FORT LEE, Va. (Feb. 20, 2014) -- Labeled as one of Virginia’s “best places to visit” by the nationally televised Travel Channel, Pamplin Historical Park and the National Museum of the Civil War Soldier in Dinwiddie County is a nearby off-duty destination that shouldn’t be overlooked.
Located on a sprawling 424 acres, this national historic landmark features four high-tech museums and special exhibits, several antebellum (pre-Civil War) homes and fortifications, the Breakthrough Battlefield of April 2, 1865, a year-round Civil War Adventure Camp and more.
Pamplin has earned many accolades for its unique, hands-on and living-history experiences that take visitors back in time. A good example is its formal holiday tea gatherings in which ladies and gentlemen in period apparel teach guests 19th century etiquette and courtship rituals. On a daily basis during the summer and fall, guests will find historians in Civil War-era costumes at the military encampments or fortifications discussing life as a Confederate soldier and demonstrating the “necessary life skills” of firing a weapon and taking care of one’s equipment and clothing.
“We also host a military encampment where children get to try on uniforms and dresses and learn to play the drum,” said Kristy Fowler, marketing and membership services coordinator at Pamplin. “It’s these real-life experiences that appeal to people of all ages. A lot of visitors enjoy the sights, sounds and smells at Tudor Hall Plantation as well. It’s a farm with sheep, chickens and other animals, which tends to make it a relaxing, back-to-simpler-times experience for youths and adults alike.”
The historical park opened in 1994. Its namesake – Dr. Robert B. Pamplin Jr., a businessman and philanthropist living in Portland, Ore. – purchased the land because it had once belonged to his ancestors. The tract includes a three-quarter mile stretch of well-preserved Civil War earthworks constructed by Confederate troops of Gen. Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. It was on that site in 1865 that troops of Gen. Ulysses S. Grant’s Army of the Potomac broke through Lee’s defensive line, ending the nine-month campaign of Petersburg and setting in motion the events leading to Lee’s surrender at Appomattox Court House one week later.
Determined to preserve the history of the area, the Pamplin Foundation continued to invest money into the park. In 1999, the Museum of the Civil War Soldier opened. The 25,000-square-foot facility, built at a cost of $13 million, features a remembrance wall and an elaborate, seven-gallery exhibit that brings visitors face-to-face with the nearly three million Americans who became soldiers during the Civil War. The high-tech tours include an MP-3 audio player, interactive computers and videos, life-sized dioramas, more than 1,000 original objects, a multi-sensory battlefield simulation and personal “soldier comrades” who serve as group guides.
“When individuals visit Pamplin Park and the museum for the first time, they are usually amazed by the quality of the exhibits and the amount of time they can spend here,” Fowler said, “History enthusiasts are just blown away by the experience, and we hear many favorable comments about the way the battle simulation in the main museum portrays the common soldier’s experience. If you and your family members share a love for history, this is definitely the place for you.”
Fowler also encourages parents to check out the parks many programs for children. They include an overnight Civil War Adventure Camp, which is believed to be the first of its kind in the nation. One of the audio tours at the museum also is geared toward the fifth grade level. The park offers a special tour for children, ages 3-12, as well, and provides a field trip program for schools.
Pamplin Park is located at 6125 Boydton Plank Road. Visitors should allow at least four hours to see everything the historic area has to offer. During the winter season, the park is open on Saturdays and Sundays from 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. Beginning March 3, the park will be open daily from 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Admission is $11.50 for adults, $7.50 for ages 6-12, and 5 and under are free. For more information, call (804) 861-2408 or visit www.pamplinpark.org.