Home to roughly 24,000 people, the basically undiscovered town of Staunton—pronounced as STAN-tun—sits in the heart of Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. If you’re looking for an alternative destination in central Virginia, visiting Staunton is a great option.
Having been named “one of the best small towns in America”, “an architectural gem in the Shenandoah Valley” and a place “overflowing with culture” by a couple of major publications, Staunton has much more to offer than anyone would expect.
A Wealth of History
Staunton is one of the oldest towns west of the Blue Ridge Mountains, which lie only about fifteen minutes away by car. It’s historically a major crossroads, an important center of trade, because of its location on the Great Wagon Road and the Virginia Central Railroad. More recently, the intersection between Interstates 81 (running the entire length of the Shenandoah Valley) and 64 (leading eastward to Charlottesville and Richmond) keeps Staunton’s crossroads history very much alive. As the heart of “the Breadbasket of the Confederacy”, it also played a vital role during the American Civil War.
This long and rich history is still very much visible in Staunton’s incredible downtown architecture and various historic sites. In this post, we’ll zoom in on the many monuments and architectural highlights in downtown Staunton. Later on, we’ll cover the major historic attractions in the town, including the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library and the Frontier Culture Museum.
Visiting Staunton – An Incredible Density of Architectural Highlights
Visiting Staunton includes everything from nationally registered architecture and live music and performances, to craft beers, various boutique stores and fascinating history. Although an undeniably small town, it packs a rather phenomenal—and super-surprising—punch.
Unlike many of its neighboring towns and villages, Staunton had the fortune to escape the Civil War pretty much unharmed. As a result, many of the 18th– and early-19th-century buildings in downtown Staunton are still there. Now, they are preserved and protected by the Historic Staunton Foundation.
The town consists of no fewer than six historic districts, all of which are included on the American National Register of Historic Places.
The downtown district, also known as the Beverley District, is the most interesting of them all. Essentially comprising the buildings along Beverley Street, this area is home to a hugely impressive collection of historic buildings in various architectural styles. A perfect example of what a 19th-century “Main Street” looked like in America, Beverley Street is one of the most honored and most beautiful old Main Streets in the entire United States.
Its historic significance is reflected in a statement made by the American Planning Association, who named Staunton “one of the Great Places in America.”
The beauty of it all is that all these historic, well-preserved buildings are now home to a thriving community of local businesses. From antique outlets and yarn stores to wine and cheese shops and even a cigar bar, visiting Staunton is like stepping back in time.
And that’s not all—as you will see in a future blog post, there is much more to Staunton than just historic architecture. Its other historic and cultural attractions make visiting Staunton even more worth it. And then there is, of course, the town’s proximity to Shenandoah National Park and the rest of the Blue Ridge Mountains…