The Past & the Present: Harrisonburg Virginia, a Historical Treasure


As a city that played a significant role as an agriculturally-rich haven during the Civil War, Harrisonburg, VA, is still populated with little-known yet greatly-treasured historic homes. Although today the houses may be disguised as a charming B&B or a cozy farm-to-table-style restaurant, each of the homes’ walls still radiate with a unique story of the families, war heroes, or city leaders that once occupied them.

Joshua Wilton House- With its intricately-designed architecture, The Joshua Wilton house stands out in Harrisonburg’s downtown district. The building that is now home to five quaint inn rooms and a gourmet locally-inspired restaurant dates back to 1888 when wealthy Englishman and President of the First Virginia Bank, Joshua Wilton, purchased the land and finished construction on the home.

Virginia Quilt Museum (Warren-Sipe House)- Visitors love dropping through this landmark to view traditional and contemporary quilt exhibits, but what is now a museum once served as an informal hospital during the Civil War. One wounded warrior, “Boy Major,” passed away in the house, and his fully-uniformed ghost is said to still lurk at the top of the house’s stairway.

Hardesty-Higgins House- Now a hub for travel and visitor’s information, fresh pastries, and state-themed gifts, the Hardesty-Higgins House still charms those who pass through with its historic elements. The Visitor’s Center was once home to Harrisonburg’s first mayor Isaac Hardesty and his family, and during the war, the house was occupied by the Strayer sisters, who at one period hosted Union General Nathaniel Banks.

By the Side of the Road B&B- Passers-by may not realize it at first glance, but this beautifully-preserved and restored bed and breakfast once served as a Civil War Hospital following General Philip Sheridan’s “burning of the Valley” in 1864. The home’s interior brick walls allowed it to be one of very few buildings to survive the tragic event, and also made it a key hideout for Union soldiers.

Thomas Harrison House- With its stone structure completed in 1750 by the city’s founder Thomas Harrison, the Thomas Harrison house is officially the oldest building in Harrisonburg. Today it is taking a break from playing host to offices and a law practice as it undergoes restoration, but the historic home was long a place for lodging and hospitality for early travelers making their way through the Shenandoah Valley.

Photo courtesy: Article courtesy of Harrisonburg Tourism and Visitor Services