Winchester, VA has 250 years of history and architecture, all beginning in the 1730’s when German and Scots-Irish immigrants were moving south from Pennsylvania to settle in Winchester, originally known as Frederick Towne–the first city established west of the Blue Ridge Mountains. As one of the state’s largest wheat producing counties, Winchester was a bustling trade and commerce center. Here is part 1 of our 3 part series highlighting a few spots you should check out:
Old Frederick County Courthouse
First built of logs in 1751, this is the place where 23-year-old George Washington began his political career as a Frederick County representative. This Greek Revival courthouse was built in 1840 for $12,000. Control of Winchester by the Union and Confederate forces during the Civil War reportedly changed sides 72 times, and both forces used the courthouse to bivouac troops, temporarily hold prisoners and hospitalize the wounded. Evidence of the soldiers’ occupation of the building was recently revealed during renovation when names, military units and other graffiti were discovered on interior walls. The Frederick County Courthouse survived two bombardments of the city during the Civil War. It was used as a courthouse until 1984, and thereafter housed Frederick County government offices until 1997. Now home to the Old Court House Civil War Museum, the museum is open Friday and Saturday, 10:00am to 5:00pm and on Sunday, 1:00pm to 5:00pm. There is a fee for admission; please call 540-542-1145 or visit the museum’s website for further information. Read more about the courthouse here.
2-4 S. Loudoun St: The Holliday House
Loudoun Street was part of the Great Wagon Road, the main roadway leading through the Shenandoah Valley. The Holliday House was originally built by William Holliday in 1797 as a two-story brick Flemishbond building with shiny, narrow ends of bricks. Make sure you attend the Annual Holiday House Tour, put on by the non-profit organization Preservation of Historic Winchester. Learn more here.
21 S. Loudoun St: Harrison & Johnston Law Offices
Built in 1797 by James G. Dowdall, this Federal-style limestone house was originally an inn where George Washington lodged and took meals.
28 S. Loudoun St: Godfrey Miller Home
Built in 1785 by Daniel Sowers, this Federal-style house was used as a home for elderly ladies. Today, the Godfrey Miller Home serves as a senior center operated by the Grace Lutheran Church. The Historic Home is open to the public the first Friday of each month beginning in April through November. Learn more here.
First Presbyterian Church
In 1838, 40 members of the Kent Street Presbyterian Church left their current church to establish this one on Loudoun St. This Gothic Revival-style structure has been used by local Presbyterians since 1900 when the two churches merged into one. During the Civil War, Reverend Dr. Andrew Hunter Holmes Boyd used the pulpit to preach on political subjects, which led to his multiple imprisonments. Visitors will recognize the names from the congregation’s history throughout the church facilities – Donegal House, Hill’s Keep, the Kent Room, Loudoun Hall, and Boyd Chapel. Learn more here.
202-204 S. Loudoun St: The Red Lion Tavern
Built in 1783 by Peter Lauck, a member of Daniel Morgan’s Riflemen, who made the historical “Beeline March” to Boston in 1775 to join Washington in the fight for independence. This building operated as a tavern (north section) and an inn (south part). Presently the building is owned by National Food Product Company Inc. (Whitehouse Applesauce!! and products) which operates the quaint Country Store to highlight its products. Be sure to visit, see the inside, and admire the wonderful Stonewall Jackson portrait over the fireplace mantle! Learn more here.
George Washington’s Office Museum
In 1753, George Washington became an officer in the Virginia Militia. From 1755-1756, this log and stone cabin served as Washington’s headquarters during the French and Indian attacks. It was made of logs filled with earth and inside there were barracks for 450 men. A well was sunk 103 feet through solid limestone rock to supply the fort with water. This well is all that remains of the fort today. Currently, it’s operated as a museum by the Winchester-Frederick County Historical Society. Learn more here.
3 S. Braddock St: Rouss Fire Hall
Built in 1896 with funds from Charles B. Rouss, a successful local merchant, this Romanesque Revival building wears a distinctive weather vane on top of the turret. Do you recognize it? (Hint: It’s a popular local landmark). The Winchester City Council continues to meet at Rouss City Hall and the volunteers of Rouss Fire and Rescue Company still respond to city emergencies.
125 W. Boscawen St: Josiah Massie Hatter’s Shop
One of Winchester’s early log dwellings, this structure was built between 1806 and 1815 by John Slagle. It was covered with wood weatherboard siding and used until 1829 as a hatter’s shop by Josiah Massie. The building housed commercial enterprises until it was purchased by the Revolving Fund in 1978.
Christ Episcopal Church
Built in 1828, this Gothic Revival church was attributed to Scottish builder, John Bruce. Research indicates, however, that Robert Mills, one of America’s first trained architects, may have developed the original design. Note the crenellated bell tower, pointed-arched tracery at windows and entires, and spirelets topping each corner. Lord Fairfax’s tomb is also located in the church courtyard.
Learn more about Winchester Architecture and History here.