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 

Presidents Day in a President’s City

President Woodrow Wilson’s visit to Staunton

Presidents Day is February 20. Staunton is a presidential city as the birthplace of the 28th President of the United States, Woodrow Wilson.

His Presidential Library and Museum is celebrating the day with free admission for children and students when accompanied by a parent. Visitors on the 20th will be able to tour the Presbyterian Manse (Wilson’s birthplace) with a guide. Interpreters representing 1856 will bring the time period to life and share their knowledge of the Wilson family.

Self-guided tours of the museum include galleries, his 1919 Pierce-Arrow limousine, and an interactive re-creation of a World War I trench.

An additional treat for Presidents Day is a free lecture at 2 p.m. by Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library CEO Robin von Seldeneck. The event is part of an ongoing series commemorating the 100th anniversary of World War I.

Around Staunton

After you’ve toured the Presidential Library and Museum, head to Lewis Creek Market on Church Street for some “Presidential Favorites.” It’s a happy hour, of sorts, that includes wine, beer, and cider to please any president’s palate. The educational tasting is free, and occurs from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m.


What Would Woodrow Wilson Drink on Presidents Day? Or would he drink at all?

Wilson was president when the Eighteenth Amendment was ratified in 1919. If you’re rusty on the Constitution, this is the entry involving alcohol. Specifically, the prohibition of it. The Prohibition Era lasted until the Eighteenth Amendment was repealed in 1933. That’s 14 years of homemade white lightnin’ and hooch for the citizens of the good ol’ US of A, but what did President Wilson do? Did the dude abide?

According to Mark Will-Weber’s 2014 article, Wilson’s drink of choice was Scotch. Simon Ford, in his article for, suggests Wilson “stashed away supplies so that he could mix his favorite libations in secret.” Fact or fiction? Visit the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library and Museum to pose the question to the pros. Presidents Day seems like a perfect time to do so. 

>> Learn More About Woodrow Wilson

Celebrating President Woodrow Wilson’s 160th Birthday

Woodrow Wilson

On December 28, 1856, Thomas Woodrow Wilson was the third child and first boy born to a Presbyterian minister and English mother. Though he was delivered at home in the Presbyterian Manse on North Coalter Street in Staunton, Virginia, “Tommy” lived in Virginia less than a year before his family moved to Augusta, Georgia.

On December 28, 2016, you’re invited to honor and celebrate the life and legacy of President Woodrow Wilson at the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library and Museum in Staunton, Virginia. The 160th birthday celebration will include special guests, free admission, light refreshments, delightful entertainment, and activities for children.

“Schoolmaster in Politics”

Wilson was a well educated man who attended what is now Princeton University, the University of Virginia School of Law, and Johns Hopkins University. His career was in academia and he eventually found himself President of Princeton University (1902). Leadership suited him and he became the Governor of New Jersey (1910) before serving two terms as the 28th President of the United State of America (1913-1921).

The road was not easy for Wilson, a progressive reformer. For example, “When the trustees of Princeton tapped Wilson as the new president of the university in 1902, they expected reform not revolution.”1 Though he may have rocked the boat a bit, Wilson pushed for peace more often than not. His most notable peace efforts surrounded the Great War (World War I). His initial position kept the United States neutral in the war until Germany’s repeated U-boat attacks in the Atlantic forced a stand. Wilson wrote his “14 Points” to peace, which led to the Treaty of Versailles and the establishment of the League of Nations, a forerunner to the United Nations.2

Wilson’s efforts to put peace first won him the Nobel Peace Prize in 1920. Wilson died February 3, 1924.

Significant moments under the Wilson Presidency

  • Ratification of the 17th (popular election of U.S. Senators), 18th (Prohibition), and 19th (women’s right to vote) Amendments to the Constitution
  • Completion and opening of the Panama Canal
  • Establishment of the Federal Reserve Act, the Federal Trade Commission, and the National Park Service
  • Recognition of Mother’s Day as the second Sunday of May
  • First transcontinental phone call between Alexander Graham Bell and Dr. Thomas A. Watson
  • Appointment of the first Jewish Supreme Court Justice
  • First woman elected to the House of Representatives
  • Declaration of war on Germany on April 6, 1917
  • Creation of Treaty of Versaille and League of Nations

To better understand Wilson’s presidential and post-presidential life, visit the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library and Museum in Staunton. You’ll find engaging exhibits and Wilson’s restored 1919 Pierce-Arrow Limousine.

Upcoming Events at the Library