The Exchange Hotel in Gordonsville, Virginia
I’ve just returned home after spending a week visiting my sister in Charlottesville, Virginia.
We share an interest in history, though she’s more focused on America’s past whereas I’m always looking for interesting tidbits that help bring my British-based Georgian characters to life.
And there is SO much history in Virginia, both Georgian era colonial history and post-American Revolutionary War era. Thomas Jefferson’s beautiful Monticello is only a mile or two from my sister’s home. In fact, her neighborhood is built on the farmland that Tom gave his daughter when she married.
The Haunted Hospital
So besides our usual exploration of restaurants, wineries (lots in that area!), and shopping, we squeezed in a visit to the Civil War Museum at the Exchange Hotel in Gordonsville.
We’d headed to Gordonsville for lunch at the area’s best barbecue restaurant, and found it, like many restaurants last week, closed! It was spring break at the University of Virginia, so lots of businesses were taking breaks also.
We moved down the street for an excellent lunch of fried chicken and cheesy grits (yum!), and then backtracked a block to the Exchange Hotel.
The hotel served as the Gordonsville Receiving Hospital during the U.S. Civil War. And the self-guided tour was fascinating. My sister is a retired nurse practitioner, and appreciated the medical history. I’m an author who’s most recent hero lost a hand at the Battle of Waterloo, so I found the museum displays about amputations and surgeries very interesting.
There were several decades of medical progress between Waterloo and the Civil War, but a little research might tell me when some of the 1860 techniques were first developed and point me in a new and better story direction (should I have another wounded character).
And what about the haunting?
The museum docent told us that the Exchange Hotel is one of the most haunted places in the U.S., often studied by ghost hunters.
True or not true?
There was certainly a great deal of suffering in that building. We didn’t see apparitions or hear voices, but as soon as we stepped into the stairwell of the hotel, a heaviness descended that left me short of breath. I hadn’t felt that since a visit to the Bird Cage Theater in Tombstone, AZ.
So yes, I think there are spirits there. If you’re visiting the area and want to see for yourself, check out what the museum has to say about paranormal activity there and book a paranormal tour!
But also check out the fascinating exhibits about medical techniques used at the hospital.