Yes, we are on another road trip, but this time we are staying "at home" well sort of since our travel is confined to parts of Virginia we haven't visited during our 7 years of living here. We're traveling through sites within the Blue Ridge Mountains (named because of their bluish color when seen from a distance).
Staunton, VA is known for being the birthplace of the 28th U.S. President Woodrew Wilson. It is also the home of Mary Baldwin College, a private four-year women's liberal arts college founded in 1842 whose graduates include actress Tallulah Bankhead and Anna Jarvis, founder of Mother's Day in the U.S. The city is also home to the Statler Brothers, country music legends, who grew up and still reside there. Once the city boasted 10 hotels, while most are no longer in operation, one of the largest, the Stonewall Jackson Hotel, was extensively renovated in recent years and is now a popular hotel and conference center.
Sunspots, a glass blowing factory and showroom, is housed in the former 1899 Klotz Brothers building, where for a fee you can create your own holiday ornament of blown glass. We declined this $40 "opportunity" but explored the showroom and watched a (free) demonstration.
And, we had to include a visit to the Woodrow Wilson Museum in Staunton.
Here, we learned a lot of historical and curious facts about this 28th U.S. president, including:
- Born on December 28, 1856, elected the 28th president; these 2 numbers add up to 56, his birth year and age when elected President; Wilson served two terms: 1912-1916 and 1916-1920.
- First name was Thomas; called "Tommy" into his high school years, later dropped his first name as he felt it was not "strong enough."
- Born in Staunton VA but only lived there a year before the family moved to GA and later SC when his father, a minister, received a new assignment.
- Did not learn to read until he was over 10 years of age, attributed to dyslexia. He became a college professor and president, governor, and one of the best educated presidents, well known as a scholar, orator and author of many books on government.
- Graduated from Princeton University in New Jersey, and later served as its president.
- Elected Governor of New Jersey.
- Only president to hold a PhD (received from Johns Hopkins University in political science)
- Credited with starting the Federal Reserve System in 1913.
- Received the Nobel Prize in 1920 for his work on behalf of the League of Nations)
- Only president buried in Washington, DC (at the National Cathedral).
- Second wife died on the 105th anniversary of his birth.
- Chef Ettore "Hector" Boiardi, later popularly called "Chef Boy-Ar-Dee" directed the catering for the reception of President Wilson's second wedding.
Our next stop was Lexington, VA. First settled in 1777, it is home to the 9th largest U.S. college, Washington & Lee University, and Virginia Military Institute (VMI) referred to as "the West Point of the South." It is also the nation's oldest state supported military school. Robert E. Lee, commander of the Confederate Army in the Civil War, and "Stonewall" Jackson, one the Confederacy's most famous generals, are buried in Lexington. It is also the site of the only house Jackson ever owned, now open as a museum.
Another of Lexington's unusual claims to fame is that is connected to 5 generals: George Washington, Robert E. Lee, Thomas Jonathan "Stonewall" Jackson, George Marshall, and George Patton.
Washington saved what was then Liberty Hall Academy from financial ruin through a $50,000 bequest. The schools's board of trustees renamed the school, Washington College in his honor.
Lee became President of Washington collage after the Civil War and is credited with broadening and expanding the liberal arts curriculum. After his death, the trustees renamed the school, Washington & Lee University. Lee Chapel on the grounds of the university houses a centerpiece recumbent statue of Lee, which portrays him, not dead, on the field of battle. Lee and his father, Revolutionary patriot Henry "Light Horse" Harry Lee and other family members are interred in a crypt beneath the chapel. Lee's famous horse, Traveller, is buried outside the chapel.
Jackson, a West Point graduate, taught at VMI, but was not a popular professor there and sucked on lemons. This explains why we found half a dozen lemon on the site of his grave at the Stonewall Jackson cemetery in Lexington. You might be able to see them in the photo on the right.
Patton was the third generation in his family to attend VMI. He was a cadet in 1903, but left in 1904 after being appointed to West Point. Patton later went gained fame in WWII as leader of the U.S. Third Army which liberated more territory in less time than any other army in history.
Marshall studied at VMI and received a diploma in civil engineering. He fought in both WWI and WWII and was named Army Chief of Staff in 1939 on the day war erupted in Europe. The 1948 Marshall Plan rebuilt Europe after WWII laying the foundation for U.S. foreign policy. Marshall was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1953.
Our short rainy day stop in Lexington included a visit to the VMI Museum which features a history of noted VMI alumni and the Henry Stewart antique firearms collection. You can also see Stonewall Jackson's (preserved) horse, Trotter; sorry, but the old boy is not very photogenic for his age.