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Rivah Visitor's Guide

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Museums and Historic Sites

Virginia is rich in history and the Middle Peninsula and Northern Neck are no exception. Yes, George Washington spent time here, and James Monroe, Robert E. Lee, Powhatan and host of other famous figures in our country’s history. Learn more about them and the Northern Neck and Middle Peninsula at these historic sites and museums.

All area codes are (804) unless otherwise listed.

Essex County Museum and Historical Society
218 Water Ln.
Tappahannock 443-4690
Included is the “Carl D. Silver Gallery,” another smaller gallery, a gift shop, reference room, document storage room, and handicap accessible restrooms.
Exhibits of interest include “from Sandlot to Semipro: Baseball in Essex County,” which follows the story of America’s pastime in the county from just after the Civil War to present day. The museum also houses a civil war diorama: “Ft. Lowry.” Continuing exhibits include prehistoric fossils, Native American artifacts, colonial relics, and items from the American Revolution, Bacon’s Rebellion, the Civil War and World Wars I and II.
Open free of charge daily (except for Wed. and Sun.) from 10 a.m.–3 p.m.

Gloucester Museum of History
6539 Main St.
Gloucester 693-1234
The Botetourt Building, built about 1770, was New’s Ordinary, a roadside tavern. On display is the “Battle of the Hook” exhibit, which was donated by the Battle of the Hook Committee and created by Warren Deal. Other displays of military conflicts focus on Gloucester’s WW II veterans. Also on display is the “Good Old Days” exhibit.
The free museum is open Mon.–Sat. from 11 a.m.–3 p.m. and by appointment.

Pocahontas Museum
7335 Lewis Ave.
Gloucester 815-0988
The Museum has information, artifacts and pictures relating to the Indian Pocahontas, Captain John Smith and the Powhatan Indians. On display is a rock traditionally known as the one on which Capt. John Smith’s head was placed when Pocahontas saved his life at Werawocomoco (Wicomico) in Gloucester County.
The museum is open by appointment.

5113 Old Rosewell Ln.
Gloucester 693-2585
Begun in 1725, Rosewell was home to the Page family for more than 100 years. The ruins sit on the bank of the York River. Here, you may see the brickwork and grace of form and scale which have inspired poets and architects since Thomas Jefferson.
In 1916, a tragic fire swept the mansion leaving a magnificent shell which is testament to 18th century craftsmanship and dreams.
What remains are the four chimneys, the east wall with its regal compass head window complete with carved keystone, the wine cellar and enough of the walls that one may sense the proportion and scale of this unique structure. The fourth and last family to own Rosewell donated the ruins site to the Gloucester Historical Society in 1979. Since 1995, the Rosewell Foundation has taken on the mission of preserving, studying, and presenting this historic ruin.
Visitor center and gift shop. Open April–Oct. Mon.–Thurs. & Sat. 10 a.m.–4 p.m., Sun. 1 p.m.–4 p.m. General admission $4, student/groups (10 or more) $3, child (6-12) $2.

Christ Church and Carter Reception Center and Museum
420 Christ Church Rd.
Weems 438-6855
The church was built in 1735 by Robert “King” Carter.
The church, reception center and museum are open to the public Apr.–Nov. from 10 a.m.–4 p.m. Mon.–Sat. and 1–4 p.m. Sun. Call for group tours. Other times by appointment.

Kilmarnock Museum
76 N. Main St.
Kilmarnock 436-9100
This museum features displays and exhibits focusing on Kilmarnock’s past and present.
Rotating exhibits are featured plus displays of local artifacts and a timeline of events throughout area history. Currently on exhibit is news photography by the late Tanyua Dickenson, reporter for the Rappahannock Record.
The museum is open Thurs.–Sat., 11 a.m.–4 p.m. Free.

Mary Ball Washington Museum
8346 Mary Ball Rd.
Lancaster Courthouse
Located in the Historic District, the museum comprises three historic buildings and library. More than 350 years of area history is on exhibit in the 1797 clerk’s office, 1821 jail, and 1828 Lancaster House.
The Genealogy and History Library provides more than 7000 reference materials including local court records, census data, business information, vital records, county histories, church records, and family files. The card catalogue is available online.
Open Wed.-Fri. 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Admission is $3.
Research library open Tues.-Fri. 10 a.m.-4 p.m. with a $5 daily use fee.
Both facilities open some Saturdays. Closed major holiday weekends. Check website for complete listing and hours.

Morattico Waterfront Museum
6584 Morattico Rd.
The museum offers exhibits of an old fashioned country store, the history of the work life, gear and agriculture of local watermen of the village. Also on display are Native American artifacts, photos and documents relating to village history.
The museum is open Sat. noon–4 p.m. and Sun. 1–4 p.m. May–Oct.

Northern Neck Sports Wall of Fame
60 South Main St.
Kilmarnock 435-1211
The Northern Neck Sports Wall of Fame features plaques with bios and photos of individuals past and present that have excelled in sports from the Northern Neck of Virginia. Free. Located inside The Sports Centre. Open Mon.–Fri. 9 a.m.–5:30 p.m., Sat. 9 a.m.–4 p.m.

Steamboat Museum
Open May 1 - November 29, 2014
Thursday-Saturday 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
Group Tours by appointment.
Adults: $5.00
Children under 12 and active military free.

Steamboat Era Museum
156 King Carter Dr.
Irvington 438-6888
The museum offers a visual history of the steamboats’ importance to area commerce, culture, social connections and life to small towns along the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries. Dioramas, oral histories, models, artifacts, paintings, photos and audio and interactive components.
The “Welcome Aboard” exhibit features an eight foot cutaway model of the steamer Lancaster. Also featured are vignettes of various rooms such as a typical stateroom, wheelhouse, boiler room, galley and dining room. The exhibit includes a six foot map showing steamboat wharf stops.
Open Thurs.–Sat., 10 a.m.–4 p.m. and Sun., 1–4 p.m. Donation only.

Fort Nonsense
VA-14/John Clayton Memorial Hwy. at the intersection of VA-3. 
Built in 1861 and known as “Fort Nonsense”, this fort was also identified as “Smart’s Mill/North End Mill Fortification”. On the site there is a park area with trails leading through the trees and over the earthen remains of the old Fort.
There are a number of informational posters that tell some of the history of the area and Fort Nonsense.

Gwynn’s Island Museum
1775 Old Ferry Rd.
Gwynn 725-7949
Features an exhibit of the “CINMAR” Discovery—the oldest man-made stone tool found in the Americas. The original stone blade was dated at 20,000 years old and is on display in the Smithsonian Institution. It was dredged from 240 feet of water about 40 miles offshore in the Atlantic Ocean by Mathews scallop boat captain Thurston Shawn in 1970.
Other exhibits include a pre-Civil War Wheeler and Wilson sewing machine and a tableaux depicting the legend of Col. Hugh Gwynn accepting what is now called Gwynn’s Island from Princess Pocahontas in gratitude for saving her life when she fell from her canoe.
Also featured is memorabilia from the 1907 Jamestown Exposition, an extensive display of antique spectacles collected by the late Dr. Wm. H. Gatten, and artifacts from a mid-18th century home site, including glass and pottery shards from the 17th century, a King George III half penny dated 1773, Native American points, pottery and fossils. There also are photos of two barrel wells.
Also on display are items relating to the Black American history of Gwynn’s Island, prehistoric Native Americans, and an extensive history on the life of Captain John Smith and his connection to Gwynn’s Island. There is a 100-plus year old corn sheller, with original red paint and name.
There is a large collection of antique medical instruments from the estate of the late Mathews physician, Dr. James Warren Dorsey Haynes, and the old Grimstead Post Office.
The museum, open 1–5 p.m. each Fri., Sat. and Sun. May–Oct., also has a research library and gift shop.
Admission is free, donations welcome.

Mathews Maritime Museum
482 Main St.
Mathews 725-4444
The museum features memorabilia, artifacts, documents, photos, models, and many memories of time gone by. Long a boat building area of note, Mathews additionally has had its share of local watermen, menhaden fishermen, merchant mariners, US Navy sailors, fish packing houses, boat repair facilities, and marinas. The museum honors the past and works to educate the future about maritime history.
The museum is staffed by volunteers, generally on Fri. and Sat. from Apr.–Nov. from 10–2, or by request for groups. If the “open” flag is flying, you’re invited inside.

Tompkins Cottage
43 Brickbat Rd.
Mathews 725-3487
Near the Mathews Courthouse, is a typical tidewater cottage of the early 1800s. It houses a museum and headquarters of the Mathews Historical Society.
The oldest wooden structure in the courthouse, it was used by Christopher Tompkins as a general store starting in 1816.
The museum houses a permanent exhibit of Mathews history including information on Captain Sally Tompkins, the only woman officer in the Confederate Army. Also included is an area of changing exhibits, a county map, and a sales area offering publications concerning Mathews history and related gift items.
Admission is free. Open Fri. and Sat. from 10 a.m.–1 p.m. through Oct.

Deltaville Maritime Museum and Holly Point Nature Park
287 Jackson Creek Rd.
Deltaville 776-7200
The new museum building is featuring the “John M. Barber’s Chesapeake-50 Years of Maritime Art” exhibition with 58 of Barber’s original paintings on loan from their owners. Also on display are the exhibits: “Civil War in Middlesex 1864,” “Historic buildings of Middlesex”, “What is a Deadrise?”, “Restoration of the F.D. Crockett” and a Family Boatbuilding Week Wright Skiff. Various ships models are also on display. The Museum is open 10 a.m.-4 p.m. daily.
The F. D. Crockett, a 64’ log-bottom buyboat, is at the museum’s pierwalk, along with the Explorer, a 31’ museum built reproduction of the shallop John Smith used in 1608 to explore and map Chesapeake Bay, the custom deadrise “Francis Smith,” and the museum’s restored Deltaville round-sterned deadrise “Cooper Hill.” Also on the pier are a variety of boats typical of those built in Deltaville.
In the newly redesigned park are picnic tables, a sculpture garden, kayak landing, children’s garden and walking trails.
On fourth Saturdays from May through November, the are Farmers’ Markets are held with vendors, free creek cruises and, in the evenings, a Groovin’ in the Park outdoor concert.
The Holly Point Nature Park is open daily, dawn to dusk.
In the park are picnic tables, a sculpture garden, kayak landing, children’s garden and walking trails.
On the fourth Sat. May-Nov. there is a Farmer’s Market with vendors, free creek cruises and, in the evening, a Groovin’ in the Park concert.
The nature park is open daily, dawn to dusk. The museum is open Mon-Fri. 9-5, Sat. 9-1, and Sun. 1-4.

Middlesex County Museum
777 Gen. Puller Hwy.
Saluda 758-3663
As one of the oldest county museums in the state of Virginia, the museum covers over 400 years of local history. Recently remodeled, our expanded exhibits feature a vast array of objects and items not seen together before: fossils and Indian artifacts, 19th Century textiles and clothing, a 1930’s country store, agricultural and industrial tools, historical money, toys and medical instruments. The exhibits contain stories of our past, including our African American history, Civil War, Revolutionary War, WWI, and WWII era, and tales of our most famous local resident, Lt. General “Chesty” Puller, the most decorated Marine in corps history.
The museum has local history books for sale and resource books for the public’s use in the research center.
Open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wed.–Sat.

Old Tobacco Warehouse
Virginia Street
Urbanna 758-2613
The restored James Mill Scottish Factor Store or “Old Tobacco Warehouse” is used as the Urbanna Town Visitor Center. For years, it was thought to have been used to store hogsheads of tobacco. In 1958, The Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities sponsored a study of the building. Historian Wesley Newton Laing’s research revealed that the structure was not a warehouse but, rather, a Scottish Colonial merchant factor store, where tobacco could be traded for finished goods from Europe. (Courtesy of Emily Chowning. Excerpt from “Images of America Urbanna” by Larry S. Chowning)
Fri.–Sun. from 11 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Northern Neck Farm Museum
12705 Northumberland Hwy.
Burgess 761-5952
Luther Welch donated the property and much of the equipment to create a museum to tell the history of farming in the Northern Neck. The big red barn houses a photographic exhibit of farms, an American Indian exhibit and farm equipment such as antique tractors, hand tools, planters, seed hullers and butter churns. Other exhibits include a children’s area and an exhibit on Northern Neck rural electrification.
The gift shop features many items including a first edition collectible tractor and toys. Hours are Sat. 10 a.m.–2 p.m. and Sun. 1–4 p.m. Admission is $2 for adults, $1 for students, and children under 12 are free.

Reedville Fishermen’s Museum
504 Main St.
Reedville 453-6529
The museum offers visitors a glimpse of the rich heritage of the fishermen and watermen of Virginia’s Northern Neck and the Chesapeake Bay.
In addition to the main museum gallery housing its permanent and changing exhibits, the museum features the Pendleton Building with its boat and model workshops and the historic William Walker House.
In the water, the museum showcases the Claud W. Somers, a 42-foot skipjack built in 1911, which offers tours twice monthly, and the Elva C., a 55-foot traditional workboat built in 1922, which offers tours to members.
The museum also offers a gift shop and is open Tues.–Sun. from 10:30 a.m.–4:30 p.m. May through Oct. Admission is $5 for adults, $3 for seniors and free for children under 12.

Rice’s Hotel/Hughlett’s Tavern
73 Monument Place
Heathsville 580-3377
A 1700’s restored Tavern and community square, the site includes a gift shop, foundation office, blacksmith shop, woodworkers shop, spinning and weaving studio and Carriage House. The Transportation Museum Building houses a permanent exhibit of the Chicacoan Oak. The museum also offers a community room for rent and various classes in heritage arts.
Gift Shop: Call for hours. 580-3536. Blacksmith shop hours: Tues., Thurs., Sat. 10 a.m.–3 p.m. Spinning and weaving studio hours: Wed. 10 a.m.–2 p.m.; Sun. 11 a.m.–3 p.m. Quilt Guild hours:  First Tues. of the month, 10 a.m.–2 p.m. Woodworkers studio hours: Fri. 10 a.m.–3 p.m. Restaurant hours, open for lunch and dinner, Thursday - Saturday (11 a.m. to 9 p.m.) and Sunday for lunch (11 a.m. to 3 p.m.), call 580-7900. Tavern Foundation hours: Mon.–Fri. 9 a.m.–noon.

4037 Menokin Rd.
Menokin was built c. 1769. It was the home of Independence signer Francis Lightfoot Lee. A partial ruin, the house provides a unique opportunity to see “behind the walls” of an 18th century mansion.
The King Conservation and Visitors Center provides information on the history of the property and the architectural conservation work going on at Menokin. Hike trails to Cat Point Creek through the Rappahannock River Valley National Wildlife Refuge.
From Apr.–Oct., open Mon.–Sat., 10 a.m.–4 p.m. From Nov.–March, open Mon.–Fri. 10 a.m.–4 p.m. and weekends by appointment.

Richmond County Museum
5874 East Richmond Rd.
Warsaw 333-3607
The museum is in the county’s old jail, which was built in 1872. It includes three galleries, exhibit rooms and an office. The jail’s hanging chamber is also on the second floor.
On permanent display is a scale model of the historic 1748 Richmond County Courthouse, the third oldest courthouse in Virginia, a collection of Forrest Patton photography and an old fashioned country store. Another exhibit features Francis Lightfoot Lee, signer of the Declaration of Independence.
Open Wed.–Sat. from 11 a.m.–3 p.m.

A.T. Johnson Museum
18849 Kings Hwy.
Montross 493-7070
The museum preserves the history and legacy of education for African American students in the Northern Neck, especially in Westmoreland County.
The museum is a depository for collections, artifacts, memorabilia, documents and other items related to education.
Built in 1937 in the Colonial Revival style, A. T. Johnson High School was the first public education facility serving African American students in Westmoreland. The school was named for Armstead Tasker Johnson, a black educator and community leader instrumental in its construction.
Open on Sat.,10 a.m.–2 p.m., Sun., 2 p.m.–4 p.m. and other times by appointment.

George Washington Birthplace National Monument
1732 Popes Creek Rd.
Colonial Beach 224-1732
George Washington is among Westmoreland’s most famous native sons. Commander of the Continental Army, Revolutionary War hero and first President of the United States, he professed to be first and foremost a farmer.
Open to the public 9 a.m.–5 p.m.

James Monroe Birthplace Museum and Visitor Center
4460 James Monroe Hwy.
Colonial Beach 214-9145
Open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays from Memorial Day through Labor Day. Admission is free. A picnic area is on the grounds and a canoe launch is at a dock on Monroe Creek.

Kinsale Museum
449 Kinsale Rd.
Kinsale 472-3001
The museum is dedicated to the preservation, collection, exhibition and interpretation of local history. It’s in a late 19th century barroom, which was used as a meat market in the 1920s; the old Ice Cream Parlor next door is being renovated by the Kinsale Foundation for gallery, library and meeting space. The 1909 Bank of Kinsale building stands just off the green beside the Kinsale Motor Corp. building (1919).
Open Fri. and Sat. from 10 a.m.–5 p.m.

Museum at Colonial Beach
128 Hawthorne St.
Colonial Beach 224-3379
It is housed in the former Hoffman Gas Building (c. 1893).
The museum depicts Colonial Beach heritage through various artifacts. Emphasis is on the period from 1890 through 1958 when the town was a busy river tourism attraction that drew huge summer crowds. 

Westmoreland County Museum and Library
43 Court Square
Montross 493-8440
Believed to be the oldest museum in the Northern Neck, this museum was chartered in 1939 and dedicated in 1941.  It was established to give a permanent home to the life-sized portrait of William Pitt, the Earl of Chatham (1768), painted by Charles Willson Peale and to provide a location for artistic, recreational, and educational facilities.
Permanent exhibits include portraits of Westmoreland County’s historical figures, fossils and native American artifacts. A temporary exhibit, which runs from Oct. through Mar., features “mourning jewelry” as a nod to Halloween.  In addition to these exhibits, the Museum hosts several receptions and lectures each year and houses a history and genealogy research library.
Open Mon.-Sat. from 10 a.m.-4 p.m.  Admission is free. It also serves as the Visitor Center for Westmoreland County.

posted 04.25.2014

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