“So what’s the strangest place you’ve ever been?”
When I got asked this question a few days ago, I didn’t have to hesitate on my answer - Foamhenge.
Yes, you heard me correctly, Foamhenge.
It’s been almost two years since I found myself on a sunny hilltop staring at that ultimate americana kitsch.
As its name suggests, Foamhenge is an exact replica (down to the astronomical positioning), of Stonehenge, made of foam that identical to the original, save the flecked gray paint, the accompanying statue of Merlin, and the fact that it was erected several millennia later.
I came across this unique destination when a close friend and I were looking up “off-the-beaten path” places to stop on our road trip from Baltimore to Asheville, NC, and we were quickly obsessed.
I spent days looking up what other travel bloggers had to say about this hidden gem, but nothing quite prepared me for seeing the iconic shapes in front of me that were worn by weather, exposing the styrofoam interior.
Foamhenge has been around since 2004 when Mark Cline partnered with the people at Natural Bridge Park to bring his vision to life.
For twelve years, the henge was one of the main Natural Bridge’s draws, garnering a steady stream of visitors each year. But according to Cline, it his “foam-nomenon”: the unlikely culmination of his career as a sculptor of roadside attractions.
Truth is, unless you know what to look for, Foamhenge was not easy to find.
About a mile south of the Natural Bridge petting zoo on Hwy 11 we came across some white fencing, a gate, and a rough clay road.
It wasn’t until we came across a small, discrete stone/foam sign that we knew we were on the right path.
And then, after one final curve, and a lot of out of breath panting from the uphill climb, we arrived at Mark Cline’s Foamhenge.
It was clear from the get-go that time had taken its toll on the structure, with much of the outer layer deteriorating, but it was still impressive.
Up close, the pillars are more of a deep blue-grey than true grey, but from a distance, they do have an uncanny resemblance to stone.
The foam is weatherworn, and much of the yellowish white under the paint is exposed, as if the stones are molting. Some of them have split enough over time that you the frame on which the foam was formed, and one block is held up by large wooden supports that look like a medieval catapult.
A life-sized Merlin, his face modeled on the death mask of a man the artist knew, overlooks it all.
The creator’s quirky spirit pervades the place, particularly with signage.
Truth is, part of me really wanted to hate Foamhenge.
At the time, it seemed like the ultimate American jab at a historical treasure. But standing next to each of the pillars, it’s hard not to realize that this is one tourist trap worth seeing.
Unfortunately, in August 2016, the exhibition shuttered it’s doors because it sat on property that is now part of the new Natural Bridge State Park. State officials said Foamhenge didn't quite “fit” the mission of a state park they had envisioned.
Thankfully, this unique roadside attraction has found a new home in Northern Virginia Cox Farms - a 116-acre family-run farm and business in Fairfax County.