In 1989, Bill and I purchased the Bolling Family Home in Wytheville. At that time, we had an idea, a dream if you will, to somehow share the Edith Bolling Wilson story that began in this small rural Virginia town. This idea would have to wait until our children were grown and until we could find the time and resources to dedicate to such an endeavor. Many years later, we began planning and taking actions we sincerely hoped would best raise public recognition that First Lady Mrs. Wilson deserved.
We established the Edith Bolling Wilson Birthplace Foundation in 2006 as we believed this was perhaps the most important contribution we could make for our community for a lifetime. Progress that same year included our sponsorship of the Virginia Historical Highway Marker. The historic marker, standing at the front of the Bolling Home, calls attention to this historic site and is an ongoing public tribute to Wytheville’s “Favorite Daughter.” It was a start.
Soon after, we began renovating one of the storefronts below the Bolling Family Home for meetings, exhibits, and museum activities. It was ten years ago on October 15, 2008 that the doors to the Edith Bolling Wilson Birthplace Museum finally opened. Bolling Family artifacts that had been entrusted to our care over the years, and stored in our home and offices, were now safely protected in the museum space. It is a bit shocking to realize a decade has already passed since we first gathered at this historic site to dedicate its public opening. It is extremely gratifying to know that the story of Edith Bolling Wilson, From Wytheville to the White House, continues to be told to the many children reached through the museum’s school educational programs and to thousands of daily travelers visiting from across the U. S. and around the world.
Over the years, Bill and I have been joined by Mrs. Wilson’s family members, dedicated museum Board and staff members, committed community volunteers, and generous donors who share our vision to preserve this national treasure and acknowledge the importance of Edith Bolling Wilson’s place in our nation’s history. Many devoted people made possible our ideas to give back to a community we love. It is our belief that Wytheville is fortunate to have the birthplace of a First Lady located in the heart of its downtown, which increases tourism for our business community and the region. The Bolling Home is the Town’s oldest remaining brick commercial building. It stands today as the only birthplace museum of a First Lady in Virginia, and is one of only eight historic sites in the country dedicated to the interpretation of a First Lady.
The legacy of Edith Bolling Wilson provides a positive role model not only for our youth, but also for everyone. She was a stellar example of what patriotic stewardship is all about. It is with great pride that the dream Bill and I had so many years ago has turned into a reality that benefits our community, Virginia, and our country by telling the story of one of the most influential and historically significant women of the twentieth century. We feel very fortunate that the future growth of the Edith Bolling Wilson Birthplace Foundation is being set by a dedicated Board of Trustees and staff and that the story will live on for generations.
With the museum's ten-year anniversary on October 15, 2018, I am pleased that with the able staff of an executive director, an education coordinator, and a visitor services coordinator, in conjunction with a strong board of directors, the museum's future is bright. Having rotated off the board December 31, 2017 and having stepped aside from the museum's day-to-day operations, I look forward to supporting the museum as a steadfast volunteer and will continue my role as Founder and advocate for the work of the Edith Bolling Wilson Birthplace Museum.
Bill and I are very proud to say this idea and our dream of preserving the legacy of First Lady Mrs. Wilson has come true.
-Farron Smith, Co-Founder
This article appears in the special 10th Anniversary edition of the museum's newsletter. Read the whole issue here.
In-season Hours (March-December)
Tuesday - Saturday, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Off-season Hours (January - February)
Thursday - Saturday, 10 a.m. - 4 p.m.
145 E. Main St., Wytheville, VA 24382
The museum is located downtown across from the Bolling Wilson Hotel.
Entry to the museum is by donation. Guided tours of the Birthplace and Bolling Family Home are $5 for adults and $3 for children.