Freight trains still rumble through the front yard of The Exchange Hotel, once a busy stop on the Orange and Alexandria Railroad. In the mid-1800s cattle were driven through the streets of Gordonsville to be herded onto the trains and taken to market. During the Civil War trains lumbered by the hotel at 25 miles per hour transporting troops and supplies to the front lines and to the hotel that would became a receiving hospital for over 70,000 wounded Confederate and Union soldiers from the nearby battles of Brandy Station, Chancellorsville, Cedar Mountain, Mine Run and The Wilderness. The grounds of the hotel were crowed with tents sheltering the wounded soldiers - and beyond the tents the graves of more than 700 soldiers who perished.

After the war, the hotel served as a Freedman's Bureau providing services to newly-freed African Americans. Here African American men and women beginning their new lives learned to read and write, received health care and sought justice from the court. Enterprising African American women sold fried chicken and apple pie from platters balanced on their heads to hungry passengers on the train who reached out and grabbed the goodies through open windows.

At the turn of the century the building became a grand hotel, but fell into a slump during the Great Depression from which it never recovered. In 1972 the condemned building was saved by Historic Gordonsville Inc., a non-profit organization that restored The Exchange Hotel and opened it to the public as a museum in 1989.

The Exchange Hotel features three floors of exhibits and artifacts as well as a visitor center and gift shop on the first floor and outdoor grounds and gardens.

The first floor of the Exchange Hotel features a railway exhibit with numerous artifacts including lanterns, trunks, an old hand-crank telephone and iron grill ticket window. Second floor exhibits include a grand hall parlor with a ca. 1850 box grand piano and luxury period furnishings as well as a medical exhibit featuring an 1860s ambulance, medical artifacts and recreated hospital ward. Other exhibits include a recreated Freedman Bureau classroom where newly-freed slaves would have been taught to read and write by 'Yankee school marms.' On the third floor the War Room commemorates the soldiers of the 13th Virginia regiments with uniforms, photos, artillery, and numerous artifacts. The hotel is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is an African-American Memorial Site.

The Exchange Hotel is open daily in season for self-guided tours of the house and grounds. For those who don't mind when things go bump in the night, The Exchange Hotel offers Friday Night Tours that lead visitors through the hotel at night and tell about the building's history - and its secrets.

Pictured at the top: Located in historic downtown Gordonsville, the Exchange Hotel Museum collection includes Civil War era medical artifacts, uniforms and firearms.

Historical Photo

The ca. 1860 Exchange Hotel was indeed a scary-looking place before the hard work of restoration was completed by the non-profit Historic Gordonsville Inc.