Thursday, June 19, 2014

Woodrow Wilson Presidential Museum and Birthplace

Over the last many years when we lived in Fairfax, VA we passed the signs to the Woodrow Wilson Birthplace many times.
Yesterday we drove about 45 miles from our KOA Campsite in Charlottesville to see it.

We decided a few years ago that we wanted to see all the Presidential Museums and Libraries and birthplaces etc throughout the country.  It was well worth the trip.

The site is small but it has a lot of interesting things about it.  The birthplace home is where you get your $12 tickets and see the 10 minute over view movie.
We were a little disappointed the Presidential  Museum pass we bought at the Reagan Library last fall in California did not work here.  Different group or foundation or network or something.  Still - the price of admission was worth every penny.

Staunton, VA was a booming place back in the 1850 because of the railroads and the concentration of farming, mills and manufacturing there.  Once the city voted to secede, it became an important staging and supply area.  

Woodrow Wilson's father was a Presbyterian minister who moved to Staunton in 1855 where he was pastor.  T. Woodrow Wilson was born at the family parsonage (known as the 'manse').  The docent explained that the manse was the Presbyterian name for parsonage.  I remember hearing the word three summers ago in New England outside of Boston and didn't realize 'manse' meant 'parsonage'.

Woodrow Wilson wasn't known as 'Woodrow' until he studied at for the bar and became a lawyer.  He thought the name 'Tom' or 'Tommy' was not as dignified as 'Woodrow'.

We began our tour in the museum and saw the displays and informational artifacts.
Before we were finished on our self guided tour, the docent came over and said he was going to open up the Birthplace home.  I found this to be the most interesting part of our time there.

There were no pictures allowed in the home, so I found these online.  The tour started inside the backdoor near the formal dining room.
 Since Wilson's, father a the pastor, they had a formal area to entertain guests.  The docent mentioned the three tiered table near the fireplace that was a 'dumb waiter'.  Another meaning of the term that I though only applied to the small elevator shaft version.

Then we went into another  room where this gem was located.  This was much more than a stove.  It in fact had a number of different areas to cook and bake food.  In the picture, the pots are on the back burner (which is where we get the term 'back burner').
Food still needing to be cooked was put on the front burners above that is a separate little stove (with the open door on the left) for cooking breads or cakes or pies.  This was more than a stove, because it provided a 'range' of different temperatures and is where we get the term 'range' applying to our everyday kitchen appliance.

Children had their own eating area in another room.  They ate here with the servants until their table manners and maturity were more well developed.
The house is full of artifacts from that and all kinds of detail in the construction of the home.  They wall paper, floors and paint was restored to original colors and styling giving it a very authentic and accurate feel for that time period.

After the house tour, we went back to the museum and saw the Presidential limousine, the Pierce Arrow, built in 1919.
And the very well done WW I display in the basement.
We enjoyed our time there and had a picnic lunch in the back under some trees before we drove back to Charlottesville.

On the way back, we took a short side trip along the famous Skyline Drive in the Shenandoah National Park
and over to the Blue Ridge Parkway.  It was a nice day to see this part of Virginia!

Thanks for joining us on the Roadrunner Chronicles!


  1. After living in the DC area for 15 years I really didn't do much exploring because work and commuting took so much out of me. But I am really looking forward to exploring Virginia a whole lot more this Fall. Not sure we'll get to Staunton but it's on my list.

  2. We're also guilty of living in VA for 13 years and never visiting the WW Museum. So you're not the only ones... ;c)