Exhibits in Wytheville
Founded in 1790, Wythe County’s history is quite remarkable. Named for George Wythe, the first signer of the Declaration of Independence for Virginia, Wytheville was of strategic importance during the Civil War and is also the birthplace of Edith Bolling Wilson, wife of President Woodrow Wilson.
Wytheville is proud of its history and has preserved much of it, while also documenting it extremely well. This is evident in the museums that dot the landscape, including the following.
The Wytheville Training School Cultural Center (WTSCC), the region’s only African American Heritage Museum. The Center, in downtown Wytheville, preserves the buildings and grounds of the historic Wytheville Training School and the adjoining Benjamin McKinney house while promoting the understanding and appreciation of Wythe County’s African/American education heritage within the context of the 19th and 20th centuries.
A new children’s library was opened in 2010 and showcases significant achievements of African Americans in Wytheville. Photos, stories, and memorabilia relay the history of African American education in Wytheville. A non-profit community organization was established in 2000 to preserve the historic Wytheville Training School. The school was constructed in 1882 for African American children and was in operation until 1952.
Located adjacent to the E. Lee Trinkle Regional Visitors Center on Tazewell Street in Downtown Wytheville, the Great Lakes to Florida Highway Museum gives visitors the opportunity to return to the days when the Great Lakes to Florida Highway (Route 21) was the main route from Ohio to Florida.
Housed in a former gas station, memorabilia, which includes original artifacts, newspaper clippings, and exhibits, tell the story of the development of Route 21 and Interstate 77. Restored gas pumps from that era are also part of the decor.
The gas station, which started out as a Texaco station, was built in 1926. Around 1934, the station changed hands and became an Esso station. Candy and other snacks were added in the 1940s. By the 1950s, the gas station was phased out, and it became a small grocery store. The Great Lakes to Florida Highway Museum opened in 2011 and is the third museum owned and operated by the town of Wytheville.
The home of Wytheville’s first resident physician, the Haller-Gibboney Rock House has played a significant role in Wytheville’s history since its construction in 1823. Dr. John Haller served his community as a country doctor, county coroner and delegate to the Virginia Legislature.
The structure was used as an infirmary and school during the Civil War, and then as a boarding house. As a Registered Historical Landmark, the home now serves as a museum containing over 1,400 original artifacts and period furnishings. The purpose of the Haller-Gibboney Rock House Museum is to preserve its collections, structure, and grounds in a manner that promote understanding and appreciation of family life in Wytheville within the context of the events of the 19th and early 20th centuries.
The Rock House Museum provides excellent exhibits of the historical importance of the early migration and settlement of the area. The 1821 museum is a testament to early German stonemasons. Tours, which are available, include a glimpse into a past through period furnishings, personal mementos, medical records and supplies from the 1800s, and a small museum of local artifacts. There is an herb garden with plants typically grown in the 19th century. Special events and gatherings are held at the grounds and home throughout the year.
The Thomas J. Boyd Museum encourages visitors to learn about the history of the people and places of Wythe County. The museum, which opened in Dec.1983, is located beside the Haller-Gibboney Rock House and is named for Thomas Jefferson Boyd who is considered by many to be the “Father of Wytheville.” Boyd served as the town’s mayor and was also an attorney, surveyor, hotel builder, and Virginia Legislator.
The museum’s collection includes Wytheville’s first fire truck, circa 1855, early farming equipment and tools, military uniforms, Civil War displays, photographs of early schools and churches and artifacts from the mining industry.
Selected topics of interest include the early settlement of Wythe County, the development of Wytheville, the Civil War, World War I, Edith Bolling Wilson, Wytheville as a tourism destination, and the impact polio had on Wytheville. Most items in the museum came from the museum’s collections, but some images came from the Woodrow Wilson Birthplace, the Library of Virginia, the Museum of the Confederacy and Virginia Tech’s special collection. Fort Chiswell excavation pieces, which are included, came from the Virginia Department of Historic Resources.
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