The grounds of the museum offer a variety of sights
as necessary and diverse as those found inside the museum. Both
the natural and man-made worlds are represented. Artifacts as
well as native and cultivated plants combine to beautify the
grounds. As you stroll the grounds, you will find numbered posts
(1-11) that designate
each stop noted below. Enjoy your walk!
Exterior Framework. The Southwest Virginia Museum
was originally the private residence of
Ayers, an attorney general of Virginia from 1886-1890. Construction
of the mansion was completed in 1895. Craftsmen labored on the
exterior of the building for a wage of seventeen and a half cents
an hour. The exterior of the building is limestone and sandstone.
The limestone is the lighter grayish stone, while the sandstone
is much darker and brownish in color.
Several features stand out
as you observe the exterior walls. The cornerstones are marked
with a lattice pattern, unlike the rough stones used elsewhere.
You may also see evidence of a two-story, red oak porch that
once covered the exterior. Flat rows of stone and iron supports
are all that remains of this porch. Due to structural instability
the porch was removed many years ago.
The museum is honored to be
listed on the Virginia Landmarks Register and the National Register
of Historic Places.
Stones from the Public School.
These stones were part of the
three-building complex that served as the public school for Big
Stone Gap for many years. The dated blocks were part of the main
building and the words Public School were written over
the main entrance.
The complex, which stood approximately
one-half mile east of the museum on Wood Avenue, was torn down
in the 1970's.
The Carriage House originally stored carriages and horses for
the family and was built at or about the same time as the mansion.
Later, the Carriage House served as a residence for the museum
In 1981, the structure was
declared unstable and was no longer used as a residence. The
building was slated to be torn down until funds were made available
to restore it. The house is now used to store museum artifacts
not on display. These artifacts, however, are used for special
Yellow Poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera)
The yellow polar tree is commonly
called the "tulip poplar" or "tulip tree."
It gets these names from the shape of its leaves and flowers,
which resemble tulips.
The yellow poplar is the largest
broad leaf tree in North America and is prominent in the southeastern
United States. Although called a poplar, it is not a member of
the poplar family. It is actually in the magnolia family.
Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida)
Several flowering dogwood trees
can be found growing on the museum grounds. The white flowering
dogwood is a cultivated species used for landscaping. Both species
bloom in early spring.
The flowering dogwood is both
the state flower and the state tree of Virginia. Early settlers
used the twigs as toothbrushes. Dye was extracted from the bark.
Native Americans believed bark from the dogwood, when crushed
into powder, would cure malaria.
Spruce (Picea abies)
The Norway spruce is an evergreen
introduced from Europe. It is a widely cultivated tree and is
grown for ornamental landscaping, as it is here on the museum
The showy cones of the Norway
spruce are the largest of all the spruces. A distinguishing feature
of the Norway spruce is its drooping branches.
(Ilex opaca). The American holly may be either
male or female. The female produces berries in mid-to-late fall
but there must be a male nearby to pollinate the flowers which
produce these berries.
Most people associate holly
with Christmas and decorations created using holly. While most
decorations today are store-bought, turn of the century decorations
were fashioned from naturally growing evergreens. Holly was one
of the most popular of these natural decorations.