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.
Founded in 1831, the same year chief justice John Marshall became its first president and former president James Madison its first honorary member, the Virginia Historical Society began amassing books, manuscripts, and historical objects to preserve the state's past. After moving its collections throughout the state during the Civil War, the society finally settled into the Lee House—the wartime home of General Robert E. Lee's family—in 1893 before moving to the Center of Virginia History in 1959.
The society showcases the state's heritage through long-term and temporary exhibitions such as The Story of Virginia, an American Experience, which contains artifacts from 16,000 years of Virginian history (from prehistory to the present) displayed in 10,000 square feet of galleries. Outside of its museum walls, Virginia Historical Society enlightens the public with educational programs and resources, publications, and rare nickels that caught Thomas Jefferson with his eyes closed.
The Virginia Center for Architecture resides in a house befitting its name. The museum is located in the Tudor-revival Branch House, an 11-story mansion complete with a chapel-like studio, long gallery, and vast library. Today, this 1919 home houses exhibitions on Virginia's livable communities, the ruins from the 1769 Menokin site, and a permanent exhibit on the Branch home itself and its architect, John Russell Pope, who also designed the Thomas Jefferson Memorial and the National Archives Building.