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More Space for the Middleburg Museum

More Space for the Middleburg Museum

Written by Heidi Baumstark | Photos by Michael Butcher

For centuries, museums have played an integral role in the preservation of valuable artifacts, collective memories, culture, and local stories. Without museums those stories risk being forgotten, but with them new revelations are waiting to be discovered.

Thanks to the Middleburg community, The Middleburg Museum has expanded allowing for more local history to be unveiled and a deeper understanding of the role Middleburg played in the story of our commonwealth and beyond. 

The New Location 

What started as a smaller space in The Pink Box Visitor and Information Center, The Middleburg Museum is now right next door at 8 N. Madison Street. “Yes, we’ve moved next door where there is ample space for exhibits and hosting more events. It’s the perfect location,” says Suzanne Obetz, the museum’s executive director.

The original plan was to keep The Pink Box (at 12 N. Madison Street) and add onto it. But last November the building next door, formerly the office of Long & Foster Real Estate, became available. Shortly after, the nonprofit Middleburg Museum Foundation acquired the space. The Foundation, which was created to preserve Middleburg’s rich history through the museum, also still owns The Pink Box building, which it purchased in 2016 from the Town of Middleburg. 

“Since we still own it, someday we hope to reoccupy it and incorporate it into the museum space, but we’ll continue to host our events in the courtyard garden out back,” Obetz explains. The museum will celebrate its grand opening on June 30.

Museum Highlights 

The museum’s new 2,000-square-foot space will include wall panels, timelines, old photographs, exhibits, and artifacts of the area’s history. “Artifacts are coming in fast; people are donating. Now that we have the space, we’re ready to accept them,” Obetz shares. 

One of the rooms in the museum will be named after the late Eura Lewis (1929–2022), a Middleburg resident and former Town Council member. “She will be a prominent feature in the museum because none of this would have happened without her,” Obetz explains. “Eura was the one who is credited for sparking inspiration for a town museum and would often say, ‘We need a history museum; let’s do it.’” Her daughter, Merley Lewis, has been invited to help cut the ribbon at the grand opening. 

Obetz gave a preview of a few of the museum’s artifacts. “My pride and joy is the bar top from The Red Fox Inn. It’s from the Civil War when the inn was used as a military hospital and the bar top was used for surgeries and amputations.” The museum has also received the equipment of one of John Mosby’s raiders: sword, stirrups, and bits. 

Another artifact is the bell from Asbury Church, an African American church on 105 N. Jay Street in town. Made in Philadelphia, the bell was fashioned by the same company that cast the 1752 Liberty Bell. Like The Red Fox Inn, the church also served as a hospital during the Civil War and was used as a morgue. After the war in 1864, the church was donated to the African American Methodist Church, which became central to the town’s African American community.

Over the years, Obetz has asked people what they wanted to see at the museum. The answer? The Coach Stop, which was the neighborhood restaurant at 9 E. Washington Street (today it is Zest Clothing & Co.). Obetz plans to recreate it with an exhibit including a restaurant booth where people can actually sit down and imagine what it was like. “I’ve been in touch with two former owners who are digging through their basements for stuff,” she says. “They still have old menus and photographs, so we can recreate a setting where people can get the feeling of being there. I want people to come in, sit in the booth, and experience it.”

There is also a room for guest lectures, events, and movies. “We’ll show movies. There’s an old Alfred Hitchcock movie that was filmed in Middleburg at The Red Fox that I’d like to show,” Obetz notes.

The museum also plans to feature a timeline showing the progression of Middleburg’s history, from its beginning as “Chinn’s Crossroads” to its renaming in 1763 as “Middleburgh,” the Colonial era, the Civil War, local African American history, and Middleburg’s desegregation in the 1960s. Obetz remarks, “Middleburg was far ahead of its time; it was the first town to successfully desegregate in Virginia.” The museum will also highlight Hunt Country equestrian and fox-hunting notables, plus more recent celebrities from the 20th century like the Kennedys, actress Elizabeth Taylor, and former Virginia Senator John Warner. 

Brick by Brick

The community can play a key role in the museum’s mission through the Brick Fundraiser, which presents an opportunity for people to become part of Middleburg’s story for generations to come. People have the choice of purchasing bricks that come in two sizes, which can be engraved with names of individuals, honoring past loved ones, or to memorialize names of businesses or organizations. “We plan to lay the engraved bricks in the back courtyard near the Christmas tree,” Obetz explains. Brick by brick, this fundraiser supports the continued development of The Middleburg Museum. 

Museum membership is also an option providing supporters four different membership levels: Chinn (Individual) at $50; Mellon (Family) at $150; Powell (Patron) at $300; and Kennedy (Benefactor) at $500. Coming soon is a Kids Club Membership level. The museum’s first 100 “Founding Members” will also receive a commemorative tote bag. 

Upcoming Events

The museum will offer special programs for the whole family, several of which are just around the corner. One is a program on June 15, from 6 to 9 p.m., titled, “The American Indian in Lower Loudoun and Upper Fauquier,” featuring historian and professional mapmaker Eugene Scheel of Waterford. Scheel will have his books and maps for sale, and snacks will be provided. Tickets are available through the museum’s Facebook page. Obetz also plans to stock Scheel’s books and maps at the museum for purchase.

The Museum will also host Fun Fridays. Every third Friday of the month beginning at 5 p.m., the public is invited to gather for food and live music from local favorites in the back courtyard, and to connect with neighbors and friends. Although Fun Fridays are free, sponsorship opportunities and donations are welcome. “My husband, Doug, is our cook for Fun Fridays,” says Obetz. “He’s my number one volunteer! He does all the grilling. And, The Woolley Fox, which now occupies The Pink Box, will stay open late those days so people can shop.” Summer dates include June 16, July 21, and August 18. Looking to the fall season, another event for the calendar is October 13, which will be the museum’s second annual Chili Cook-Off in the courtyard garden.

Earlier this spring, the museum celebrated its soft opening April 20–23 to coincide with the weekend of the Middleburg Spring Races. Visitors got a sneak peek of a pop-up exhibit on the history of Virginia horse racing and the historic Glenwood race course. Of the weekend, Obetz says, “It was such an emotional day — not only for me but for everyone involved in this long process. It’s like, ‘We did it!’ I cried for two days; I’ve put my heart and soul in it. It’s a very personal and passionate thing for me and our board members. We want this for our community that we love so much.” 

Visit The Middleburg Museum at 8 N. Madison Street in Middleburg. For more information, check out their website at and follow them on Facebook. ML

Published in the June 2023 issue of Middleburg Life.

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