Thursday, January 27, 2011

Woodrow Wilson Birthplace

The nation’s 28th president comes to life in a tour of the 12-room Greek Revival Presbyterian manse furnished with items appropriate to the time of his birth here in 1856. As president elect in 1912, Wilson returned to Staunton on his 56th birthday and spent the night in the house in which he was born. The museum next door houses the only presidential library in Virginia, even though eight presidents were born in the state. The museum offers much to learn about the president’s life as a lawyer, college professor, president of Princeton University, U.S. president and peacemaker following World War I, for which he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize as the Founder of the League of Nations (the predecessor of today’s United Nations). His controversial veto of prohibition legislation (congress overrode his veto) and enactment of a national income tax are also explored. On the plus side, his administration gave women the right to vote and established Mother's Day as a national holiday. The terraced boxwood gardens and Wilson’s restored Pierce-Arrow limousine are part of the tour. The automobile has been restored to full working order, and the car traveled to Washington DC for the dedication of the new Woodrow Wilson Bridge on May 15, 2008.

Hours: 9-5 Mon-Sat, noon-5 Sun Mar-Oct; 10-4 Mon-Sat, noon-4 Sun Nov-Feb. Adults $14, Senior/AAA/Active Military $12. 540-885-0897. 18 N. Coalter St.

Wilson was the first lay president of Princeton University.
He was the only president to retire to Washington, DC and is buried in Washington National Cathedral (Episcopal) alongside his second wife, an Episcopalian.
Himself the son of a Presbyterian minister, Wilson's mother and first wife were both daughters of Presbyterian ministers.

Below: Bow knot boxwood garden and gazebo at rear of house. The Wilson family never knew anything like it, because during the short time they were in residence, the rear yard was home to outbuildings, pigs and chickens. The local chapter of the Garden Club of Virginia installed these handsome boxwood gardens in the 1930s; they hired famed Richmond based landscape architect Charles Gillette to design them.

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