Mount Vernon 2011 Trip Day 3

Monday June 6




Travel 226 miles today




The first floor (3,000 sq. ft.) of the Museum contains seven exhibit galleries which present through historic photographs, documents and objects, the life and public service of Woodrow Wilson, 28th President of the United States. The second floor of the building contains a research library and archives, meeting rooms, and educational program space. The third floor houses collection storage and the digital archive, where processing of historical materials is on-going to make them available online through the eLibrary. 

Exhibition Subjects 

Wilson's family of origin 
Wilson's early career as University Professor and President of Princeton University 
The Governorship of New Jersey 
The Presidential years 
World War I 
The Treaty of Versailles 
The League of Nations



ManseThe Birthplace (The Manse)

Sitting atop the crest of a hill in downtown Staunton's Gospel Hill historic district is the birthplace of President Woodrow Wilson.  The house is often referred to as a manse which is the term the Presbyterian Church uses to identify the residence of their minister.

In 1844 Staunton Presbyterian Church called the Reverend Benjamin Mosby Smith as minister. Mr. Smith declined--perhaps due to the lack of housing. The next year the church purchased lots on the eastern edge of the thriving town to build a manse. Shortly after this Reverend Smith accepted a renewed call.

In January 1846, church session minutes record an appropriation for building the manse. Mrs. Smith's father, the Reverend James Morrison of Rockbridge County, Virginia wrote, "The congregation has contracted to have a house built for Mr. Smith, which it is said will be the best house in Staunton when it is finished. The lot on which it is to be built is one of the most beautiful situations in Staunton. . ." The ladies of the church held a fair in June 1846 and raised $300 to pay the balance on purchase of the building lot. 

The handsome Manse erected on the lot may have been designed by the Reverend Rufus W. Bailey, founder of Augusta Female Seminary in 1842 (now Mary Baldwin College), and designer of its classical main building (1844), for he served on the church's building committee. The manse and the college's old building are strikingly similar in style. 

Builder of the manse was John Fifer of Augusta County. His son, later Governor of Illinois, recalled that the bricks were fired just west of Staunton along the Parkersburg Turnpike, and that some of the construction workers left the job to become soldiers in the Mexican War. Church records indicate that the total cost of constructing the 12-room Greek Revival style brick house with its center halls and four chimneys was about $4,000. 

Reverend Smith and his family moved into the comfortable new home in June 1847 and remained its first residents until 1854 when Mr. Smith was elected professor at Union Theological Seminary, then located at Hampden-Sydney College in Prince Edward County, Virginia. In December 1854, the Reverend Joseph Ruggles Wilson, a professor at Hampden-Sydney College, accepted a call to be pastor of Staunton Presbyterian Church.

Mr. Wilson, his wife, Jessie Woodrow Wilson, and their daughters Marion and Annie moved into the Staunton manse in March 1855. One year and nine months later on December 28, 1856 the third Wilson child was born "at 12 o'clock at night" as his proud father recorded in the family Bible. The child was named Thomas Woodrow Wilson for his maternal grandfather. 

Only four ministers' families occupied the manse following the Wilson family. To cover debts from construction of a new church, the Presbyterian trustees sold two sections of the large lot surrounding the manse in 1874. Woodrow Wilson returned to Staunton many times during his childhood. His Aunt, Marion Woodrow Bones, and her family lived here, and his sisters and several cousins attended Augusta Female Seminary under its principal, Miss Mary Julia Baldwin, a friend of his mother, Jessie Woodrow Wilson. But Woodrow Wilson did not visit the manse again until the year 1912 when, as President-elect of the United States, he returned to Staunton to celebrate his 56th birthday on December 28th in the house in which he was born. 

Following President Wilson's death in 1924, the trustees of Mary Baldwin College determined to raise funds for a memorial building to the President. The congregation of First Presbyterian Church gave its approval in 1925 to the sale of the manse to the college for $30,000 and the college held it until a group could be formed to preserve and interpret the home as a Birthplace museum for the late President of the United States. The Woodrow Wilson Birthplace Foundation was established in 1938.  The first restoration of the manse started in 1940 and was completed in 1941 bringing the Presbyterian Manse back to its appearance of 1856 when Thomas Woodrow Wilson was born. In May 1941 President Franklin Delano Roosevelt came to Staunton to dedicate the restored Woodrow Wilson Birthplace as a "shrine to freedom."


Hours of Operation

March through October
9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m., Monday through Saturday
12:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m., Sunday

Guided tours of Manse offered every 45 minutes with the last tour at 4:15 p.m.

Admission Fees

Admission to Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library and Museum includes a guided tour of President Wilson’s birthplace manse, a self-guided tour of the Woodrow Wilson Museum including the new World War I trench exhibit, and admission to the Victorian-style historic garden.

$14.00    Adults

$12.00    AAA Members/Active Military/Seniors (60+)

Special admission prices for school groups and adult groups.