An Ornament on the Hill

To get to the Lynchburg Museum, we had to climb these 139 steps. Okay, we didn’t have to climb them. It isn’t the only way to the museum.  We could have driven a car, or walked a more gradual incline up gently sloping side streets. But the stairs are definitely the coolest way there.

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And if we had taken a different route, we would have missed the war memorials that occupy each side of the landings on the multi-segmented stairway.  The entire stairway structure is called “Monument Terrace,” commemorating Lynchburg citizens who have died in war, from the Civil War to the present.

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The museum is in what was, until 1974, the town courthouse. It’s a circa 1855 Greek Revival building and the museum website calls the building “the museum’s largest artifact.” There’s an exhibit called An Ornament on the Hill, about the building.

The interior has some pretty spectacular details. What I really want to show you is its sweeping double staircase.  But I know you’d say, “Oh no, not another staircase!” So here’s a 19th century light fixture instead.

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The museum’s exhibits aren’t solely about Lynchburg. There is some general Virginia history to be had, starting in 1607 with the settling of Jamestown.  Below is a circa 1610 Bartman jug that was found in Jamestown, in either (the label wasn’t specific) a well or a kitchen hearth.  I read somewhere — not in a museum — that bartman jugs had been used for holding witches brews. It was probably really just an herb or medicine jug and the witch part was thrown in there for sensationalism. It worked, though, didn’t it, because I’m telling you about it.

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Lynchburg’s claim to fame is that it was a fairly important supply center for the Confederates during the Civil War and for that reason, the Union tried to take the town in June 1864.  The South won the Battle of Lynchburg, but less than a year later the South lost the whole kit and kaboodle and Lynchburg came under Union occupation.

Compared to the full sized man’s jacket next to it, the tiny jacket below looks like child’s clothing.  But it actually belonged to a woman, Mary Forsberg. Mrs. Forsberg was married to a Confederate officer during the time that the Union forces ruled Lynchburg. And in Union-occupied Lynchburg, Confederate soldiers were not allowed to wear their uniforms in public. So as an act of defiance, Mrs. Forsberg cut her husband’s uniform down and wore it around town herself. The narrative on the exhibit said that there wasn’t anything that the Union could do, because the Confederate uniform ban applied only to men.  It occurs to me that the Union could have changed the rules — they were, after all, the ones who made them in the first place. But they didn’t.  The portrait in the photo shows Mrs. Forsberg wearing the coat.

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The historic, downtown part of Lynchburg is very small and easily walkable. So we parked our car near the Visitor Center and after a quick duck in there for a map, just wandered around town. The area isn’t fully developed, but there are some cute shops and restaurants, and a river walk along the James that crosses onto an island.

We had dinner at a place called Hot and Cold Cafe, located near the bottom of Monument Terrace.  It’s a teeny tiny place that the owner described as “Indian-Lebanese fusion.” But there really wasn’t any fusion happening. The menu had Indian items and Lebanese items. Both Mr. HT and I had Indian.  The service was a little slow, since the only staff that evening were the husband and wife owners (he cooked and served, she served and cashiered). They were fun and friendly, and the food was very good, so it was worth the wait.

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10 Responses to An Ornament on the Hill

  1. Map of Time says:

    No!!! I need my staircase fix. 😥

  2. They could have quoted the Bible – ‘The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth to a man, neither shall a man put on a woman’s garment; for all that do so are abomination unto the LORD thy God’ – Deuteronomy 22:5. This law of Moses was what eventually did for Joan of Arc – cremated for wearing trousers!

  3. Neat museum – it’s going on my rapidly expanding list… And, I too, want to see the staircase! 🙂

    • I hope you’re planning at least a month in Virginia. As you know, it’ll take you that long to just skim the surface.

      • I wish! Unfortunately, I think my new boss might have other ideas about that. I so need an early retirement! However, until that point, I’m just going to have to settle for skimming the surface… 😦 It will still be amazing! And the list will still have lots of “things to do” for the next trip.

  4. museummutt says:

    I passed Lynchburg on the train. I look forward to visiting some day but no steps for me!

    • Lynchburg was important during the Civil War because it was a major train depot that shuttled supplies to the Confederates.

      I have to admit that the museum was much more than I expected.

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