This museum feels like a hidden historical gem. You’d never know it by looking at it, but the United States’ “first female president” was born in this shabby apartment atop a commercial building.
Some have dubbed First Lady Edith Bolling Wilson, wife of President Woodrow Wilson, the country’s “first female president” because she oversaw her husband’s affairs while he recovered from a stroke. She’s been accused of overstepping her boundaries and blocking cabinet members from corresponding with the president while he was ill.
This museum tells the story of the controversial first lady, who was born to an prominent family and grew up in this humble apartment. Here, you can learn about her early life and see her journey from Wytheville to the White House and abroad. The museum boasts various historical artifacts relating to Bolling Wilson. And, as of August 2018, there are two exhibitions on display. One’s a must-see if you have a young Girl Scout (Edith was the first honorary president of the Girl Scouts.)
The Bolling family originally hailed from Bedford County, Virginia where before the Civil War they owned a plantation. After the war, the family lost their plantation and moved to this modest apartment in Wytheville.
The building itself was constructed in the 1840s and has a lot of the original antebellum features that are hard to come by. It has always housed commercial storefronts on the first level. The second-level apartment has changed over time. It has served stints as a confederate hospital, an apartment, additional seating and catering kitchen for Durham’s restaurant, and a ballet studio among other things.