Experience Our Heritage
Located in the rolling foothills of western North Carolina, Valdese is not your average small town. Founded on the rich traditions of 19th century Waldensian settlers, the Town of Valdese honors the heritage and determination of the Waldenses and their journey from the Cottian Alps of northern Italy to edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Burke County during the early 1800’s.
Make Valdese your destination for a unique and educational family outing or bring your church, civic or social group to experience the Waldensian heritage as it is preserved by the Valdese community today. Stop in at the Valdese Tourism Department office located in the Old Rock School on Main Street for day-tripping information or a custom group tour itinerary.
Whether your Valdese visit is a family stopover or a couple’s weekend get-away, you don’t want to miss wine-tasting at the Waldensian Heritage Winery and a trip through the 19th Century at the Waldensian Heritage Museum. You can experience the journey of the Waldensians at the Trail of Faith and take a bird’s eye view of mid-century Valdese at the model train museum operated by the Piedmont and Western Railroad Club. Check our schedule for special events, concerts and showcased arts and crafts exhibits at the Old Rock School Art Galleries.
Shop downtown Valdese for antiques, jewelry, unique gifts, handmade crafts and consignments. Visit our parks for a leisurely picnic or cool off at McGalliard Falls. Spend the evening enjoying one of our many outdoor concerts, festivals, car shows and our must-see outdoor drama, “From This Day Forward.
How we got here
In May of 1893, a group of Waldenses, from the Cottian Alps of Northern Italy, settled on land located near the Catawba River in eastern Burke County in North Carolina, between the towns of Morganton and Hickory. The center of this community became the town of Valdese.
The Waldenses were pre-Reformation Christians with a religious ancestry that dates back to at least the 12th century. For centuries these Waldenses were persecuted by armies from both the governments of Italy and France and the official church. This tiny religious sect was forced to take refuge in the Valleys of the Cottian Alps of Northern Italy and remained secluded in the rugged mountains until they received their religious freedom by the Edict of 1848.
With this new peace their number grew rapidly until their Alpine farms could no longer support them. They looked elsewhere and began establishing colonies in other parts of Europe, South America, and the United States. They migrated to New York City, Chicago, Missouri, Texas and Utah, as well as Valdese. The Valdese colony became the largest Waldensian colony in the world located outside of Italy.
In the beginning, the Valdese settlers tried to make their living off the land as they had in Italy, but the poor soil would not produce. They turned instead to manufacturing, and with the same spirit of survival and determination of their ancestors, began to prosper. Today, Valdese has a solid manufacturing economy because of their efforts.
The Town of Valdese incorporated in 1920 and elected its first mayor, John Long, who was also the groom in the first Waldensian wedding in Valdese.
The story of the Waldenses is vividly told in the outdoor drama, "From This Day Forward" presented by Old Colony Players each summer in the Old Colony Amphitheater in Valdese.
Learn more about the history of Valdese and the Waldenses by visiting our local tourist attractions: the Waldensian Heritage Museum & Gift Shop, Waldensian Heritage Winery, P&W Railroad Museum, Village Park Mural, Rock School Art Galleries I &II and the Trail of Faith.
Valdese celebrated its Centennial in 1993 and the Centennial Park and Fountain was opened on Main Street to commemorate the event.
At the 2001 Waldensian Festival, a clock tower was dedicated to commemorate the new millennium.
Telephone: 828-879-2129, 828-879-2126 | Mailing: P.O. Box 339 Valdese NC 28690