Front Royal was chartered in 1788 on land that belonged to French immigrant Peter LeHew. The derivation of the town's name has never been satisfactorily explained. Because “front” derives from the French word meaning “frontier,” the town's name perhaps draws from the town's early French settlers. Located beside the Shenandoah River, Front Royal became a commercial and social center for the county from its beginnings. The railroad reached Front Royal in the 1850s, adding to the town's commercial importance. A vistors' center is located in the former wooden depot (c. 1885) at 414 E. Main Street. Front Royal's close proximity to I–66 and Skyline Caverns has helped make it a jumping-off point for tourism.
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