As someone who grew up in the Northern Virginia/Washington D.C. area, it’s not always clear to me how much historical value the area possesses.
Museums and parks that I went to as a child were so much a part of my life that it never occurred to me that they were anything more than required education. Had I perhaps been an out-of-town visitor I may have realized how history shaping all these places were.
Take, for example, the Civil War Life Museum, located in Fredericksburg, VA. The museum houses an impressive collection of relics and shows in depth how the soldiers lived.
In Fairfax Station there is a rather unassuming building and rail-car called The Fairfax Station Railroad Museum & Caboose. I must have seen them both a dozen times but didn’t give them much consideration at times. However, as it turns out they display a very interesting role in history. Here you can learn about the Orange and Alexandria Railroad and its importance to both the supply and medical evacuation effort during the Civil War. You can also learn a great deal about Clara Barton and her humanitarian efforts and the founding of the Red Cross.
Looking for a little Revolutionary War history? Check out George Mason’s home, also known as Gunston Hall Plantation in Mason Neck, VA.
Mount Vernon, also known as the home of George Washington, can also be visited. Another hot spot of our Founding Fathers is the home of Thomas Jefferson called Monticello. Both of these historic landmarks are located in towns named after their respective forefathers.
Tired of looking at museums and want to see an actual battle site? Look no further than Manassas National Battlefield Park. The first major battlefield of the Civil War lies here. The Battle of Bull Run and The Second Battle of Manassas were fought here. Not only are the cannons still available for viewing but the visitor’s center offers electronic battle maps, not to mention numerous displays of equipment and memorabilia.
There are some gorgeous architectural buildings which may be an initial mystery as to what history they can tell. An example of this would be the Green Spring Building in Fairfax, VA. Looking upon it, you may be in awe of its architectural beauty, but you may not be aware of it’s past.
Built in 1784 through 1786, the land was originally under British control until the Honorable Thomas Lord Fairfax granted 201 acres of this land to John Summers for the annual fee rent of one shilling sterling for every 50 acres of land. This was to be made payable on September 29th. John Summers took the opportunity to grow tobacco as well as cultivated wheat for milling.
Most major cities across the United States (especially Washington D.C.) have monuments, museums and other tourist areas. Those are all well and good, but please, before you spend your time, money and effort on those places, check out the surrounding towns, cities and villages. Sometimes the best place to start is your own back yard.
The National Civil War Life Museum
George Washington’s Mount Venon Estate and Gardens
Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello