Buildings along Beverley St in Downtown Historic Staunton, Virginia. Image credit Kyle J Little via Shutterstock

These 7 Towns in Virginia Have Beautiful Architecture

Virginia is one of the oldest states in the United States of America, having been admitted into the Union in 1788. Because of this long-standing history, Virginia is a hotspot for historic landmarks and old buildings, much of which endure to this day through preservation efforts in the many towns and cities that call the "Old Dominion" state home.

Discover seven of these small towns, which, despite their size, host an impressive collection of unique architecture, both old and new. From manors that once housed important historical figures to museums, forts, and even whole pioneer villages, learn more about Virginia's storied past through these beautiful examples of American architecture.


Businesses along a street in the historic downtown area of Lexington, Virginia.
Historic downtown area of Lexington, Virginia. Image credit Kristi Blokhin via Shutterstock

Lexington, Virginia, is notable for its well-preserved historic districts and impressive diversity of architecture, given its relatively small population of less than 8,000 residents. Home to two prominent universities, Washington and Lee University, and the Virginia Military Institute, Lexington also offers a rich selection of academic and historic landmarks.

Main Street in downtown Lexington is lined with 19th-century buildings featuring Federal, Greek Revival, and Gothic Revival styles. These buildings house a variety of shops, restaurants, and galleries. Historic landmarks include the Stonewall Jackson House, the former residence of the Confederate general, and the Lee Chapel and Museum, where General Robert E. Lee is buried.

Lexington, like many towns in the state, also boasts a beautiful courthouse designed in the Classical Revival style and numerous meticulously preserved homes that are still in use today.


Historic downtown of Staunton, Virginia.
Historic downtown of Staunton, Virginia. Image credit MargJohnsonVA via Shutterstock

The downtown area of Staunton, Virginia, is widely recognized for its collection of buildings dating back to the 19th and early 20th centuries. Popular architectural styles of the time, such as Greek Revival, Federal, and Victorian, are represented here.

Notable destinations include the American Shakespeare Center, housed in the Blackfriars Playhouse, a re-creation of Shakespeare’s original indoor theater in London, England. Down the street on Richmond Avenue, The Staunton National Cemetery, established during the Civil War, is a solemn yet beautiful and historically relevant landmark popular with historians. Staunton also features the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library and Museum, where you can see the birthplace of the 28th US President.

Staunton’s commitment to preservation has earned it recognition on the National Register of Historic Places, making it an exemplary model of maintaining architectural integrity while fostering a thriving modern community.


Central Street through Middleburg, Virginia.
Central Street through Middleburg, Virginia. Image credit Nigel Jarvis via Shutterstock

Known as the "Nation's Horse and Hunt Capital," Middleburg has earned this title due to its numerous historic estates and other buildings that relate to the favorite pastimes in this rural region of Virginia: steeplechasing and (formerly) fox hunting.

Must-see landmarks in Middleburg include the Red Fox Inn and Tavern, established all the way back in 1728! This inn and tavern has hosted numerous famous guests over the centuries, including John F. Kennedy.

Middleburg is also surrounded by scenic countryside with many places to soak in the views. Many estates and horse farms that reflect the town’s equestrian heritage can be visited just a short drive outside town. Learn more about this at the National Sporting Library and Museum, with its vast collection of art and literature related to horse and field sports. A healthy collection of wineries in this ideal grape-growing region can be visited and toured in the lands around town as well, with Boxwood Estate Winery and Greenhill Vineyards being easily accessible and highly recommended options.


Downtown street in Abingdon, Virginia.
Downtown street in Abingdon, Virginia. Image credit Dee Browning via Shutterstock

Founded in 1778, Abingdon's downtown area still contains a selection of 18th and 19th-century buildings in popular styles for the time, such as Victorian and Greek Revival. The Martha Washington Inn and Spa, for example, dates back to 1832, and served as a residence, hospital, and even a college at various points during its lengthy lifetime. A slightly new structure, the Barter Theatre, was established in 1933 and is one of the oldest professional theatres in the nation and a key cultural landmark for this region, still hosting plays, concerts, and other live shows to this day.

See a variety of other antique, yet well-preserved buildings, along West Main Street, which runs through the center of downtown. See a Civil War-era home up close at the Fields Penn 1860 House Museum and step next door to the Historical Society of Washington County for more in-depth info about Abingdon's history.

Cape Charles

Aerial view of Businesses on Mason Avenue in Cape Charles Virginia
Businesses on Mason Avenue in Cape Charles, Virginia. Image credit Kyle J Little via Shutterstock

Sitting on the eastern shore of Chesapeake Bay, Cape Charles is both a popular vacation spot and a long-standing historic landmark. The Cape Charles Historic District encompasses numerous historically important structures, such as the Cape Charles Memorial Library.

The more commercial area downtown features the Cape Charles Museum, with its curated collection of artifacts and exhibits, all housed in a former power plant. You will also find a gift shop and picnic area. Back to the Cape Charles Historic District, at the dead center of town, amenities such as hotels, like the Bay Haven Inn of Cape Charles, an inn housed in a colonial-style home dating back to 1906, shops, and restaurants serving locally caught seafood are easy to find.

On the other side of downtown is the beachfront, an ideal place to capture a wonderful view over Chesapeake Bay. Be sure to head there for a sunset.


Downtown Warrenton, Virginia.
Downtown Warrenton, Virginia. Image credit Kosoff via Shutterstock

Popular landmarks within Warrenton include the Fauquier History Museum at the Old Jail, offering an in-depth look into the town’s founding and law enforcement past, and the Fauquier County General District Courthouse, which opened in 1974.

For a more religious-themed excursion, The Warrenton Presbyterian Church, with its beautiful Gothic Revival architecture, is well worth a visit. Nearby, you will find a good selection of cafes, restaurants, shops, and hotels, many of which are housed in older brick-laden storefronts, all within walking distance. Grab a bite to eat at Claire's at the Depot, a high-end restaurant located within an 18th-century train station. Other former train-related businesses also host amenities, like the Silver Branch Warrenton Station brewery across the street, and the Wild Hare Cider at The Grainery next door.


Downtown street in Orange, Virginia.
Downtown street in Orange, Virginia. Image credit Idawriter, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Orange houses several examples of noteworthy architecture that make for an interesting sightseeing visit. The Orange County Courthouse, designed by Thomas Jefferson's protégé, William B. Phillips, is an important landmark with its unique Jeffersonian architectural style. The James Madison Museum is another interesting place to gather more information about the area's history and the legacy associated with the fourth US president.

The town's residential and commercial areas are dotted with historic homes dating back to several historic periods, from the founding of the country in the 18th century to modern day. The Holladay House Inn, for example, is a gorgeous brick house built in 1830 on land originally owned by an American Revolution veteran and continues to operate to this day. The Greenock Manor is another operating hotel, dating back 150 years. This Victorian-style manor provides an excellent venue for weddings as well.

Experience's Virginia's Wonderful Architecture

Virginia, with its rich history dating back to the country's founding and beyond, holds several dozen notable buildings and other destinations from centuries past. Explore these remaining landmarks and expand your knowledge and appreciation of Virginia and the people who built it up into the great state it is today. Stay in some of these buildings, which still operate as inns, restaurants, and shops, and be a part of history yourself!

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