The Historic Gardens
The garden is located behind the Manse and is open to the public from dawn until dusk.
Visitors do not need an admission ticket to tour the gardens.
Framed by the Manse – the birthplace of Woodrow Wilson – our museum, gift shop, and archives buildings, our gardens are a hidden gem just waiting to welcome you.
Located on three levels our gardens are a tucked away treasure that is open to the public from dawn to dusk each day free of charge or can be rented for private events. Pause on your journey to sit in one of our gazebos and imagine what life may have been like here in the mid-nineteenth century.
Started in 2018, our ongoing archaeological investigation continues to go beneath the garden to explore more of our hidden history. The original property of the Manse extended to the west encompassing where the parking lot is today and to the south including where the house next door (The Smith House) is now located. Behind the Manse, and in close proximity to the house, was a work-yard for the household.
Historical research locates a stable/carriage house/privy on the site in the approximate location of one of our gazebos. near Frederick St Primary sources also mention a smokehouse on the property, but its location is yet to be discovered. From the diary of the first minister to live in the home, we learn of the various plants that were grown, including fruit trees, a vegetable garden, and flowers.
While we are in the early stages of archaeology, we do know that we have a site rich with intact deposits of artifacts. As the project moves forward we are committed to incorporating what we learn into every aspect of our interpretation. This research will guide us as we learn more about the people, including the enslaved individuals, who lived and worked in the house.
To contribute to this project please visit: https://www.gofundme.com/help-fund-phase-2-of-our-archaeological-evaluation
HISTORY OF THE GARDENS
The original property of the Manse was much larger than the current lot. The lot was a working farm for the family. In the diary of the first minister who lived in the home, we learn of the various plants that were added, including fruit trees, a vegetable garden, and flowers. A stable was on the property and we learn from primary sources that there was a smokehouse on the property as well. The gardens and grounds were tend by enslaved individuals who were owned by the family.
The first gardens, designed in 1933 by Richmond landscape architect Charles F. Gillette was done as a project by the Garden Club of Virginia. The Victorian restoration, suitable to the 1846 bowknot garden would not have been part of the home during Wilson’s time in the garden, but was a popular feature during the colonial revival period. construction date of the house, the gardens included two terraces, the lower one featuring boxwood-lined bowknot beds, the only bowknot garden that Gillette created. To further highlight the features of the gardens, a brick terrace and pathways, designed by landscape architect Ralph E. Griswold were erected in 1967-
68. In 2008, the Garden Club of Virginia brought new life back to the garden by rebuilding perimeter fencing, planting new boxwoods, lilacs, hostas and perennials.
Unfortunately, in 2015, the boxwood blight (Cylindrocladium buxicola) disease destroyed the boxwoods in the lower garden. The disease was first identified in Virginia in 2011, and by 2013, several properties around the Commonwealth were infected with the fungus. Symptoms of the disease include brown leaf spots that lead to defoliation and black streaking on boxwood stem tissue. The boxwoods were removed in fall 2016, and plans for a new design of the garden are currently ongoing.