberty_riglerThe “Statue of Liberty”
Richmond, VA and Exmore, VA

There’s not one but two replicas of the Statue of Liberty in Virginia, both of them underwhelming in the extreme. The first one, in Exmore, is a promotional gimmick for a tax business. The second, in Richmond, was put up by the Boy Scouts and has the following inscription on a plaque set into its base:  “With the faith and courage of their forefathers, who made possible the freedom of these United States, the Boy Scouts of America dedicated this copy of the Statue of Liberty as a pledge of everlasting fidelity and loyalty. 46th anniversary Crusade to Strengthen the Arm of Liberty, 1950.”  Don’t tell me that inscription is not creepy!  “Everlasting loyalty”?  “The Arm of Liberty”?  Was this statue put up by Boy Scouts or a skinhead prison gang?

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