Who we are...
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.
In May of 1893, a group of Waldenses, from the Cottian Alps of Northern Italy, settled this land that we now call home. They chose to flee the religious persecution they had suffered in Italy, which led to overpopulation and starvation in their villages, driving them to emigrate to the United States.
The early days in the United States were not easy. The land in Burke county was not ideal for farming, causing the struggling community to almost starve to death during their first winter. But light came this time from their new neighbors, near and far, who generously welcomed the fledging community into their land. Waldensian women would visit nearby churches, singing Waldensian hymns for love offerings so that they could build a community bread oven. Eventually, a sawmill was built to generate lumber for home building. Generous offerings came from sympathetic believers from all over the country, who had seen the hardships they faced throughout that first year. Thanks to the hard work and determinations of these original settlers, structures were built, families were made, and the Town of Valdese was incorporated in 1920. The story of the Waldensians is vividly town every Summer in the outdoor drama, “From this Day Forward”, presented by the Old Colony Players at the Fred B. Cranford Amphitheatre in Valdese. You can learn more about the history of Valdese and the heritage of the Waldenses by visiting many of our local tourist attractions including the Waldensian Heritage Museum. Valdese celebrated its Centennial in 1993. The Centennial Park and Fountain was opened on Main Street to commemorate the special anniversary. In 2018, the Quasquicentennial (125th Anniversary) was celebrated with a year full of events. The Arrival commemorative art piece was built and dedicated in honor of this occasion. We strive to honor this unique heritage every day, and hope you will come visit Valdese to experience it for yourself.
Visit the American Waldensian Society Website