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Winchester/Frederick County: History and attractions

The Winchester- Frederick County area was first inhabited by Indians. As English-speaking people from the piedmont moved west and German settlers migrated from Philadelphia and Lancaster, the Indian Path became the Great Wagon Road (now Route 11) and the Indians moved westward.

Old Frederick County, named after the Prince of Wales, was created from western Orange County in 1738. It was so large that it included the present-day Virginia counties of Clarke, Frederick, Page, Shenandoah, Warren, and the West Virginia Counties of Berkeley, Grant, Hampshire, Hardy, Jefferson, Mineral, and Morgan.

Winchester, the first town chartered west of the Blue Ridge Mountains, was originally named Frederick Town after Frederick, father of George III of England. James Wood laid out the town's earliest lots in 1744, and eight years later, he changed the town's name to Winchester in honor of his birthplace, Winchester, England.

In 1748, Thomas, the Sixth Lord Fairfax and proprietor of more than five million acres of land, hired young George Washington to survey the Northern Neck of Virginia, including Old Frederick County. Washington's rustic surveying office, now a museum, still stands at the corner of Cork and Braddock Streets in downtown Winchester. A stirring statue of young Washington as a surveyor can be seen in the yard. Lord Fairfax's tomb, located in the courtyard of Christ Episcopal Church, is just blocks away.

George Washington's military and political careers began in Winchester and Frederick County. During the French and Indian War, he directed the building of Fort Loudoun in Winchester and supervised military operations from the log and stone building he used while surveying the area. Fort Loudoun's well and some earthworks have been preserved and are visible at the headquarters of the French and Indian War Foundation, 419 N. Loudoun Street.

In 1758, on the public square now occupied by the 1840 Court House, George Washington was elected Frederick County's representative to the House of Burgesses. Commemorative plaques on the exterior of the antebellum Old Frederick County Courthouse, a State and National Landmark, offer a detailed interpretation of the election.

Revolutionary War General Daniel Morgan, whose 96 sharpshooters from Frederick County fought at the Battles of Quebec and Cowpens, is buried in Winchester. A bronze statue of Morgan stands at the Old Stone Presbyterian Church, where he attended services while residing in Winchester.

Winchester's strategic location brought four years of trauma and turmoil to her citizens during the Civil War. According to diarist Julia Chase, the town changed hands more than 70 times, 13 times in one day. Women were banished from town, men were taken as hostages and buildings were burned. At least six major battles were fought in Frederick County and after each clash, churches, public buildings and many homes were used as hospitals. In the Old Frederick County Court House, which served as both a hospital and a prison, prisoner graffiti scrawled on the walls can be seen today. The building is home to the Old Court House Civil War Museum, open year-round. A bronze statue of a Confederate infantryman was unveiled in 1916 in front of the courthouse and serves as a major tourist attraction.

A Civil War Orientation Center is located in the Winchester-Frederick County Visitor Center,1400 S. Pleasant Valley Road. An interactive kiosk and brief film introduce visitors and residents alike to Civil War sites within the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation National Historic District. Nineteen Civil War Trail signs, posted throughout the community, interpret troop movements and battles of that stirring time.

Gen. Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson spent the winter of 1861-1862 in Winchester and the home he used as his office is also a popular museum. Among other structures long associated with the war are: Sheridan's Headquarters, The Taylor Hotel, The Cannonball House, The National Cemetery, The Philip Williams House, and the Stonewall Cemetery, which contains the remains of 3,423 Confederate soldiers. Several core battlefield sites such as Kernstown, Cedar Creek and Fort Collier have been preserved and offer various forms of interpretation such as reenactments and walking tours.

Following Reconstruction, tremendous economic growth occurred throughout the city and the county. By the early 20th century, a huge rise in apple production and processing earned the area a new distinction - Apple Capitol of the World. A sign on the Winchester Cold Storage proclaimed it to be the "Largest Apple Storage in the World." To boost tourism, the first Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival was held in Winchester in 1924. The annual spring event, held the first weekend of May, continues to draw throngs of people to Winchester and Frederick County.

Some Winchester-Frederick County natives who gained national or world recognition include Pulitzer Prize-winning author Willa Cather; James W. Denver, for whom Denver, Colo. is named; country music star Patsy Cline, whose home is the area's newest tourist attraction, drawing visitors from around the world; and Admiral Richard Evelyn Byrd, the first man to fly over the North and South poles. Jazz great John Kirby was a native of Winchester, as was Spottswood Poles, a famous baseball outfielder.

Other venues that offer historical interpretation of the area include the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley, a 50,000-square-foot museum open daily year-round except Monday; Belle Grove Plantation, an 18th-century estate and museum located south of Middletown; The Stone House Foundation, a series of historical buildings in Stephens City; the Handley Regional Library and Stewart Bell Archives; Fort Shenandoah, home range of the North-South Skirmish Association; and Mount Hebron Cemetery with tombstones and ruins of the German Lutheran Church that date to the 18th century.

Winchester is the oldest city west of the Blue Ridge Mountains. It was founded in 1744 by Colonel James Wood of England, and was incorporated as a city in 1874. The town was originally named Frederick Town after Frederick, father of George III of England. In 1752, the name was changed to Winchester in honor of the ancient English capital.

Winchester is home to Shenandoah University, a private school that offers numerous cultural opportunities to residents and visitors alike.

Old Town Winchester is one of Virginia's first designated Main Street Communities, and its two-block pedestrian mall is the first one of its kind in Virginia. In Old Town, visitors can dine alfresco, discover unique shops, see centuries-old architecture, and explore museums and other points-of-interest. Shenandoah Valley Discovery Museum, George Washington's Office Museum, Old Court House Civil War Museum, and Stonewall Jackson's Office Museum are located in Old Town. Museum of the Shenandoah Valley is blocks away.

Winchester is home to the Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival, a popular week-long springtime celebration that features two parades, a carnival, band competitions, a circus, celebrities, dances, Weekend in the Park, and more for the entire family. Every New Year's Eve, the city hosts First Night Winchester, a celebration of the arts that includes dozens of live performances, and the famous "Apple Drop" at midnight, followed by a fireworks exhibit.

Walking/biking paths, picnic shelters, playgrounds, outdoor movies and musical performances, farmers' markets, disc golf, ball games, tennis courts, "First Fridays" and more are outdoor recreational and culture activities in this vibrant city. Guided Civil War walking tours of Old Town are offered the first and third Fridays at 6:00 pm, June through October. More information about the City of Winchester is available at www.winchesterva.gov., www.oldtownwinchesterva.com and www.winva.com.

Frederick County

Millions of Americans can trace their heritage to Frederick County. During the 1730s, Frederick County was the destination of early settlers - newly arrived English, Scots, Irish, and German immigrants who came south from Pennsylvania in search of good, cheap farmland. Frederick County today offers a wealth of opportunities for genealogists and historians. The Frederick County Clerk's Records were never lost or burned; they cover 1743 to the present!

Frederick County has Civil War battlefields, Winchester Speedway, Winchester Regional Airport, Wilson's Wild Animal Park, and Rock Harbor Golf Course. Horseback riding, swimming, hiking, fishing, go carts, batting cages, paddle boats, and ball games are among its popular outdoor sports.

Family owned farmers' markets, featuring locally grown fruits, vegetables and meats, can be found throughout the county. Other horticultural entrepreneurs, who open their farms to the public, include owners of Christmas tree farms, pumpkin patches, daylilies, and garden centers. Each year, the County hosts peach, apple, and pumpkin festivals, Virginia Gourd Society Festival, National Competitions of the North-South Skirmish Association, and the Frederick County Fair. Held throughout December in Clear Brook Park, Walking in a Winter Wonderland is an outdoor light show you don't want to miss.

Frederick County's stately antebellum courthouse with its huge white pillars, is now home to the Old Court House Civil War Museum - a repository for 3,000 Civil War artifacts. The statue of a Confederate Soldier, standing guard outside, is the most photographed point-of-interest in the area. For more information about Frederick County, visit www.co.frederick.va.us or www.winva.com

Stephens City
Stephens City, a small but vibrant Frederick County incorporated town located about 5 miles south of Winchester, is the second oldest town in the Shenandoah Valley. It was originally named Stephensburgh, and later became Newtown. During the late 18th and early 19th century, the town was renowned for its production of wagons. Situated as it is on present-day Rt. 11 - formerly known as the old Valley Turnpike or the Great Wagon Road - town inhabitants have witnessed the movement of travelers for over 250 years.

Architecture of the town provides interest and diversity with 18th, 19th, 20th and 21st century buildings lining the streets. The Newtown History Center, a museum and repository on Main Street, features historical displays, and focuses on the long history of the town. Likewise, the Newtown Heritage Festival, held every Memorial Day Weekend, celebrates the culture and history of the town. Guided Civil War Walking Tours are offered by the Newtown History Center at 10:30 am on the 4th Saturday of every month, June through October.

Other attractions near Stephens City include Rinker Orchards, Sherando Park, and The Inn at Vaucluse, a 15-room bed and breakfast getaway surrounded by a large limestone spring. More information is available at www.stephenscity.vi.virginia.gov and www.newtownhistorycenter.org.

Middletown, located about 10 miles south of Winchester, is a quaint Frederick County incorporated town that has hosted travelers for more than 200 years.

Attractions include Wayside Theatre, Cedar Creek Battlefield, Belle Grove Plantation, and the Cedar Creek/Belle Grove National Historic Park, Middletown is also the home of Lord Fairfax Community College.

Guided Civil War Walking Tours of Middletown and Cedar Creek are offered by National Historic Park Rangers during the summer and fall. Annual events include July 4th festivities, the Re-enactment of the Battle of Cedar Creek, and "Of Ale and History" Beer Festival. More information about Middletown is available at www.middletownva.gov.


Abram's Delight Museum
1340 South Pleasant Valley Road
Winchester, VA 22601
(540) 662-6519
Winchester's oldest home features art, antiques, a log cabin, and a mill. Open daily April-October for guided tours; Monday-Saturday 10-4;
Sunday 12-4. $

Belle Grove Plantation
363 Belle Grove Road
Middletown, VA 22645
(540) 869-2028
This authentic 1797 Manor House
was at the center of the Battle of
Cedar Creek, and is now a National
Trust for Historic Preservation site.
Open April-October for guided tours.
Monday-Saturday 10-4;
Sunday 1-5. $

Cedar Creek Battlefield
8437 Valley Pike
Middletown, VA 22645
(540) 869-2064 or (540) 465-5884
Largest battle in the Shenandoah Valley. Thousands of re-enactors
commemorate the pivotal battle every October.

Cedar Creek & Belle Grove
National Historical Park
National Park Service Visitor Contact Station
Opening April 13, 2013
7712 Main Street
Middletown, VA 22645
(540) 868-3051
Displays & exhibits; orientation to the park & partner sites.
Open daily 8:30-4:30
A free podcast tour covering the Battle of Cedar Creek is also
available. Check the website
frequently for more information.

Civil War Orientation Center/Winchester-Frederick County
Visitors Center

1400 S. Pleasant Valley Road
Winchester, VA 22601
(540) 542-1326
A video presentation, interactive
kiosk, brochures, and travel
counselors are ready to assist with your Civil War journey. Open daily 9-5 except major holidays.

Feltner Museum
9 Court Square
Winchester, VA 22601
An eclectic collection of oil paintings, oil lamps, beer steins, bank memorabilia, and much more. Call for hours.

Frederick County Parks and Recreation
107 N. Kent Street
Winchester, VA 22601
(540) 665-5678
Sherando Park, in the south-end of the county, and Clear Brook Park,
in the north-end of the county, offers swimming pools, hiking trails, picnic shelters, fishing lakes, paddle boats, ball fields, disc golf, and more.

French and Indian War Foundation
Dedicated to preserving the memory of Col. George Washington's frontier fort. See signage at 419 N. Loudoun Street, Winchester.

George Washington's Office Museum

32 West Cork Street
Winchester, VA 22601
(540) 662-4412
On display are Washington's personal effects, survey equipment, and interactive exhibits. Open April-October. Monday-Saturday
10-4; Sunday 12-4. $

Godfrey Miller Historic Home And Fellowship Center
28 South Loudoun Street
Winchester, VA 22601
(540) 667-5869
Circa 1785 Miller Family Home,
completely restored. Free tours.

Handley Regional Library Stewart Bell Archives
100 West Piccadilly Street
Winchester, VA 22601
(540) 662-9041 ext. 17
Genealogical and historical
collection includes books,
manuscripts, ephemera, maps,
photographs, and more. Call or check website for hours.

Kernstown Battlefield Association

610 Battle Park Drive
Winchester, VA 22601
(540) 869-2896
315 acres of green space,
walking tours and a visitor center.
May-October, Saturday 10-4,
Sunday 12-4.

Mount Hebron Cemetery
305 East Boscawen Street
Winchester, VA 22601
(540) 662-4868
Winchester's community cemetery
with grave stones dating to 1760's.
Open daily from dawn to dusk.

Museum of the Shenandoah Valley
901 Amherst Street
Winchester, VA 22601
(888) 556-5799
Museum and six acres of spectacular gardens. Galleries tell the Valley's story and display special exhibitions, regional decorative arts, miniatures, and European and American fine and decorative arts. Café and Museum Store, too. Open year-round Tuesday-Sunday, 10-4. (Gardens open April-October) $

Newtown History Center
5408 Main Street
Stephens City, VA 22655
(540) 869-1700
Discover the history of a 270
year old frontier settlement, the wagon industry, craftsmen, and key Civil War conflicts. Open June-
November. Please call or see website for hours. December-May by
appointment. $

Old Court House Civil War Museum
20 North Loudoun Street
Winchester, VA 22601
(540) 542-1145
This antebellum courthouse served as a hospital and prison during the Civil War. See graffiti on the walls and over 3,000 war artifacts. Gift shop. Open year-round Wednesday-Saturday 10-5, Sunday 1-5, Check website for summer schedule, $

Old Town Winchester
Loudoun Street between Piccadilly and Cork Streets.
Historic area features museums, shops, restaurants, and more.

Patsy Cline Historic House
608 S. Kent Street
Winchester, VA 22601
(540) 662-5555
Tour the home and hear stories about Patsy's early career.
Open April - October,
Tuesday-Saturday 10-4, Sunday 12-4.
Open November & December
weekends only. $

POW-MIA Memorial
Jim Barnett Park
1001 E. Cork Street
Winchester, VA 22601
(540) 662-4946
This lovely memorial is a tribute to service members who are listed as Prisoners of War or Missing in Action.

Shenandoah Valley Discovery Museum
54 South Loudoun Street
Winchester, VA 22601
(540) 722-2020
This museum ignites creativity, sparks curiosity, and inspires children with interactive, hands-on exhibits and programs that focus on the sciences, mathematics,
humanities, and arts. Open year-round Monday-Saturday 9-5, Sunday 1-5. $

Stonewall Jackson's Headquarters
415 North Braddock Street
Winchester, VA 22601
(540) 667-3242
Displays include Jackson's prayer book, camp table, and family artifacts. Open daily April-October, Monday-Saturday 10-4, Sunday 12-4. $

Third Battle of Winchester Path
A 5-mile walking/mountain bike trail on battlefield land owned by the Civil War Preservation of Trust. Stop by the Winchester-Frederick County Visitors Center for directions and a free brochure.

Winchester Green Circle by Winchester Parks & Recreation
1001 E. Cork Street
Winchester, VA 22601
(540) 662-4946
A walking/biking route connecting
historic sites, natural areas, and
tourist destinations. Stop by the Winchester-Frederick County Visitors Center for the free brochure.

Winchester Parks and Recreation
1001 E. Cork Street
Winchester, VA 22601
(540) 662-4946
The Jim Barnett Park offers walking paths, picnic shelters, indoor and outdoor swimming, a gym, children's playground, ball fields, disc golf, horseshoes, and much more.

Winchester National Cemetery
401 National Avenue
Winchester, VA 22601
(540) 662-8535
The final resting place for Union soldiers. Open daily from dawn to dusk.

Winchester Naturally by The Environmental Studies Program of Shenandoah University
(540) 665-5461
A website and brochure directs
visitors to mountaintop views, peaceful creeks, and wildlife. Stop by the Winchester-Frederick County Visitors Center for the free brochure.


Magic Lantern Theater
Springfield Cultural Arts, Inc.
P.O. Box 363
Winchester, VA, 22604
(540) 678-0963
A nonprofit community art film theater project dedicated to bringing quality movies to the Winchester area.

Shenandoah Arts Council
811 South Loudoun Street
Winchester, VA 22601
(540) 667-5166
Sponsors art exhibits and performances. Gallery is open Tuesday-Saturday 1-5.

Shenandoah Conservatory Performances
1460 University Drive
Winchester, VA 22601
(540) 665-4569
Performances in music, theatre, and dance.

Shenandoah Summer Music Theatre
Ohrstrom-Bryant Theatre
1460 University Drive
Winchester, VA 22601
(877) 580-8025
A professional music theatre that produces four Broadway musicals each summer in the lovely 630-seat Ohrstrom-Bryant Theatre.

Wayside Theatre
7853 Main Street
Middletown, VA 22645
(540) 869-1776
The second oldest professional theatre in Virginia, producing contemporary and classic comedies, dramas, mysteries and musicals at affordable prices.

Winchester Little Theatre
315 West Boscawen Street
Winchester, VA 22601
(540) 662-3331
A non-profit community theatre.

Information provided by the Winchester-Frederick County Convention & Visitors Bureau

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