Tag Archives: Virginia

Maggie L. Walker National Historic Site

Overview

If you visit Richmond National Battlefield Park in Virginia, do not miss the other National Park Service (NPS) site in that city.  Maggie L. Walker was an African American philanthropist that started the St. Luke Penny Savings Bank in 1902 and was the only female bank president in the U.S. at the time.  As a member of the Independent Order of St. Luke since age 14, she also helped establish a newspaper and department store to help the local African American community.

Highlights

Museum, film, house tour, Jackson Ward National Historic Landmark District

Must-Do Activity

The 1930s-era home of this Civil Rights advocate can only be entered on an NPS ranger guided tour.  Walker lived in the oft-expanded, 28-room house from 1904 until her death thirty years later, and almost every piece of furniture in the house is original.  The NPS visitor center at 600 N 2nd Street is very small, but they do show a short film inside the tiny museum, which provides a good introduction before the tour.

Best Trail

None

Instagram-worthy Photo

The master bathroom includes a bidet, which is not something we have seen on any of the other NPS house tours we have taken (and we have been on a lot!).

Peak Season

Summer

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/mawa/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

None

Road Conditions

Street parking is required as there is not a designated lot.

Camping

Pocahontas State Park and Forest offers a campground with running water just outside Richmond, Virginia.

Related Sites

Richmond National Battlefield Park (Virginia)

Mary McLeod Bethune Council House National Historic Site (District of Columbia)

Fort Monroe National Monument (Virginia)

Explore More – The Walker family owned the house until the NPS took ownership of the 1.25-acre property in what year?

Booker T. Washington National Monument

Overview

Booker T. Washington was born in 1856 on this small plantation farm in Hardy, Virginia and freed shortly after the Confederate army’s surrender at nearby Appomattox Court House.  He went on to earn an education and found the groundbreaking Tuskegee Institute in 1881.  Rather than dwelling on his horrible past, Washington was inspired to work hard and maintain an indefatigable spirit.  Later in life he wrote in his book Up From Slavery: “There was no period of my life that was devoted to play… From the time that I can remember anything, almost every day of my life has been occupied in some kind of labor.”

Highlights

Museum, film, reconstructed buildings, farm animals, Jack-O-Lantern Branch Trail

Must-Do Activity

A bronze bust of Booker T. Washington is the first thing visitors see when they approach the National Monument.  The National Park Service (NPS) has reconstructed several buildings on the farm in a style consistent with the 1850s, as seen on the quarter-mile self-guided trail.  The NPS keeps livestock similar to that which was here at the time, including pigs, cattle, chickens, turkeys, and ducks.  This site demonstrates that antebellum life in the South was not all aristocrats on large plantations. 

Best Trail

The Jack-O-Lantern Branch Trail winds 1.5 miles through the forest and fields.

Instagram-worthy Photo

None of the original buildings survive, but several have been reconstructed, including the birthplace cabin of Booker T. Washington.

Peak Season

Summer

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/bowa/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

None

Road Conditions

All roads paved

Camping

Roanoke Mountain Campground is run by the NPS on the Blue Ridge Parkway 19 miles northwest of the monument.

Related Sites

Tuskegee Institute National Historic Site (Alabama)

George Washington Carver National Monument (Missouri)

Shenandoah National Park (Virginia)

Explore More – Washington graduated from what school for ex-slaves in 1875, which inspired him to establish Tuskegee Institute in Alabama?

Appomattox Court House National Historical Park

Overview

If the name Appomattox Court House rings a bell, that is because in U.S. History class you learned it was where the Civil War ended on April 9, 1865.  There was a courthouse in the town of Appomattox Court House, Virginia, but that is not where Robert E. Lee and Ulysses S. Grant signed surrender papers; actually it was the home of Wilmer McLean.  In 1893, the McLean house was completely disassembled to be turned into an offsite museum, but was later brought back and rebuilt by the National Park Service (NPS).  The county jail is one of several other restored buildings in the park originally designated a National Monument in 1935 and changed to a National Historical Park in 1954.

Highlights

Museum, film, reconstructed McLean House, guided tours

Must-Do Activity

The restored courthouse now serves as the NPS visitor center and museum, from where visitors can start their walk through Meeks General Store, Clover Hill Tavern, the county jail, and other period buildings.  Much of the furniture from the McLean House was taken as souvenirs by Union officers, as well as a doll owned by 7-year-old Lula McLean that was not returned until 1992.

Best Trail

A four-mile hiking trail connects the Village of Appomattox Court House with the April 9, 1865 battlefield and the two General’s headquarters.

Instagram-worthy Photo

You have to take a photo inside the restored room in the McLean house where Lee surrendered his army of 9,000 men, essentially ending the Civil War.

Peak Season

Summer

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/apco/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

None

Road Conditions

All roads paved

Camping

None in the park, but the campground at Holliday Lake State Park is only 12 miles away.

Related Sites

Petersburg National Battlefield (Virginia)

Richmond National Battlefield Park (Virginia)

Booker T. Washington National Monument (Virginia)

Explore More – Seven regiments of African American soldiers in the Union Army participated in the Battle of Appomattox Court House; how many men is that?

Richmond National Battlefield Park

Overview

Richmond, Virginia was the capital of the Confederate States of America during the Civil War, located only 110 miles south of Washington, D.C.  The heavily fortified city repelled Union attacks in 1862 and 1864, but was abandoned following the retreat from Petersburg on April 2, 1865.  Richmond National Battlefield Park is composed of thirteen units connected by an 80-mile driving tour, some of which are only staffed seasonally.  The main National Park Service (NPS) visitor center at Tredegar Iron Works is located near the historic Virginia capitol building and not far from Maggie L. Walker National Historic Site.

Highlights

Tredegar Iron Works, film, Cold Harbor battlefield, Chimborazo Medical Museum

Must-Do Activity

The modern NPS visitor center is located downtown inside the Tredegar Iron Works on the Canal Walk.  During the war, this foundry produced almost 1,100 cannons, as well as armor plating for ironclad gunboats.  Today the stabilized and enclosed remains of Tredegar Iron Works offer three stories of exhibits, including a film and several interactive multimedia displays.  The site of the June 1864 Battle of Cold Harbor has a year-round visitor center northeast of Richmond.  We also highly recommend a stop at the Chimborazo Medical Museum, which covers an often overlooked aspect of a war that claimed 620,000 soldiers’ lives, many from disease.

Best Trail

Short trails help visitors understand the battles at Beaver Dam Creek, Gaines’ Mill, Malvern Hill, Cold Harbor, Fort Harrison, Fort Brady, Parker’s Battery, and Drewry’s Bluff.

Instagram-worthy Photo

The stabilized brick walls of Tredegar Iron Works are an interesting subject for photographs.  The foundry was protected by its workers from destruction by the retreating Confederate army on April 2, 1865.  This proved important during Reconstruction after the war.

Peak Season

Summer

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/rich/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

None except for parking at Tredegar Iron Works

Road Conditions

All roads paved

Camping

Pocahontas State Park and Forest offers a campground with running water just outside Richmond, Virginia.

Related Sites

Maggie L. Walker National Historic Site (Virginia)

Fredericksbug and Spotsylvania County Battlefields Memorial National Military Park (Virginia)

Appomattox Court House National Historical Park (Virginia)

Explore More –Opened in October 1861, how many sick and wounded soldiers were treated at Chimborazo Hospital (with its 3,000 bed capacity and 20% mortality rate) by the end of the Civil War?

Cedar Creek and Belle Grove National Historical Park

Overview

There are only a handful of the 419 units in the National Park Service (NPS) system that we feel do not deserve that level of recognition, and Cedar Creek and Belle Grove National Historical Park is one of them.  Despite its lofty sounding name, almost none of the land within this 3,700-acre park established in 2002 is owned by the federal government.  The majority of the acreage is private and inaccessible, and the rest is managed by a variety of non-profit organizations making this site more suitable to have simply remained a portion of the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields National Historic District.  There are several National Heritage Corridors and affiliated sites much more deserving of inclusion on the NPS list of 419 units than this one.

Highlights

Hupp’s Hill Museum, driving tour, Belle Grove historic plantation

Must-Do Activity

If you need the stamp for your NPS passport, stop at the Visitor Contact Station located in a strip mall in Middletown, Virginia.  There you can pick up a free guide to help you follow the driving tour focused on the October 19, 1864 battle fought at Cedar Creek.  There is also a free app available on the park website.  Managed by a non-profit that organizes an annual reenactment of the battle, Hupp’s Hill Civil War Park has a museum (fee).  You can also pay to take a tour of the manor house at Belle Grove.

Best Trail

When we visited in 2016, there was some talk of establishing a walking path with interpretive signs, and it now seems the Morning Attack Trails total 1.7 miles in length.

Instagram-worthy Photo

Available for guided tours (fee) between April and December, the manor house at Belle Grove plantation dates back to 1797.  Union General Philip Sheridan used the house as his headquarters in 1864 and most of his 31,600 camped on the property.

Peak Season

Fall

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/cebe/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

Admission charged for guided tours of Belle Grove manor house and entrance to Hupp’s Hill Museum.

Road Conditions

Some of the roads on the driving tour are unpaved and not recommended for buses or RVs.

Camping

None

Related Sites

Gettysburg National Military Park (Pennsylvania)

Harpers Ferry National Historical Park (West Virginia-Maryland-Virginia)

Shenandoah National Park (Virginia)

Explore More – Belle Grove was owned by Isaac Hite, Jr. and his wife Nelly, who was the sister of which U.S. President?