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Gordonsville Business Directory

Our directory contains listings for local businesses and friends of the The Exchange Hotel. Please take a moment to look and see if you have a listing. If so, you can claim it. Claiming your listing will allow you to edit, and keep the information up-to-date. In addition, you will be able to upload photos, and get performance status details.

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Museum Hours

Mon - Thurs  10 - 4 pm 
Friday  CLOSED
Saturday  10 - 4 pm
Sunday    1 - 4 pm
All Major Holidays
(i.e. Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter)

The Museum building, a National Historic Landmark, is not handicap accessible, and takes approximately 1+ hours to explore the three levels of exhibitions.


Day Tours (Self-Guided)  
General $10.00
Children (8 - 12) $3.00
Children (7yrs. & under) Free
Evening Tours (Public)  
 * Friday Nights Only : 8pm - 12pm $25.00
 * 8 Person Minimum - Reservation required.  
 * Check our Event Calendar for scheduled dates.
 * Check our Evening Tours page for additional information.
 * Must be 16 or older. 
 * Guests under 16 must be approved prior
to the night of the tour.

Welcome to the Exchange Hotel

exchangehotel with soldiers

About The Museum

The Civil War Medical Museum at the Exchange Hotel contains exhibitions on the history of Gordonsville as a railroad town, the elegance of the Exchange Hotel and its transformation and remarkable history as the Gordonsville Receiving Hospital with its medical and Civil War artifacts.

Three floors of displays in an 1860 railroad hotel retakes visitors in time. The Georgian architecture with its verandas and second-floor entry steps are reminiscent of Hotel days of a bygone era.

The Museum houses a world-renowned collection of artifacts relating to medical care during the Civil War. Among the many artifacts currently on display are surgical instruments used by Confederate medical staff, various pharmaceutical bottles and containers, medical knapsacks and panniers, stretchers and litters, prosthetic devices, and dental tools.

The Museum displays of period furnishings and surgical artifacts remind the visitor of the eras when the building served as a Hotel and then as a Battlefield Receiving Hospital-the scene of untold agony and death, the building survived the conflict and is the only Receiving Hospital still standing in Virginia.

During the reconstruction period, the Gordonsville Receiving Hospital served the newly freed slaves as a Freedman's Bureau. On display are the original letters from the students to their teacher, court cases adjudicated in the building and other period items.

Historic Gordonsville, Inc. acquired and restored the property in 1971. It was recognized and placed on the National Register of Historic Places on August 14, 1973 and acknowledged as an African-American Memorial Site in June of 2002.

Before the Civil War, the Exchange Hotel with its high ceiling parlors and grand veranda welcomed passengers from the two rail lines: the Virginia Central Railroad and the Alexandria Railroad. Soon war began. Troops, supplies, and the wounded were transported on these railroads to Gordonsville. The Exchange Hotel became the Gordonsville Receiving Hospital which provided care for 70,000 soldiers, both Confederate and Union. In the reconstruction period, this hospital served the newly freed slaves as a Freedman's Bureau. As the United States healed and the railroads boomed, this elegant building returned to its role of the hotel. Now fully restored, the hotel is a museum dedicated to the Civil War era.




 Gordonsville: A Raidroad Town

The Louisa Railroad reached Gordonsville on January 1, 1840-an event that would have a profound effect on town growth. Its ability to provide passenger travel, as well as freight transportation of goods, made Gordonsville a transportation center for the farms and plantations of the area. In 1850, the Louisa Railroad was renamed the Virginia Central.

The first depot was erected in 1854 when the Orange and Alexander extended its tracks from Orange to Gordonsville to connect with the Virginia Central and was situated in a triangle formed by the convergence of several lines of a single railroad. The second depot was erected in 1870, and the last one in 1904.

The arrival of the railroads heralded a new era for Gordonsville. The depot was a hub of activity where people gathered and were thrilled at the sight of the mighty locomotive as the smoke poured from its flaring smokestack.

Passengers arrived at the depot near the south end of Main Street and frequented the nearby Richard F. Omohundro's tavern and eating house. The tavern was destroyed by fire in 1859 and Mr. Omohundro immediately build the ornate Exchange Hotel on the same site.



chicken vendors gordonsville vaGordonsville's Legendary Chicken Vendors
African-American Memorial Site

Early trains had no dining cars and passengers had to eat at trackside establishments. The African-American women of Gordonsville would become Orange County's first female entrepreneurs. The "Chicken Vendors" greeted the waiting railroad cars with trays of fried chicken expertly balanced on their heads and baskets of rolls hanging from their arms, selling fried chicken to passengers through the open windows. No one knows the exact date the custom began--perhaps with that first train.

Trains carrying soldiers during the Civil War were greeted at the depot by throngs of chicken vendors. Chicken legs and breast cost fifteen cents; backs and wings, five and ten cents. By 1879, the Gordonsville Town Council required a "snack vendor's" license and payment of a license tax by these thriving entrepreneurs!

george bagbyDr. George BagbyIn1869, newsman George W. Bagby called Gordonsville “the chicken center of the universe”. In 1871, the C&O Railroad provided northern newspaper editors the opportunity to visit the south. In the book detailing this journey entitled “The Pine and the Palm Greeting; or The Trip of the Northern Editors to the South in1871”, published in Baltimore in 1873, the chicken vendors were described in detail.

The “Chicken Vendors” came to characterize Gordonsville in the minds of travelers for decades. Gordonsville Fried Chicken and the story of the ‘chicken vendors’, has been featured on restaurant menus as far away as California. The practice continued until the mid-1900s when regulations finally forced them to close down.

On June 15, 2002, a plaque honoring Gordonsville’s Legendary Chicken Vendors “Fried Chicken Capital of the World’ was dedicated and recognized as an African American Memorial Site at the Civil War Museum at the Exchange Hotel.


Death Roster

All known deaths occurred under the jurisdiction of the Gordonsville Receiving Hospital (Exchange Hotel). Forty-seven (47) have known living relatives, marked thus "<known relatives(s)>" on the list.

This list of names was transcribed from a bound book kept by the ward scribe from May 1864 to March 1865. The penmanship is such that there are possibly several entries for each patient in this index. Check for the correct spelling and all possible variations of both first and last names. The number the page the name was found on. The document is held by the Special Collections Department, University of Virginia.

List of patients treated at the Exchange Hospital

List of Civil War diseases

List of Confederate physicians who served in Gordonsville, VA  

We need your help in finding more about these casualties. Check your family history and especially your Family Bible. The location of specific graves is not known. Probably all of the Union casualties were moved to the national cemetery in Culpeper. The Confederate dead, initially buried near the hospital, were moved to the Maplewood cemetery. If you have any information please contact us.

exchange hotel receiving hospital

The War - Gordonsville Receiving Hospital

On April 17, 1861, Virginia seceded from the Union. On the 17th, the Gordonsville Grays received orders to report to the parade ground. Joined by Companies from Staunton and Charlottesville, they departed on the train from Gordonsville to Harpers Ferry. On April 22, Robert E. Lee arrived at Gordonsville en route to Richmond.

Gordonsville and the railroads which joined there were of immense value to the South during the Civil War. The use of railroads during war were an unknown factor at this time, and the Civil War would later be referred to as the first "railroad war."

In March 1862, the Exchange Hotel, was taken over by military authorities and received the wounded from the battlefields for the duration of the war. It became known as the Gordonsville Receiving Hospital. Dr. B.M Lebby of South Carolina was the director and its operation continued under his leadership until October 1865.

The wounded and dying from nearby battlefields such as Cedar Mountain, Chancellorsville, Trevilian Station, Mine Run, Brandy Station, and the Wilderness were brought by the trainloads. Although this was primarily a Confederate facility, the hospital treated the wounded from both sides. Twenty-six Union soldiers died here.

By war's end more than 70,000 men had been treated at the Gordonsville Receiving Hospital and just over 700 would be buried on its surrounding grounds and later interred at Maplewood Cemetery in Gordonsville.

It is to be remembered, too, when we read of the work of the surgeons and contemplate the mortality figures that antiseptics were unknown, the relation of dirt to infection was generally not understood, anesthesia was just coming into general use, and drugs were inadequate.

Twice as many men died of disease than of gunshot wounds in the Civil War.  Dysentery, measles, small pox, pneumonia, and malaria were the soldier's greatest enemy. The overall poor hygiene in camp, the lack of adequate sanitation facilities, the cold and lack of shelter and suitable clothing, the poor quality of food and water, and the crowded condition of the camps made the typical camp a literal breeding ground for disease.

Contrary to popular myth, most amputees did not experience the surgery without anesthetic. Ample doses of chloroform were administered beforehand.

The Surgeon General instructed the Medical Purveying Depots and Surgeons in the field to gather medicinal plants whose properties may be utilized as substitute medicines. The following recaps several commonly-used plants, and is provided by Jonathan O’Neal, MD Surgeon, PACS, and Society of Civil War Surgeons.

JUGLANS (Butternut)
Butternut is a mild cathartic, operating without pain, cramping, or irritation evacuating without debilitating the alimentary canal. It is especially applicable to cases of habitual costiveness and other bowel afflictions, particularly dysentery, in which it has acquired considerable reputation. In combination with calomel, it has sometimes been utilized in the treatment of intermittent and remittent fevers, and the other complaints attended with congestion of the abdominal viscera.
GLYCYRRHIZA (Liquorice Root)
Liquorice root is an excellent demulcent that is well adapted to the treatment of catarrhal afflictions, and to irritations of the mucous membranes of the bowels and urinary passages. Liquorice root is best administered in the form of a decoction as described, either alone or combined with other demulcents. It is frequently employed as an addition to the decoctions of acrid or irritating vegetable substances, such as seneka and mezereon, rendering it more acceptable to the stomach.
DIGITALIS (Foxglove)
Digitalis is a narcotic, sedative, and diuretic. When administered in quantities sufficient to bring the system decidedly under its influence, it is apt to produce a sense of tightness or weight with dull pain the head, vertigo, dimness or other disorder of vision, and some confusion of thought. It has been regarded as a standard remedy of dropsy since about 1775. It is presently employed very extensively both for its diuretic power and its sedative effects on the heart.

jononeal featherImage of a Civil War Surgeon
Source: Unknown

hotel architecture

Hotel Architecture

An elegant stopping place in the 1860’s as waist-coated gentlemen and hoop-skirted ladies strolled about the spacious, high-ceilinged parlors and other public rooms, into the central hall made notable by a broad staircase with a handsome balustrade.

The Exchange Hotel Civil War Museum building is an example of at least two strong architectural influences from Europe.

Behind those lovely, shady porches is a classic brick Georgian building with a central staircase with central halls on each of the two upper floors. Two rooms open off each side of these halls. The lower floor, a traditional English basement, contained the hotel dining/tavern room.

James Deetz describes this architectural form in his book, “In Small Things Forgotten - The Archaeology of Early American Life

“Strictly formal in its adaptation of classical architectural detail, the Georgian was rigidly symmetrical and bilateral, both in facade and floor plan. The classical Georgian house has a central hall that separates two sets of two rooms each. From the front, it exhibits strict bilaterality and balance: a central doorway flanked by paired evenly spaced windows and a central second-story window directly over the door. These windows have multiple panes and sliding sashes in contrast to the leaded casement windows of medieval type used in early vernacular houses."

Some alterations to the classic Georgian style are obvious in the porches and the basement tavern room. These modifications make sense when the building's function, as a hotel catering to railroad passengers, is considered--as well as the need to shield the windows from the hot summer sun.

The exterior of the museum presents an Italianate appearance in accord with its 1859 construction date. The Italianate design exerted a strong influence on American vernacular architecture and was at its most popular during the period just before the Civil War. The monograph, “What Style Is It? ‘, published by the Historic American Buildings Survey, National Trust for Historic Preservation, describes the Italianate style ‘as having several distinctive characteristics: a square house with low roofs, overhanging eaves with decorative brackets, and arcaded porches’. All these features are incorporated in the Exchange Hotel.

Georgian and Italianate building plans were distributed by means of design catalogs from England and Europe and were used by professional builders there, as well as in America. The local builder responsible for The Exchange Hotel's construction created an amalgam of styles, which work together to give us the building in use today. The resulting structure is a beautiful, stately building both inviting and architecturally intriguing.

Historic Gordonsville, Inc., acquired and restored the property in 1971, and it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places (.pdf) August 14, 1973.


As Seen On TV

as seen on tv


Nicely done, logical order. Thank you for preserving the soldiers names who didn't survive.
Bob Gilbert - Rochester N.Y.
Good job preserving this awesome piece of history.
Love this place. I almost cried because of its beauty. It's amazing!
Amazing collection of history. Staff is helpful, and personable. They know their stuff.
Bob S.
As an R.N. I have a new appreciation of the physicians and nurses of the Civil War era. Limited means, no technology, yet many lives saved.

Baltimore, MD

A fascinating, unique museum. Much detail and comprehensive explanations of each aspect of the hotels history.


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