Lynchburg Museum revives local history with tours and artifact exhibits
Many people consider Lynchburg to be a college town, but the city of Lynchburg has a richer history than people might think. On Court Street in downtown Lynchburg lies a classical building that stands out from the rest.
From the outside, the Greek revival architecture and gargoyles appear to belong to a temple, but the building belongs to the Lynchburg Museum system, which includes Point of Honor, Anne Spencer’s home, Monument Terrace and more.
According to Angelica Walker, the public engagement coordinator and Lynchburg local, the Lynchburg Courthouse preceded the Lynchburg Museum.
“It was originally built in 1855. It was not the first courthouse in Lynchburg, but it was the original official courthouse in Lynchburg,” Walker said. “It did not operate under the judicial system we have now. Instead of one judge, the courthouse had multiple judges that handled all the cases.”
Although the management of the courthouse was unusual by modern standards, the interior design and processes of the court were run in the same manner that modern courts operate. There were offices upstairs and a holding cell in the courthouse’s basement. Everette Fauber Jr. was the architect more than 170 years ago.
“A lot of the architecture was major (from) 1855, so we kept that architecture, including the original columns. Very few things have been repaired due to historic preservations,” Walker said. “The building itself is our largest and most important artifact, and so we pride ourselves on preserving it.”
After 40 years of being a courthouse, the town decided to retire it from courthouse duties and transform it into a museum honoring the history of Lynchburg. The Lynchburg Museum holds tours across the city, including the historic house Point of Honor, White Rock Cemetery, Presbyterian Cemetery and Riverside Park.
“We try to highlight different areas of Lynchburg when we are doing our tours so that people can get the full scope of what it means to live in Lynchburg and be a part of their history,” Walker said.
Walker’s favorite tour of Lynchburg is the Dunbar Campus tour. Dunbar High School, now Dunbar Middle School, was an all-black high school until 1954. Carolyn Brown, an employee at Dunbar High School, donated artifacts such as yearbooks, records, class photos and graduation documents from her house to the Lynchburg Museum in 2019. These artifacts are shown on the Lynchburg Museum’s website and displayed in other exhibits within the museum.
“There are so many aspects of our history that we love to share with others,” Walker said. “For instance, if you live in Lynchburg, you pass by the Quaker Meeting House, which I love because Quakers founded Lynchburg. The brand, Chapstick, was also initially created in Lynchburg.”
The Lynchburg Museum has many interesting artifacts and historical documents, including the original Chapstick recipe and Chapstick container and parts from the navy ship, U.S.S. Savannah.
“There are a lot of small things that played a big role in history that Lynchburg has had a hand in,” Walker said.
The museum currently offers a “We the Women” exhibit commemorating 100 years of the 19th amendment alongside several digital displays for various interests.
The Lynchburg Museum has free admission for any interested participants. Walker encourages everyone, especially college students, to visit due the museum as history guides the present into the future. For more information, visit the museum’s website at https://www.lynchburgmuseum.org. More tours will begin in April 2023. For more information on the tours, visit their website.
Merritt is a feature reporter for the Liberty Champion