Ben Lomond Historic Site – Manassas, Virginia - Atlas Obscura

Manassas, Virginia

Ben Lomond Historic Site

Hear, smell, see, taste, and touch history at this immersive Civil War hospital. 

When you walk through the doors of this former plantation, it’s like stepping back into its time as a Civil War hospital. It’s an immersive experience, one where you can hear, smell, see, taste, and touch the past. Unlike stuffy old museums, the Ben Lomond Historic Site lets you get hands-on with history.

Ben Lomond was never meant to be a hospital, and was originally a private tobacco plantation. But because it happened to be close to the First Battle of Bull Run (which the Confederates referred to as the First Battle of Manassas), it was converted into a hospital along with about 20 other private buildings.

Today, its rooms are packed with recreated Civil War-era medical tools that let you do more than see what the building would have looked like during the 19th century. You can get a feel for the surgical tools, play around with the crutches, and even dress in the uniforms of both soldiers and surgeons.

The sounds and smells, too, are evocative. The scent of sweat, filth, smoke, and gangrene wafts through the building—though thankfully not nearly as strong as it would have during the hospital’s working days. As you pass through, you’ll also hear the boom of a cannon, the shuffle of feet, soldiers’ cries for help, and the sounds of surgeries. Even your tastebuds can get involved in the action, as you’ll have a chance to sample the typical food the patients were served.

In addition to checking out the former hospital, while visiting the site you can learn more about antebellum life at the plantation and view its historic buildings, including one of Prince William County’s only remaining original slave quarters.

Know Before You Go

Ben Lomond Historic Site is managed by Prince William County’s Historic Preservation Division. It is open for regular tours and a variety of special events from May 1st to October 31st, Thursdays through Mondays, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. The rest of the year they are open for tours, you just have to call ahead! For more information, you call call 703-367-7872 or check out their events on Facebook.