This is not a day of triumph: It is a day of dedication. Here, muster, not the forces of party, but the forces of humanity. Men’s hearts wait upon us, men’s lives hang in the balance; men’s hopes call upon us to say what we will do. Who shall live up to the great trust? Who dares fail to try?
—First Inaugural Address, March 4, 1913https://www.wilsoncenter.org/about-woodrow-wilson
On my way to Knoxville, I stopped at the Woodrow Wilson Presidential site in Staunton,Virginia. I cannot tell you how many time I have passed the exit and have wanted to stop. Since I was traveling alone, I took the opportunity to do so and was not disappointed. It’s a lovely spot and a beautiful site. But, then again, it is rare that I am disappointed in a presidential site.
The Wilson Presidential site is located in Staunton which is in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. The town, which was settled in 1732, has a population of almost 26,000. It is a small town tucked away in the mountains which is also known for being the home of the Statler Brothers.
Staunton attracts festivals and the arts. The city is known for the American Shakespeare Center which is modeled after Shakespeare’s Blackfriars Theater. It’s also home to the Staunton Music Festival, which is celebrating its 25th year this year. There are daily concerts that range from Renaissance to present day music and happens at the beginning of August. Staunton is also known for the Queen City Mischief and Magic Festival which began in 2019. This attracts over 100,000 Harry Potter fans. The city is also home to the Beverly Street Studio School and it’s Co–Art Gallery. The experimental film collective of avant-garde filmmakers, the Hypnagogia film collective also reside in Staunton.
As far history, Staunton has a lot to offer. It is the site of several places on the National Register of Historic Places (wikipedia):
- The Oaks, at 437 East Beverley Street. An 1840s structure, it was modified and enlarged in 1888 by famed Civil War cartographer Jedediah Hotchkiss.
- Waverly Hill, a Georgian-revival house designed in 1929 by renowned architect William Bottomley with a landscape designed by Arthur Shurcliff.
- Sears House, a ‘bracketed cottage’ frame house built around 1860.
It is also the birthplace and library of Woodrow Wilson, 28th president.
This is a small presidential site in that it is comprised of two houses. The main house was his home and contains a museum and gift shop. I walked around the area and found it charming and quiet. It’s a historical residential neighborhood. The museum has a parking lot and there is some on street parking. The building behind the President’s home is the library and research center. It is not a huge site and it will take and hour to an hour and half to go through the home and museum. I linked a virtual tour below.
Hours Of Operation:
Monday – Saturday: 10:00 am – 5:00 pm
Sunday: 12:00 pm – 5:00 pm
HOURS OF OPERATION IN JANUARY & FEBRUARY:
Monday – Wednesday: CLOSED**
Thursday – Saturday: 10:00 am – 4:00 pm
Sunday: 12:00 pm – 4:00 pm
**We will be open on Monday, February 21st for President’s Day.
New Year’s Day
Christmas Eve Day
Adults – $15
Seniors (65 and up) and Active Military – $14
Youth (ages 6-17) – $8
Child (5 and under) – FREE
Students w/ valid ID – $10
Teachers – FREE
*All ticket sales are non-refundable.
Woodrow Wilson was born in Stockton, Virginia in 1856. He was one of four children and lived there it until the family moved to Augusta, Georgia in 1858, when Wilson was 2 years old. He grew up there during the Civil War and Reconstruction. His family were staunch supporters of the south and of the confederacy during the Civil War. Wilson’s father was a Presbyterian minister and was one of the founders of the Southern Presbyterian Church in the US after it splintered from the north prior to the Civil War. He lived there until 1870 and then moved to Columbia, South Carolina. From there he went to college at Davidson and then transferred to Princeton.
Wilson had a long academic career He went to Princeton University in 1879, which was New Jersey University at that time. He then went to the University of Virginia Law School but had to drop out due to poor health. He continued to study law from his parent’s home in Wilmington, North Carolina, was admitted into the Georgia bar association and attempted to set up a law practice in Atlanta, Georgia. He did not take to the day-to-day activities of being a lawyer but instead found history and jurisprudence interesting. Wilson then went on to study political science at Johns Hopkin and earned a PhD. He taught at several universities and then became president of Princeton University in 1902. He later became governor of New Jersey from 1911-1913 and launched a successful bid as the Democratic candidate for president. Wilson edged out both William Howard Taft and Teddy Roosevelt to win the election in 1912.
Wilson met and fell in love with Ellen Louise Axson and proposed marriage in 1883. They decided to wait until Wilson finished his graduate studies at Johns Hopkin University. She continue to study art and was an aspiring artist at the Student League of New York. She was an award winning artist in portraiture, but gave up her career to marry Wilson in 1886. They had three children.
Wilson was known for the New Freedom domestic agenda and Wilsonism foreign policy. Some of what Wilson is known for during his presidency are:
- Imposition of segregation inside the federal bureaucracy
- Oversaw the expansion of Jim Crow segregation measures in the District of Columbia
- Revenue Act of 1913, which lowered tariffs and began the modern income tax.
- Negotiated the passage of the Federal Reserve Act, which created the Federal Reserve System.
- The Federal Trade Commission Act
- The Clayton Antitrust Act
- World War I in 1914 declaration of neutrality
- Attempts to negotiate peace between the Allied and Central Powers.
- Asked Congress to declare war against Germany in response to its policy of unrestricted submarine warfare that sank American merchant ships
- Went to Paris to the Paris Peace Conference which was dominated by the British, French and US leaders
- Successfully advocated for the establishment of the League of Nations, which was incorporated into the Treaty of Versailles
- Signed the Treaty of Versailles
- Rejected a Republican compromise that would have allowed the Senate to ratify the Versailles Treaty and join the League
- Vetoed the Volstead Act, legislation which was designed to enforce Prohibition which was overridden by Congress
- personally opposed women’s suffrage in 1911 because he believed women lacked the public experience needed to be good voters
- Wilson backed a national right to vote and pressed congress when the amendment stalled in the Senate
- Held the first presidential press conference
- Dispatched the U.S. Army to occupy Vera Cruz during the Mexican Revolution
Wilson had intended to seek a third term in office but suffered a severe stroke in October 1919. His wife, Ellen, and his doctor hid the truth about his health and controlled him. He left office in 1921 and opened a law practice with his son-in-law. Wilson showed up on the first day only and the practice closed by the end of 1922. He attempted writing and his last public appearance was a speech on Armistice Day from his home. He died on February 3, 1924 and is buried in Washington National Cathedral. Wilson is considered an above average president.
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