The settlement of Winchester, Virginia by European colonists began in the 1700s and, from that beginning, the city was at the center of some pivotal events in our country’s history. Before the Revolution, George Washington lived and worked here. Winchester was also at the center of many battles during the American Civil War. A number of museums and other buildings date from that period. Winchester is a great place to learn something of American history, explore the surrounding apple-growing area and get to know the Shenandoah Valley. And there’s no better place to start than Old Town, a delightful mixture of the old and the new located smack in the middle of the city’s downtown.
The George Washington Hotel, situated at one corner of the district, is a perfect base of operations. Dating from 1924, this grand hotel fits right in among the other historic buildings, but offers modern amenities. It’s a welcoming place to relax after a hard day seeing the sights. Plus, after a late afternoon nap, you can easily stroll back to Old Town to have dinner at one of its many restaurants.
Old Town sights
The best way to experience Old Town is on foot. The centerpiece of the area is the Loudoun Street Pedestrian Mall, a vehicle-free zone lined with shops, restaurants and historic buildings. Maps are available at the Winchester-Frederick County Visitors Center or online.
The historic buildings generally have plaques giving their name and construction date. There are stone houses and houses with small gardens worthy of attention. The Old Court House Civil War Museum is an imposing building with a collection of over 3,000 Civil War artifacts. In front of it stands an impressive bronze sculpture, the Confederate Soldier Monument. Other structures of interest are the Godfrey Miller Fellowship Center, the First Presbyterian Church, Wisteria House, and Hill’s Keep.
During warmer seasons, you are likely to see children playing in the Splash Pad, a series of street fountains. The boutique shops and restaurants are open throughout the year. But the most fun for visitors may simply be to soak up the sense of history while enjoying the carefree atmosphere and the street musicians.