A Brief History of Staunton, VA

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Summary of Staunton

Staunton is an independent city of the Commonwealth of Virginia. The principal city of the Staunton-Waynesboro Metropolitan Statistical Area, it is the first city in the U.S. to have a fully defined city manager system. The area that is now Staunton was first settled by John Lewis in 1732. In 1746, Surveyor Thomas Lewis laid out the town plan for Beverley's Mill Place. In 1747, it was renamed Staunton in honor of Lady Rebecca Staunton – the wife of Royal Lieutenant-Governor Sir William Gooch.

Because of its geographical location at the center of the colony, Staunton served as the regional capital of the Northwest Territory from 1738 to 1771. In 1760, the town had become one of the major "remote trading centers in the backcountry." It played an important role in the expansion of the American Colonies' economies and contributed to the success of the American Revolution. In 1854, the arrival of the Virginia Central Railroad helped the town develop as a trade, transportation and industrial center. The town of Staunton became an independent city on July 10, 1902. Six years later, it created the city manager form of government.

National Register of Historic Places (NRHP)

The city of Staunton is home to three NRHPs – The Oaks, Waverly Hill and Sears House.

Located on East Beverley St., The Oaks is an 1840s structure added to the NRHP on June 19, 1979. From 1868 to 1899, it was the home of Major Jedediah Hotchkiss, who've made his mark in the fields of surveying, mapmaking, land and coal speculation, and education. With the help of the Boston architectural firm Winslow & Wetherell, Hotchkiss modified the property and erected the main front on the site of the original building in 1888. Today, The Oaks display many elements of the shingle architectural style. It is currently privately owned.

Waverly Hills was designed by renowned architect William Bottomley in 1929. The Georgian-revival historic mansion consists of a two-and-a-half-story, five-bay, center section with one-story wings connected by one-story hyphens. Constructed of bricks, the house was added to the NRHP on July 8, 1982. In February of that year, it was also designated on the Virginia Landmarks Register. The landscape of the property was designed by Arthur Shurcliff.

Built around the 1860s, Sears House is a one-and-a-half-story historic frame house representing a small "bracketed cottage." It was the home of prominent educator Dr. Barnas Sears from 1802 until his death in 1867. On February 23, 1972, it was added to the NRHP.

Parks and Recreation

Besides exploring the many historical sites in Staunton, residents and visitors to the area have opportunities to enjoy their time at the nine recreation spots the city offers. These parks and community centers include:

  • Betsy Bell and Mary Gray Wilderness Parks
  • Gypsy Hill Park
  • Montgomery Hall Park
  • Booker T. Washington Community Center
  • Nelson Street Teen Center
  • Landes Park
  • Reservoir Hill Park
  • Men's Green Thumb Park
  • Knowles Park
  • Woodrow Park (Sears Hill)

Mary Baldwin University

Mary Baldwin University was founded by Rufus William Bailey in 1842 as Augusta Female Seminary. The private university is the oldest institution of higher education for women in the U.S. that are affiliated with the Presbyterian Church. It is home to a number of co-educational residential undergraduate programs, co-educational undergraduate degrees, co-educational graduate degrees, certificate programs for non-traditional-aged students, and the Mary Balwin College for Women (a residential women's college that focuses on liberal arts and leadership). The university also houses the only all-female corps of cadets worldwide.

Continue along with an Early History of Danville, VA.

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