Loudoun Museum

A museum dedicated to preserving and sharing the long history of Loudoun County With a collection of over 8,000 artifacts, we have something for everybody.

In our Discovery Room, kids can dress up in period costume, play in our 19th century period kitchen, and learn by doing. For the military buff, we have artifacts on display from arrow heads to WWII memorabilia, and plenty to learn about Loudoun’s role in the Civil War. We have antique clothing, furniture, and more. Right in the backyard of Washington, D.C., our history is the Nation’s history, but our county is one of a kind. Come by and find out for yourself.

Operating as usual


Hauntings | Loudoun Museum

Our Hauntings tours are back for 2020! Tours will be offered on October 16-17. Space is limited, so follow the link to the tickets page to reserve your spot!


Then & Then & Now

The three-story building that stood on the northeast corner of Loudoun and King Street from 1888-1955 served many functions. The first floor housed Leesburg Town Hall for some time before becoming storefronts for multiple businesses, and in the rear of the building was the local Fire Department including a tower for their alarm bell.

On the second and third floor of the building was the Leesburg Opera House. This was a slight misnomer as many historic accounts provide no evidence of an actual opera being performed there. The Opera House was utilized for a number of community functions including: a grand ball in September of 1895; two 1894 appearances by Maria Isabella “Belle” Boyd, a Confederate spy during the Civil War; and a 1904 birthday celebration General Robert E. Lee that included such interesting menu items as “Roast Saddle of Mutton a la Col. White” and “Confederate Ice Cream.” One of the primary functions of the Opera House was showing films, especially during the silent film era, but the venue also showed newsreels during the First World War. The theater space seated 450 on folding wooden chairs and was lit by kerosene oil lamps.

In 1955, Leesburg Town Council sold the building which was demolished and replaced with a new structure that became White’s Department Store. Known also as Myers and White by some accounts, the store was divided into multiple parts. Half of the store on the ground floor was “The Hub” menswear department and the other half was the lady’s and children’s department. The downstairs area included shoes, fabrics, and dry goods.

The building where the department store stood has had many lives since. Today, what was once “The Hub” is now the retail store, Brick and Mortar, and the lady’s department is now the restaurant Señor Ramon’s.

What do you remember about this corner of Leesburg? Share your memories in the comments!

The museum and log cabin got a facelift today with some beautiful new signs! Come see for yourself and check out our exhibits this weekend!
Loudoun Museum is open Friday-Sunday, 10AM-4PM.

It was a beautiful evening for History on Tap at Oatlands Historic House and Gardens on Thursday! Thank you to everyone who joined. Stay tuned for news on upcoming History in Tap programs!

Friday Fun Fact!

These fans and feathers, part of Loudoun Museum’s collection, were the height of fashion in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Ostrich feathers had been used in funerals and military uniforms before Parisian fashion made them desirable accessories in the 19th century.

Used in fans, dresses, boas, and hats, ostrich feathers were a status symbol due to their rarity. Early in their popularity, feathers were harvested by hunting wild birds in southern parts of Africa and transporting them to markets in Europe.

By 1912, ostrich feathers were so valuable, the only other product worth more by weight was diamonds. Because of the potential for profit, sheep farmers and others began attempts at domesticating ostriches, beginning in South Africa but eventually spreading to parts of the United States such as California, Arizona, Texas, and Florida. Harvesting feathers from domesticated birds could be done twice a year without slaughter, and so the market became flooded with ostrich plumes. The increase in supply lowered the value and therefore status attributed with this fashion, but they remained popular into the 1920’s.

Some historians attribute the decline in the popularity of feathers in the early 20th century to the onset of World War I, changes in fashion trends, and the introduction of the automobile which discouraged women from wearing large flamboyant hats. Another contributing factor was an increased interest in wildlife conservation sparked by groups such as the Audubon Society which championed legislation during this time such as the Lacey Act (1900) and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (1918).

Dr. Karina Esposito joined our director for the latest Pour Over History interview discussing Confederate emigration to Brazil after the Civil War. Grab some coffee and watch along!

Stay tuned for our latest Pour Over History interview! Director Dr. Joe Rizzo spoke this week with special guest Dr. Karina Esposito about Confederate emigration to Brazil after the Civil War.

The full video will be posted on our Facebook and Youtube pages tomorrow, August 20th, at 10:00 AM. Grab a coffee and join us!


Loudoun Museum

Looking for some history to watch during your lunch break? Subscribe to our YouTube page and get caught up on past History on Tap episodes and Pour Over History interviews!

youtube.com As we strive to fulfill our role as the official repository for Loudoun’s history, our mission is to navigate Loudoun County's evolving future, conserve Loud...

At the beginning of Virginia's COVID-19 quarantine in March, our blog highlighted the story of Laura Stanton, an Ashburn resident who was isolated at the infirmary at Vassar College in 1901 after she was potentially exposed to smallpox. Her story is told through her correspondence with her family, written in letters and preserved as part of the Loudoun Museum's collection.

The last reported case of smallpox in the United States was in 1949, and the World Health Organization announced its official eradication in 1980. However, before the refinement of variolation and eventually vaccination, smallpox was a dangerous and recurring problem. In the early 20th century, multiple outbreaks occurred across the country with varying responses.

New York City was the center of one of the biggest outbreaks during this period. The proximity of the outbreak helps explain why Vassar College was a pioneer in creating an on-campus infirmary for the isolation and treatment of ill and potentially exposed students. In the early 20th century, large infirmaries became relatively standard for residential campuses until medical advancements, namely antibiotics and vaccinations, made them less necessary.

Laura's letters to her mother give us an intimate perspective on quarantine, vaccination, and the pressures of being a college student amid unusual circumstances. Her good spirit and ability to joke about her "imprisonment" is inspiring in today's uncertainty.

Read the full transcription of one of her letters in this week’s blog.


Loudoun experienced flooding from the heavy rain yesterday evening, but of course this was not the only time flooding caused problems. In 1972, Hurricane Agnes stalled on the eastern part of the country dropping historic amounts of rain on Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania, which caused significant damage. These are imagines from the Loudoun Times-Mirror covering the flooding throughout the county. The last image is from this morning at Town Branch running through Leesburg. You can tell the level the water reached by the grass along the branch.

Historians on Tap

History on Tap is LIVE!
Miss our live program at Harper's Ferry Brewing? No problem! The Historians on Tap will be sharing those stories again for our online audience. Grab your favorite drink and tune in for a live retelling of some of the weird and wild history of the Harpers Ferry area. Cheers!

We're live for History on Tap: Harpers Ferry redux!

Friday Fun Fact!

Did you know that local farms in Loudoun County utilized German Prisoners of War for labor during World War II?
The War Department and the Loudoun Cooperative Association established a camp near Leesburg in 1945 as a branch of the larger Front Royal base camp with the aim to meet increasing supply demands for the Pacific war effort in the face of significant labor shortages. In June 1945, nearly 200 Germans are quartered at a tent camp on the Moss property in Leesburg (see map below) to work as day laborers on nearby farms and orchards. Picked up and dropped off at the branch camp each day, the Germans would work for 40 cents an hour, though the prisoners personal compensation would be in the form of coupons or canteen credits rather than U.S. currency to deter escape. Initially there was some hostility towards the Germans, who ranged in their sympathies to Nazism, though eventually most farmers would come to respect the men as efficient laborers. Some locals even fought for improved rations for the prisoners provided by the Army, perhaps out of legitimate concern, or perhaps for the improved work ethic and production provided by better meals. For their part, the Germans generally did not attempt large scale escapes, though some chose to voice their discontent subtly, such as the POWs at an Albemarle farm who would occasionally carve swastikas into the peaches they harvested.

On October 4th, 1945, the Loudoun-Times Mirror reported that the camp would soon close, with repatriation of all prisoners expected to be completed by the end of March 1946. Virginia held as many as 17,000 German prisoners during and immediately after the Second World War.

Photo Credit:
[German POW camp on Woodburn Rd near Rte 15 - POWs], Winslow Williams Photograph Collection (VC 0003) Thomas Balch Library, Leesburg, VA

Map Cartography by J.L Kendall, image courtesy of Thomas Balch Library, Leesburg, VA.

Friday Fun Fact!

This circular knitting machine, part of the Loudoun Museum collection, was patented in the late 19th Century for both domestic and industrial use. These machines made knitting more efficient and consistent than earlier flatbed machines, especially for making socks and stockings. Gearhart Knitting Machine Company, the originator of this model, sold over 200,000 machines before declaring bankruptcy and being acquired by the conglomerate Clearfield Knitting Machine Company.

Knitting socks became a patriotic duty for women on the home front during the First World War to provide for soldiers in trenches who required warm, dry socks to prevent the contraction of trench foot, a devastating fungal infection. “Knit for Sammie!” became a rallying cry of American Red Cross volunteer knitters, as American soldiers were often referred to as “Sammies,” short for Uncle Sam. Knitters also produced “stump socks” to cover amputated limbs for those soldiers injured in the war.

Much like the Red Cross knitters of WWI, many men and women have taken up sewing to provide support to their communities by sewing masks during the COVID-19 pandemic. Others have taken up knitting and sewing as hobbies to pass the time in quarantine.

Loudoun Museum collects objects that tell important historic narratives, like this knitting machine. We are also actively collecting contemporary history to document the historic times we are living through today. Whether you are sewing masks, knitting socks, blogging, writing songs, etc. to pass the time, we want to hear your story for our COVID Community Archive Project!

For more details and guidelines for submission: https://www.loudounmuseum.org/post/collecting-covid-memories-documenting-historic-times-today

Friends of Ball's Bluff

After you stop by to see the Museum’s exhibits this weekend, swing by Ball’s Bluff park! They will be resuming their guided battlefield tours.

Walking Tours will resume on Saturday, July 18! Our volunteer guides will lead the free tours at 11 AM and 1 PM every Saturday and Sunday through the end of November. Meet in the parking lot at the benches. Distancing will be maintained.

Friday Fun Fact!

This Coca-Cola bottle, part of the Loudoun Museum collection, is known as a “Christmas Bottle” to collectors and historians due to the patent date printed on the bottle: December 25, 1923. These contour shaped bottles, also known as “hobbleskirts,” were produced from 1923 until 1938 in bottling plants all over the world including right here in Leesburg! The Leesburg plant on South King Street began operations in 1927 and provided products to local drugstores and groceries in town, including this bottle which is labeled “Leesburg, VA” on the base.

Historians on Tap

History on Tap is LIVE! This week, the historians are joined by Dr. Karina Faria Garcia Esposito from West Virginia University as they tell stories from the year 1865 to close out our four-part Civil War series! Grab a local beer and tune in!

Join us live! "Stayin Alive for 1865"


Loudoun Museum

Too hot to be outside this weekend? Catch up on our past episodes of History on Tap, Pour of History interviews, and Museum lectures on our new YouTube page!

youtube.com As we strive to fulfill our role as the official repository for Loudoun’s history, our mission is to navigate Loudoun County's evolving future, conserve Loud...

We are reopening to the public on Friday, July 3! To help keep staff and visitors safe, masks are required at all times while in the Museum. Our hours are 10-4 Friday through Sunday, and the Museum will close between 1:00-1:30 to allow staff to clean. As always, we are free admission!

🚨 The traveling component of our Virginia wine exhibit, “Vintage Pursuits” will be on display at Doukenie Winery for the month of July! Doukenie is currently open Friday-Sunday, and hours can be viewed on their website. Stop by to enjoy a glass of wine and check out the exhibit about Virginia’s wine history!


Educator Experiences: “Incomplete”

Our latest addition to our Educator Experiences blog series features Stefanie Krimsky, a fourth grade teacher at Hillsboro Charter Academy!

Follow the link below to read about her experience with distance education and new social norms in this week's blog!


loudounmuseum.org Our featured educator and guest blogger this week is Stefanie Krimsky, a fourth grade teacher at the Hillsboro Charter Academy.

Historians on Tap

History on Tap is LIVE! Join our historians as they talk about the past lives of some of the more famous (or infamous) people in American history. Our special guest this week is Heidi Campbell-Shoaf, Museum Director and Chief Curator for the Daughters of the American Revolution. Grab your favorite local brew and tune in! Cheers!

Find out what happened "Before they were famous"!


Juneteenth: Context and Connotation of Emancipation Day

Happy Juneteenth! This week's blog features a historic context of Emancipation Day along with the reflections of Loudoun Museum Vice Chairman Omari Faulkner on the significance of this holiday.

loudounmuseum.org This week's blog is guest written in two parts. Loudoun Museum board member Omari Faulkner shares his personal thoughts on the holiday of Juneteenth and it's cultural significance in part one. This is followed by a contextual history of Juneteenth including information about past and present celebra...

Historians on Tap

History on Tap is back (again!) and LIVE! Join our historians and Rich Condon from Civil War Pittsburgh as they tell stories from 1864 and drink some local brews. Cheers!

Take two! 1864: What is it good for?

Historians on Tap

History on Tap is back and LIVE! Join our historians and Rich Condon from Civil War Pittsburgh as they tell stories from 1864 and drink some local brews. Cheers!

Join us for History on Tap! 1864: what is it good for?

George Tyler Moore Center for the Study of the Civil War

"My voice, my pen, and my vote': Interpreting Civil War-era African American History." Watch along!


Black-Owned Businesses in Leesburg: A Brief History

Our blog this week discusses three different black-owned businesses from Leesburg's history and the entrepreneurs who advocated for their community. Follow the link below to read these incredible stories!


loudounmuseum.org Post-emancipation, African Americans in the United States gained access to more opportunities and utilized their skill sets to create their own spaces in a generally unaccommodating society. In Leesburg, we can see the physical manifestations of these efforts in churches, schools, fraternal lodges,....

History on Tap is taking a break this week. See you next Thursday at 7PM for more local beers and history!

It’s been a great 3 months doing our weekly Thursday History on Tap episodes, but we are taking the week off and planning some upcoming topics while enjoying 1776 by Beltway Brewing Company. We will see you next Thursday. Cheers!


Picturing Loudoun County Then and Now: Lincoln School and Photography Preservation

This week's blog is all about photographs!
Follow the link below to learn about the history of Lincoln Elementary with some "Then and Now" photographs and learn how to preserve your own personal photography collections!


loudounmuseum.org This blog is cowritten by Paige Armstrong and Andrea Ekholm from Loudoun Museum. -- This week we wanted to present a project that has been in the works at the Loudoun Museum. A binder containing photos taken by John G. Lewis was discovered in our off-site storage building. The photos are of the Virg...

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16 Loudoun St SW
Leesburg, VA
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