Staunton’s Awe-inspiring Churches

Staunton’s awe-inspiring churches are especially splendid during the holiday season with beautiful candle-lit windows, greenery, and of course, special programming. Here are a few reasons why you should make the drive to Staunton to take it all in. 

Tiffany Windows at Trinity Episcopal Church

Staunton’s oldest church dates to 1746 and features 12 Louis Comfort Tiffany windows. Intricately crafted and dating to 1897, the windows include the Benedicite, The Archangel Michael, The Madonna and Child, The Praising Angel, The Good Samaritan, Easter Windows, Angel with a Script, and The Beloved Physician Saint Luke. The oldest, most prominent of the windows are The Ascension Triptych, a series of three windows centered behind the altar. The church is open to visitors Monday-Friday from 1 pm-4 pm.

Special Events:

– December 31: Playing of the Merry Organ with Ben Fairfield, trumpet

> The Trinity Episcopal Church Self-Guided Tour of Windows and Furnishings Guide

 

Gothic Revival Architecture at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church

St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church was the first major design by architect T. J. Collins, built in 1895. One of the most beautiful buildings in Staunton, St. Francis is a beacon for the faithful and those who love architecture. The parish website explains the architecture: “… the spiritual goal of Gothic revival architecture is to lead the beholder to mystically reach towards the heights of Heaven …” Collins called it “English Gothic.” Whatever anyone chooses to call it, we call it captivating. Before you come, take a virtual tour of the church to truly appreciate the distinctive  architecture, stained glass windows, various church furnishings, and the liturgical excellence of St. Francis Church. 

Special Events:

– December 12: Advent Penance Service, 7 p.m.
– December 24: Christmas Youth Choir performs prior to 5 p.m. Vigil Mass

> Tour of St. Francis of Assisi Church

 

Glorious Arches at First Presbyterian Church

When you look upon the facade of First Presbyterian Church on Frederick Street, the first things you’re likely to notice are the three large entry arches and complimentary stained glass arch soaring above them. It’s an impressive sight. Historical tidbit: The 28th President of the United States of America was baptized in this beautiful church led by his father, Reverend Joseph Ruggles Wilson. That’s Thomas Woodrow Wilson, if you need a refresher. The church manse where Wilson was born is now part of the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library and Museum campus. And here’s a fun fact: the basin used to baptize the would-be President of the United States is still in use today. 

> History of Staunton First Presbyterian Church

Staunton’s First African-American Church: Allen Chapel A.M.E. Church

Organized in 1865, Allen Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church was the first church in Staunton and west of the Blue Ridge Mountains established by people of color. The church body met at various locations for a number of years until 20 members of the congregation secured the original 1868 building site at 921 West Beverley Street. In 1997, Allen Chapel A.M.E. Church moved to a more accessible location at 936 Sudbury Street. You’re welcome to drive past the original 1868 site, but it is now a private residence.

> Our History, Allen Chapel A.M.E. Church

Dive a little further into our beautiful downtown by getting to know our five historic districts. They’re all stunning during the holiday season and beyond. Consult the Calendar of Events to plan your next trip to Staunton and see our list of other holiday happenings taking place

Four Unique Staunton Stays

 

Break away from the traditional lodging molds of hotels and B&Bs (not that we don’t ADORE ours, of course), and try these fun, surprising, quirky Staunton stays instead.

Staunton is home to the American Shakespeare Center’s Blackfriars Playhouse. Such an attraction requires occasional plays on words, don’t you think? Enter “The Bard’s Nest,” an accommodation within walking distance of the Playhouse. If you didn’t know, William Shakespeare was known as “The Bard,” a professional story-teller. Welcome to what he might have enjoyed, were he a 21st century fellow.

The Bard’s Nest is a very cozy, comfortable arrangement for a solo traveler or a couple. Guests should not smoke, bring children or pets, or anticipate wheelchair access, as “the nest” is on the second floor. Natural light and vaulted ceilings make the space quite inviting. Equipped with a refrigerator, stove, and additional comforts of home, you may want to extend your stay.

The Bard’s Nest

The Storefront was literally a store front, and it’s also your next favorite Staunton stay. Affectionately called “a very small hotel,” The Storefront accommodation begins at street level where you’re likely surprised to find a bar right inside the front door. Yes, BYOB and make yourself at home! Climb the stairs to the second floor where a full kitchen and “the most comfortable queen-size bed in town” awaits.

Above Aioli, the best Mediterranean restaurant in Staunton, is Bella Inn, two studio suites with an abundance of natural light flooding in. Suite One features a king bed, full kitchen, spiral staircase to a loft with a daybed and washer and dryer, and comfortable appointments. Suite Two also boasts a king bed and full kitchen, but trades the loft for a private patio with skyline views. You’ll want to think a while before making your suite choice at Bella Inn.

The Villages Penthouse is a vast industrial accommodation with comfortable touches; a fashionable blend of textures. Wide open space divided only by black steel beams and a curtain for bedroom privacy lets light flood the main living areas. Lots of people can rest here and enjoy the rooftop patio views. It’s an amazing place to grill a fresh steak or burgers!

The Lofts at the Villages

Looking for more cozy places to stay in Staunton? See the options!

Staunton Architecture: Gospel Hill

The beautiful name Gospel Hill comes from the sounds ringing out from Sampson Eagon’s blacksmith shop. 1700s religious meetings occurred in Eagon’s shop, and of course, that included singing. Gospel Hill Historic District is on the National Register of Historic Places and is home to grand old trees and grander homes.

238 E. Beverley Street is a beautiful 1840s home that was remodeled by T. J. Collins in 1915. Of additional interest: the home sits on the site of Sampson Eagon’s blacksmith shop; the place where Gospel Hill got its name.

“Oakdene”

An elaborate Queen Anne called “Oakdene” sits at 605 E. Beverley Street. It was built in 1893 by Virginia Lieutenant Governor Edward Echols and features an owl atop its turret.

Civil War mapmaker Jed Hotchkiss added an elaborate addition to the ca. 1840 house at 437 E. Beverley Street in 1888. He called the home “The Oaks.”

“The Oaks”

Kalorama is a street name in Gospel Hill, but it’s also the name of the beautiful home at 19 S. Market Street. While a private residence now, the home has seen use as a hotel, girls school, and a public library over the years since its 1810 construction.

An unusual style, certainly for Staunton, is the 1891 Richardsonian Romanesque home standing at 215 Kalorama Street. T. J. Collins designed it for the City Treasurer, Arista Hogue. The home’s date and the initial A.H. are carved into one of the stones on the façade. This home is the only one of its style in Staunton.

You learned about the First Presbyterian Church and its architectural and historical significance to Staunton, Virginia, and the United States. The church campus initially included a manse – the home of the minister. That manse is now known as the Woodrow Wilson Birthplace. It was built in 1846 in Greek Revival style. It features 12 rooms; in one of the, Thomas Woodrow Wilson was born on December 28, 1856. Wilson went on to become America’s 28th President.

There are at least 12 more sites within Gospel Hill of historic significance marked in the Historic Staunton Foundation walking tour map. Be sure to pick up a copy from their office at the R. R. Smith Center or check out their Flickr Account for a “virtual tour” of Gospel Hill. 

And while you’re here, be sure and visit some of the other historic districts in downtown Staunton:
Beverley District
Wharf District 
Newtown District 
Stuart Addition 

Staunton Architecture: Stuart Addition

Stuart Addition Historic District is named for Judge Archibald Stuart, a wealthy, influential resident who deeded the area to the city in 1803. Mary Baldwin University if located within this historic district, as are notable historic churches.

First Presbyterian Church

Augusta Female Seminary was founded in 1842, but you know it today as Mary Baldwin University. The large Greek Revival building on campus dates to 1844 and was built to meet the needs of the growing school. The building is often the backdrop for photos; take one there yourself.

The Presbyterian congregation in Staunton predates the First Presbyterian Church at 100 E. Frederick Street. Fellowship of congregants began in 1804 and their first house of worship was built in 1818. The church you see today is their second: a Romanesque Revival with a tall white spire. It was dedicated in 1872.

An interesting bit of extra history about First Presbyterian: Reverend Joseph Ruggles Wilson was at the pulpit when his son Thomas Woodrow Wilson was born in 1856. The basin used to baptize the would-be President of the United States is still in use.

The Catholic Church is at home at St. Francis of Assisi Parish, a commanding Gothic Revival designed by none other than T. J. Collins, a parishioner, and built in 1895. The church was Collins’ first major commission in Staunton. 

Formerly the Old YMCA

In our article about the Beverley Historic District we introduced you to a one-time YMCA the locals refer to as the clock tower. In Stuart Addition Historic District, we have another one-time YMCA for your interest. The Renaissance Revival at 41 N. Augusta was built as a YMCA in 1914. The estate of Cyrus McCormick, the inventor of the mechanical reaper, donated $50,000 toward its completion. Today the Y is a series of quirky lofts – the Old Y Lofts – that include nostalgic pieces of the building’s original use. In one loft, a bed platform is actually the old stage. In another, a fun trap door leads into the old pool, which is now a wine cellar. Fun, huh?!

There are at least 13 more sites within Stuart Addition of historic significance marked in the Historic Staunton Foundation walking tour map. Be sure to pick up a copy from their office at the R. R. Smith Center or check out their Flickr Account for a “virtual tour” of Stuart Addition.

And while you’re here, be sure and visit some of the other historic districts in downtown Staunton:
Beverley District
Wharf District 
Newtown District 

Staunton Architecture: Newtown Historic District

If you suppose that Newtown is so named to distinguish it from what was once known as Oldtown, you’re right. Newtown is Staunton’s oldest residential neighborhood and home to significant landmarks.

Trinity Episcopal Church
Trinity Episcopal Church

Staunton’s oldest church is Trinity Episcopal, built in 1855 in Neo-Gothic style. It’s actually the third house of worship on the site; the first was built in 1763. Trinity is a must-see when you’re in Staunton. One dozen Louis Comfort Tiffany stained glass windows grace the space with The Ascension Triptych (dated 1897) believed to be the first installed.

Companion buildings on the Trinity campus include the 1872 Parish House of Gothic Revival style, and the Trinity Rectory (also 1872) in Jacobean Revival style, a rare architectural gem in this area.

From Trinity Church emerged Emmanuel Episcopal Church, an 1894 Gothic Revival designed by T. J. Collins. The interior is no longer exactly what he planned, as church traditions and needs evolved to dictate a shift in floor plan. If you pay a visit, you won’t be able to ignore the soaring vaulted ceiling with its delicate details.

Beverley Street School Studio

Built in 1887, the Stonewall Jackson School was Staunton’s first permanent public school. In 1912, President Woodrow Wilson reviewed a parade in his honor from the front of the school. In 1913, T. J. Collins directed a remodeling of it. Today the school building is a school of a different sort. The Beverley Street Studio School occupies the first floor.

The 1792 Smith Thompson House at 701 W. Beverley Street is an original log home and one of Staunton’s last 18th century structures.  It was built by Revolutionary War soldier, Smith Thompson, a barber who showcased a razor he said he used to shave George Washington. The left side of the house is an addition to the right and sits on a stone foundation. It was appended in 1870.

There are at least 13 more sites of historic significance marked in the Historic Staunton Foundation walking tour map. Be sure to pick up a copy from their office at the R. R. Smith Center or check out their Flickr Account for a “virtual tour” of Newtown Historic District

And while you’re here, be sure and visit some of the other historic districts in downtown Staunton:

Staunton Architecture: The Five Historic Districts

As you look upward at Staunton’s buildings, you’re obviously looking at the handiwork of many men. Yet, one family of men contributed to the look and style of most of what you see. Architect T. J. Collins, his sons Will and Sam, and his grandson Joseph Johnson left an indelible mark on the architecture of the Queen City.

Take a mini tour of the five historic districts in honor of Virginia Architecture Week.

historic beverley District

The center of downtown Staunton is the Beverley Historic District, an area found on the National Register of Historic Places. The buildings here date between the 1870s and 1920s, with one as old as 1830. That building is home to Cranberry’s Grocery & Eatery on S. New Street. Its previous uses include life as a laundry facility, taxi garage, print shop, and tailor’s studio. As you look up at the building, note the original stone still exposed on either side.

Perhaps Staunton’s most recognizable architectural feature is the clock tower at the corner of Beverley Street and Central Avenue, city center. The building and tower date to 1890 and originally housed the YMCA and all its athletic space. Indeed, a bowling alley, gym and track resided behind those walls! Today the first floor is the Clocktower Eats & Sweets and the Clock Tower Convenience Store.

If the clock tower is Staunton’s most recognizable architectural gem, the 1896 Masonic Temple is the most imposing. Rising high above the rest of the skyline, the gable roof is quickly identifiable. In addition to its life as a Masonic Temple, the building houses Baja Bean Co., The Split Banana Co., and H. L. Lang & Co. Jewelers.

Stained Glass Skylight in the National Valley Bank

 The T. J. Collins-designed National Valley Bank building on West Beverley Street was built in 1903 and is quite distinct from other buildings in Staunton. It’s of the Beaux-Arts style and features ornate exterior carved limestone. The 10′ x 34′ stained glass skylight is the highlight inside!

One of the most beautiful buildings on New Street is the old Eakleton Hotel, now the R. R. Smith Center for History & Art. Designed by T. J. Collins in the French Second Empire style, the building boasts a series of three ornate iron balconies, arches, and mansard roof. The original windows are still intact in this 1894 structure that now houses the Staunton Augusta Art Center, the Augusta County Historical Society, and Historic Staunton Foundation.

Beverley Cigar Store

We’d be remiss to tell you about T. J. Collins and identify some of his genius without telling you where he drew his plans. On the Corner of Beverley and Augusta Streets is the distinguishable Marquis Building, notable for its rounded corner entrance and stone columns. The style is Romanesque Revival and the building is now home to the Beverley Cigar Store.

One of the youngest buildings in the Beverley Historic District is The Stonewall Jackson Hotel with its iconic neon sign atop the roof. The Colonial Revival was built in 1924 for $750,000, which would be close to a cool $10.5 million today. For perspective, 2005 hotel restoration, renovation and expansion came in at $21.5 million. Indeed, its the beauty that awaits inside that deserves nearly all of the attention. For example, guests are treated to a 1924 Wurlitzer Organ, believed to be the only remaining one of its kind. Additionally, the marble floors have been restored, and original features like the chandeliers and sconces remain in use.

Visit the R. R. Smith Center to pick up your copy of “A Self-Guided Tour of Staunton’s Historic Districts” at the Historic Staunton Foundation for more information on the Beverley Street Historic District and its 10 other notable buildings. Or to complete your virtual tour check out the Historic Staunton Foundation’s Flickr Account and see the other architectural treasures unique to downtown Staunton.

Check back each day as we continue our series on the Historic Districts of Staunton.

Beverley Historic District