In the nation, there are few places as historically enriching as Greater Gordonsville. Thanks to its numerous historical figures who have either lived in or frequented this region, and the important events that have occurred here, the area has evolved into a history buff’s travel destination.
Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello (3rd President)
Monticello, a world heritage site, is one of the most iconic places in the U.S.A. A visit here is highly encouraged! Get to know Thomas Jefferson—author of the Declaration of Independence and the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom, third president of the United States, and founder of the University of Virginia—who voiced the aspirations of a new America as no other individual of his era. He served his country as a public official for over fifty years. As a world-class historian and philosopher, he was accomplished in many disciplines, ranging from surveying and mathematics to horticulture and mechanics.
Address: 931 Thomas Jefferson Parkway, Charlottesville, VA 22902
James Madison’s Montpelier (4th President)
Montpelier, the home of James and Dolley Madison, is situated on 2,650 acres of protected land with unobstructed views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Visitors can enjoy tours of the historic house and its recently upgraded room settings reflecting the estate as it was in the 1820s, and learn about James Madison’s important contributions to the Constitution. You can also explore the archaeological digs, hike on over eight miles of trails, and visit the art deco Red Room from the Marion du Pont Scott era (restored in the Visitors’ Center). For anyone who wants to know more about James Madison and how his thinking helped change the world, Montpelier is a not to be missed. Madison described his beloved Montpelier as “just a squirrel’s jump from heaven.”
James Monroe’s Highland (5th President)
James Monroe’s Highland is a historic site with a new story to tell. America’s fifth president lived at Highland with his family, including wife Elizabeth, from 1799 to 1823. They owned the property even longer (from 1793 to 1826). Because of a fire that destroyed the main residence and enhancements by later owners, mystery and misunderstanding surrounded the site for years. Only recently are historians and archaeologists peeling back the layers of history to uncover Highland’s—and Monroe’s—true past. Guided tours are offered year-round, and include a rich collection of period and Monroe-family furnishings that perfectly exemplify the Monroe’s international style, while also demonstrating their strong American connections. Visitors of all ages will delight in viewing animals in a rural landscape that would be familiar to the Founding Fathers. Throughout the year, history talks and period craft demonstrations provide a glimpse into early nineteenth-century life.
Address: 2050 James Monroe Highway, Charlottesville, VA 22902
Barboursville Ruins – Home of Governor Barbour
Preserved as a ruin after its destruction by fire on Christmas Day, 1884, Barboursville was one of the largest and finest residences in the region. The only building in Orange County known to have been designed by Thomas Jefferson, Barboursville was constructed between 1814 and 1822 for Jefferson’s friend James Barbour, Governor of Virginia (1812-1814), U.S. Senator, Secretary of War, and Ambassador to the Court of St. James. While visiting the ruins, be sure to taste the highly-acclaimed wines made on the property.
The Exchange Hotel Civil War Medical Museum
This museum’s Georgian architecture with its verandas and second-floor entry steps are reminiscent of hotel days of a bygone era. The three floors of displays contain exhibitions on the history of Gordonsville as a railroad town, the elegance of the former Exchange Hotel, and its remarkable role as the Gordonsville Receiving Hospital during the Civil War.
Some people say the hotel is a hot spot for paranormal activity, but you can form your own opinion if you dare. For the more brave, don’t miss their ScareFest, held every year for a few weekends approaching Halloween. You can hear the screams across town!
James Madison Museum of Orange County History
The first museum in the United States to honor James Madison, the museum’s mission is to preserve and present the remarkable history of Orange County, along with the contributions of the Father of the Constitution and President James Madison, First Lady Dolley Madison, and President Zachary Taylor (who was born at Montebello, just outside Gordonsville). Their exhibits change every few months, so go see what’s on exhibit today!