Located 19 miles northeast of Charlottesville, the town of Gordonsville celebrated its bicentennial in 2013. The town is located in Orange County and has a rich history because of its proximity to the Virginia Central Railroad and several presidential landmarks nearby. Today, Gordonsville is a small residential town with a population around 1,500 people.
What’s In A Name?
Gordonsville was named for Nathaniel Gordon who purchased 1,350 acres of land in the area in the 1780s. He opened a tavern in the area which became known as a place to eat, lodge and discuss local matters. Prominent guests like Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, and James Monroe stopped by “Gordon’s Tavern” on their way south to Charlottesville.
In 1813, Gordon became the postmaster of the area and the area became known as Gordonsville. The land was willed to Gordon’s son, John, at the time of Nathaniel’s death in 1820. By then the area had been built into a small town with a post office, general store, blacksmith shop and more.
History of Gordonsville
Gordonsville’s location between Potomac and Charlottesville played an integral role in the growth of the area. The Louisa Railroad was extended through Gordonsville in 1839 and in 1854 the Orange & Alexandria Railroad completed its line which connected the area to Northern Virginia.
By mid-century, Nathaniel Gordon’s original tavern had burned down and was rebuilt as a luxury hotel for train passengers. When the Civil War broke out, the hotel was used as a hospital for over 70,000 patients. Gordonsville was repeatedly threatened during the war, but remained standing.
In 1870, the town was incorporated by the Virginia General Assembly. Around the same time, Gordonsville was known for the food options in the area. By the end of the century, the area was known as “The Fried Chicken Capital of the World” because of the entrepreneurial efforts of African-American women who fed southern fare to train passengers.
Over the next one hundred years, the cultural culinary scene has continued to flourish. Gordonsville is known for award-winning BBQ, French and German restaurants, and fried chicken continues to bring tourists to the area.
Nathaniel Gordon’s original tavern that was rebuilt as a hotel and served as a hospital during the Civil War stands today as The Exchange Hotel Civil War Medical Museum. The beautiful Georgian architecture still stands as it did during the war and has exhibits that tell the story of the town of Gordonsville. Some say that the Museum is a prime place for paranormal activity and hosts ScareFest each Halloween.
Black Meadow, or Wolftrap Farm, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places because it was owned by James and Dolley Madison. The farmhouse and plantation surrounding it now serves as a wedding venue.
The Gordonsville Historic District is located in downtown Gordonsville and is comprised of over 80 structures including churches, commercial buildings and the Exchange Hotel.
The greater Gordonsville area is known for outdoor activities, wineries and cideries, and great cuisine. Be sure to stop in at BBQ Exchange, an award-winning BBQ Restaurant!
Present Day Gordonsville
Today, US Route 15 and US Route 33 connects Standardsville and Louisa, and passes right through Gordonsville. The area boasts lots of history, modern-day amenities, and convenience to Charlottesville, Richmond and DC.