The Historic Smithfield Plantation invites visitors to step back into 1774. The house has sheltered the Preston family through the Revolutionary War and the Civil War, and now stands as a document of the past with a home and plantation grounds.
While stationed on Long Island to conduct secret war research for the U.S. government during World War II, O. Winston Link started snapping photographs of the Long Island Railroad tracks behind his lab. Eager to capture large-scale railroad pictures at night, he built his own customized flash equipment. After the war, Link harnessed that creative curiosity by spending five years photographing the Norfolk and Western Railway, the last large steam-powered American railroad. From his 20 trips to the railway's tracks in four states, Link collected 2,400 pictures.
His work didn't garner attention until the 1980s, when he published his first collection of railroad photos in the lauded book Steam, Steel & Stars. The West Virginia Historical Society continues to preserve his legacy with the O. Winston Link Museum, which showcases Link's Norfolk and Western project while filling in its historical context. Throughout seven galleries, patrons hear the sounds of bustling locomotive engines, adjust the lighting of an interactive diorama's photograph, and ogle Link's original photographic equipment, including flashbulbs, power boxes, and super power boxes. The museum underscores its edifying galleries with a plentitude of tours, workshops, and ongoing photography programs.
In the 1850s, the Norfolk & Western Railway made its way to Big Lick, Virginia, transforming the sleepy town into a locomotive hub of the south. The Virginia Museum of Transportation walks visitors through this industrial change with its historic steam and diesel engines, cabooses, model trains, and rail collection, which features more than 50 pieces of rolling stock, including some of the most advanced Roanoke-made steam engines ever built in the Norfolk & Western Class J-611 and Class A-1218. Railway exhibits recount the exploits of the industry’s most renowned names and provide an opportunity for visitors to hop aboard an actual diesel locomotive and complain loudly about the lack of complimentary peanuts. Additional engine-powered attractions include a century’s worth of automobiles and the recently reopened Wings Over Virginia Aviation Gallery collection.
The Avoca Museum & Historical Society was once the site of the Revolutionary-era home of Colonel Charles Lynch and the centerpiece of a sprawling plantation. Today, it houses native artifacts and Civil War memorabilia curated to preserve local history.
The Bedford Museum & Genealogical Library serves as a depository for the history of the region. The museum gathers artifacts and stories from the past, along with genealogical data, into one place where community members can explore their ancestors' origins. Local historians deliver lectures at the museum's regular events, and genealogy classes share tips on how students can research their ancestry both in-person and online.
A bugle boomed with a brash moan that bordered on shrill, as if the metal it was made of were on the verge of shattering like glass. Its player drew a sideward glance to his wife, whose neck was contorted in the throes of a visceral shriek as she slammed a wooden spoon against the tin washbasin. Darkness was giving way to the orange of morning on June 18, 1864, and the Union's Major General David Hunter was presumably within earshot. The clamor of Lynchburg's citizens was their first defense, making the Confederate forces sound larger and stronger than they actually were. It was a smart move, as Hunter eventually retreated because he believed he was outnumbered.
The concise Confederate victory preserved many historical sites in Lynchburg, which had been the United States’ second wealthiest city per capita before the Civil War devastated the economy. Today, the Lynchburg Museum traces the stories of the region, from the cannons and flags of the Civil War to a flight suit worn by hometown astronaut Leland Melvin. More than 20,000 artifacts are housed within the former Lynchburg courthouse, which was built in the Greek Revival style in 1855, replete with architectural details including fluted Doric columns and a pedimented portico inspired by the Parthenon.
Less than a mile away, Point of Honor accommodates guests within the re-created plantation kitchen of the restored Federal-period mansion built in 1815 by Dr. George Cabell Sr., friend to both Patrick Henry and Thomas Jefferson. Guests can peer out at a vista of the James River before exploring the Medicine in Early Virginia exhibit, which highlights tools and methods practiced by Dr. Cabell such as giving patients colds in order to cure their rickets.