Wilson Library offers free admission to celebrate President Wilson’s birthday

It was 8 p.m. on the 27th of December, 1912 when a train carrying the 28th President of the United States, Woodrow Wilson, and his wife, Ellen pulled into the station in Staunton, Virginia.

Wilson had arrived to celebrate his 56th birthday as well as his election as President. Staunton pulled out all the stops to welcome back a native son who had risen to the highest office in the land. There were bands, cheering crowds, and a torchlight parade as the Wilsons were lead from the train station to a reception at the old Virginia Hotel on New Street and then off to the Presbyterian Manse where it had been arranged for the Wilsons to spend the night in the home and in the room where he was born.

The next day, Saturday, December 28 Wilson gave two speeches, the first on the steps of Old Main on the grounds of what was then called Mary Baldwin Seminary and then at a luncheon in the Dining Hall of the former Staunton Military Academy where a star in the floor survives to this day marking the spot where Wilson spoke.

Late in the afternoon of Saturday the 28th, President-elect Wilson, found himself with a little free time, so he slipped off to visit an old aunt, Janie, whom he had not seen since he was a boy. She was very old and deaf, and used a long black ear trumpet as an aid to her hearing. As Wilson entered the room Auntie Janie asked kindly, “Well, Tommy”, she knew him as Tommy, “what are you doing now?” Wilson replied rather proudly, “I’ve been elected President, Aunt Janie.” There was a moment of silence as Janie let this sink in before she replied, “What?” “President.” “Well, well,” “president of what?” Wilson then seized the trumpet desperately and roared into it “President of the United States”, whereupon Janie smiled skeptically and dismissed him. This was Wilson’s last visit to Staunton.

To celebrate this historic event, The Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library and Museum will host an Open House, December 28, 2012 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. marking the 100th anniversary of Woodrow Wilson’s last visit to the home of his birth. Admission is free to the public. Tour Woodrow Wilson’s birthplace, discover the life and legacy of our 28th President at his Museum, stroll through the lovely historic gardens, view archival photographs from that historic day, play with period toys, and visit the President’s Shop for light refreshments and unique gifts.

For more information about the Open House please contact Robert Robinson at the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library and Museum, at (540) 885-0897, extension 119, or rrobinson@woodrowwilson.org.

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