So there we were in Staunton, Virginia (pronounced stan-tən) for two nights – which translates to “not-much-time” so we are going to be very busy and on the move. Why Staunton? Two real attractions that lured us in – the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library and Museum and Shenandoah National Park (the latter of which definitely needs more time to see but that will have to wait for next year).
But what we also found was a great German restaurant a mile from the campground, a huge cheese store, awesome hiking, waterfalls, and some great fall color. So maybe you might want to pay a visit to this part of the Virginia countryside next time you are passing through?
The Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library and Museum was not on our “official list” of Presidential Libraries and Museums and this puzzled us. After all, he was “officially a President” wasn't he? Why the discrepancy? Well, historically, all presidential papers were considered the personal property of the president so documents often went with out-going presidents and were scattered or destroyed.
In 1939 President Franklin Delano Roosevelt pledged his personal and presidential papers to the federal government; as well as, part of his estate at Hyde Park, New York with the intention of creating a library and museum. Roosevelt felt that Presidential papers were an important part of history and our national heritage that should be accessible to the public. And because President Hoover created the National Archives and Records Administration, documents had a central place to be stored. It was 16 years before another presidential library opened—this time under the provisions of the Presidential Libraries Act of 1955 legislation which established a system of privately erected and federally maintained libraries. You may be surprised to learn that it wasn't until the Presidential Records Act of 1978 which mandated Presidential records that document the constitutional, statutory, and ceremonial duties of the President are the property of the United States Government.
Thomas Woodrow Wilson was elected the 28th President of the United States in 1913. He ran on the platform that America would remain neutral in the European conflict that was World War I. But shortly into his second term he asked Congress to declare war when German submarine warfare threatened America. He wanted to make the world “safe for democracy.” Wilson grew up the son of a Presbyterian Minister who grew up in the south and would go on to become President of Princeton University, Governor of New Jersey, brokered peace to end WWI, establish the League of Nations, pass a child labor act, created the Federal Reserve, and lobbied for civil rights and women's suffrage.
The Presidential Library and Museum complex was built next to Wilson’s birthplace which is available for viewing on a guided tour. A short orientation film provides an overview of his life and is a great segway into the museum and house tour. The small museum includes artifacts throughout his life and political career and is very well done.
With just half a day to see Shenandoah National Park this was truly going to be a “drive-thru” visit. Lucky for us one of the parks biggest attractions is the famed “Skyline Drive.” Skyline Drive is 105-miles of scenic byway that takes you along the crest of the northern Blue Ridge Mountains. The park was established in 1935 at a time when motorcars had become an ever popular means of travel. The road would become a favorite of American tourists seeking adventure. Skyline Drive is more than a road, it is a destination. There are 75 scenic overlooks, more than 500 miles of hiking trails, and a scattering of lodges, campgrounds, eateries, gift shops, and visitor centers.
Time was not on our side so driving the entire length was out of the question. But we did find time to hike to a waterfall – a perfect way to cool off and immerse ourselves in the fall colors. Maybe next year Shenandoah NP will garner more of our attention – it certainly is a beautiful park.
Have you ever wanted to sell everything you own and just "take off?" Travel the country's back roads, paddle down a meandering stream, experience breath-taking mountain views, walk among 100-year old trees, and just marvel at America's beauty? That is the dream that my partner, Betsy, and I decided to make a reality. This blog describes our adventure. The food we eat, people we meet, sights we see, and the enjoyment we find in traveling.