The White House of the Confederacy constituted the social, political, and military headquarters of Confederate States of America President Jefferson Davis during the Civil War. Later named a National Historic Landmark, the building still stands today. Daily guided tours lead guests through the grand 19th-century structure, which houses more than half its original wartime furnishings.
The White House is only steps away from The Museum of the Confederacy's Richmond location, where a core exhibit chronicles the Confederacy from its beginnings to General Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox. Opened 25 years after that fateful event, the nonprofit museum displays artifacts from a collection of more than 15,000 items. They include Stonewall Jackson's sword, a letter from Pope Pius IX, and all the pennies Jefferson Davis etched his face onto in his spare time.
Meanwhile, another 400 artifacts adorn the permanent exhibit at the museum's Appomattox location. Here, a dozen audiovisual stations, parole lists, and the uniform coat worn by Lee illustrate the event that brought the Civil War to a close.
Edgar Allan Poe holds a distinguished reputation in American literature, given his proclivity for dark work, such as “The Raven” and “The Tell-Tale Heart.” But the Poe of legend is often at odds with the real Poe: the student who had to gamble and burn his furniture to make it through college; the career man who traveled extensively to find better opportunities; and the devoted husband who never recovered from the death of his wife. He even enrolled at West Point … though he was thrown out eight months later.
The Poe Museum educates guests on the writer's life, helping them reconcile the reputed Poe with the real Poe. Located within the Old Stone House that lies just blocks from Poe's first Richmond home and his first employer, the Southern Literary Messenger, the museum showcases exhibits and significant artifacts, such as Poe's walking stick, his boyhood bed, and even a lock of his hair. This collection reveals his journey, showing what drove him to become a master writer of short stories, lyric poetry, action-movie screenplays, and, of course, horror stories.
Having stood its ground against those who wanted to tear it down, Wilton House serves as a symbol of the Colonial American spirit in more ways than one. Built in 1753 as the main house on a 2,000-acre plantation, the structure serves as a steadfast example of Georgian architecture. It’s the home of more than 1,400 17th-, 18th-, and 19th-century objects and artifacts, including documents signed by founding fathers and US presidents. Wilton even played host to the likes of Thomas Jefferson, the Marquis de Lafayette, George Washington, and George Washington’s white-wig-wearing foxhound. In addition to daily tours, the museum staff hosts events, such as lecture series, concerts, and seasonal exhibits.
The Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia tunes brain waves to more artistic frequencies with its exhibitions, artifacts, and art pieces all created by African Americans. Situated in an ornately adorned house built in the early 19th century, the museum features works by accomplished artists, such as the vibrant abstract art of Sam Gilliam, Harlem Renaissance murals by John Biggers, and P.H. Polk's iconic photography, as well as textiles and artifacts from various ethnic groups throughout Africa. Check the museum's calendar to align your schedule with ongoing events and rotating exhibitions.
The Cultural Arts Center devotes its 50,300-square-foot facility to preserving and kindling the artistic flame, bringing in unique performers, conducting one-of-a-kind workshops, and purveying local and specialty goods. Experience the Fab Four infused with bluegrass, jazz, and classical with April 8 tickets to beatlegras ($25 per ticket), a string-picking Beatles-covering trio that proves that John and Paul's differences would have been best resolved with dueling banjos. Bring the family on May 14 to listen to ventriloquist comedian Lynn Trefzger throw her voice around the spacious, resonant theater with her madcap, audience-interactive lip-schtick ($15 per ticket). The gift card can also be used toward facility rentals for anything from a royal wedding reception in the cardinal ballroom to the rehearsal studio where Dirty Dancing and tumbling routines are perfected (price and availability vary).
Plenty of utensils and wares decorated tables in 18th-century America, but only a few became a symbol of protest during the Revolution, one of them was the teapot. It's these subtle traces of cultural change that take center stage in the permanent and temporary exhibits at DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum. Here, developments in civilian and military infantry, such as ignition systems and muzzle-loading firearms, signal the progress of 18th-century weaponry, while 1690s-1820s furniture from New England through the Mid-Atlantic highlight developing cultural and regional trends.
Though a bulk of the museum's collection—including one of the biggest assortments of British ceramics outside England—was mainly used in the home, some objects were designed for outside the domestic sphere. An original fire engine built in the mid-18th century stands unscathed by flames, and a collection of medals made for George Washington honors the time he beat up that cherry tree. Scholars delve deeper into these and other artifacts during lectures held in Hennage Auditorium.