What To Do
Abraham Lincoln declared to the nation in an address to Congress that we cannot escape history. Why try, when the genius of Thomas Jefferson, the fascinating life of Booker T. Washington, the gracious lines of the Avenel mansion are at Bedford's feet. Visit Bedford, and you will witness the sacrifices of the men who participated in the invasion of Normandy in 1944, the heartbreak of slavery, the triumph of freedom and the celebrations of a strong nation.
413 Avenel Avenue, Bedford, VA 24523
Historic Avenel, circa 1838, was the focal point of a 200-acre plantation that has served as the centerpiece in the social, cultural and political life of Bedford for over 150 years. It has played host to many distinguished visitors including General Robert E. Lee and Edgar Allan Poe. The unique and original architectural features of the house make it one of the region's treasures. Avenel is listed in the National Register of Historic Places and the Virginia Landmarks Register. Tours or functions scheduled by appointment.
Bedford County Courthouse:
Built in 1930, this Classical Revival building features an Ionic-order porch, Corinthian columns and Flemish-bond brickwork. The massive triangular pediment has a unique design incorporating symbols of the local crops of corn and tobacco and the official crest of the fourth Duke of Bedford, John Russell. Encircling the grounds like silent sentinels stand monuments to veterans of the American Revolution, Civil War and World War II. Main Street, Bedford. Noteworthy is the D-Day monument commemorating Bedford's considerable losses on June 6, 1946. www.co.bedford.va.us.
Bedford Museum and Genealogical Library:
201 E. Main Street, Bedford, VA 24523
The museum is housed in a 1895 Masonic Temple in Centertown Bedford and is Bedford's only example of Romanesque Revival architecture. The exhibits trace the history of the area, from early Native American culture, through the Civil War and into the mid-twentieth century. It is also the headquarters for the Bedford Genealogical Society and Library. The museum is open Monday through Fridays from 10:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m and on Saturdays from 10:00am to 3:00pm through January. Closed on Major Holidays. www.bedfordvamuseum.org.
Bedford Historic District/Walking Tour:
The Historic Bedford Walking Tour is a self-guided adventure through Centertown Bedford which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Explore the unique craftsmanship, interior and exterior, of the twenty-one stops on the tour. Tour and informational maps are available at the Bedford Main Street office and the Bedford Visitors Center. To order the walking tour brochure online, visit www.centertownbedford.com.
Bedford Meeting House:
This interesting Greek Revival structure was built in 1838 as the first meeting house for Methodist in Liberty. In 1886, it was reconsecrated as St. Phillip's Episcopal Church and became a place of worship for former slaves and a day school for their children. It was restored by the Bedford Historical Society in 1970 and is listed on the National Register of Historic places as well as the Virginia Landmarks Register. www.bedfordhistory.org.
The Booker T. Washington National Monument
12130 Booker T. Washington Highway (Virginia 122)
This monument honors the life and legacy of African-American leader Booker T. Washington. Born into slavery on this tobacco plantation in 1856, Washington rose to prominence as an educator, orator, and founder of the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. This historic site interprets Washington's life through exhibits, film, a living history farm, guided tours, and special events. The park is open daily from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Admission to the park is free. www.nps.gov/bowa.
Elks National Home:
Ashland Avenue, Bedford. 540-586-8232
On a grassy hill overlooking Bedford's historic streets stands the country's only retirement facility for the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks. While an impressive and interesting site all year round, it is at its best when the grounds are set ablaze with the brilliant colors and lighted displays of the Christmas Holiday season that draws visitors from around the country. The Elks National Home was featured in the hit film, "What About Bob?" starring Bill Murray and Richard Dreyfus. www.elkshome.org.
The National D-Day Memorial:
3 Overlord Circle, Bedford, VA 24523, 540-587-8973
Located in the town suffering the highest per capita D-Day losses in the nation, The National D-Day Memorial honors the Allied forces that participated in the invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944. With its stylized English Garden, haunting invasion tableau, and striking Victory Plaza, the Memorial stands as a powerful permanent tribute to the valor, fidelity, and sacrifice of D-Day participants. The Memorial and gift shop are open from 10 AM - 5PM Tuesday - Sunday, CLOSED MONDAYS during the months of December, January and February. With the exception of December 26, 2011 to accommodate holiday travelers (some inclement weather closings possible). Guided tours and school programs available, guided tours will resume the beginning of March 2012. www.dday.org.
Thomas Jefferson's Poplar Forest:
P. O. Box 419, Route 661, Forest, VA 24551, 434-525-1806
This historic octagonal home and beautiful plantation was built by President Thomas Jefferson as his personal retreat. It was a place he could escape with his family and find solitude and inspiration. When speaking of Poplar Forest and Bedford County, Jefferson said, "In point of soil, climate...and good neighborhood, I think it the finest part of Virginia." Poplar Forest now offers a unique experience, allowing visitors to see the restoration of the home's interior and wings as well as archaeology in progress. Open 7 days a week, March 15 through December 15, except Thanksgiving Day from 10 am - 4 pm. Hands-on activities available in the summer. Special events throughout the season, including Independence Day. www.poplarforest.org.
The Longwood and Oakwood Cemeteries:
The Longwood Cemetery is one of the earliest cemeteries in Bedford and provides visitors with a glimpse of the unique people who settled this land and created out of it a new county. It features the Monument of Valor that marks the final resting place for Civil War Veterans. The Oakwood Cemetery features the Elks National Cemetery. Both are located off Longwood Avenue.
New London Academy:
Lynchburg-Salem Turnpike (US 460)
Originally chartered as a private boys school in 1795, the New London Academy was attended by Thomas Jefferson's grandson, Francis Eppes. The building now houses an elementary school and a museum.
James River Restored Canal Lock:
Battery Creek Lock #7 is part of the nineteenth century James River and Kanawha Canal System that was the main artery of trade between Richmond and the western valleys. Built in 1849, the lock was restored in the mid 1960's and has been a favorite site of history lovers ever since.