Take a virtual walking tour of historic Abingdon, Virginia
Abingdon's entire downtown is on the National Register of Historic Places
Abingdon traces its roots to 1750, when Dr. Thomas Walker, who had been granted over 6,000 acres of land by King George II, explored the area. Later, Joseph Black purchased some of this land from Dr. Walker, settled on it and built a small fort. The area became known as “Black’s Fort.” Abingdon was the first English speaking settlement incorporated in the watershed of the Mississippi.
In 1776, the Virginia Assembly created Washington County and in 1778, the Town of Abingdon was incorporated as the county seat. The name is thought to be in honor of Martha Washington’s ancestral home of Abingdon Parish in England.
Take a virtual walking tour of the 20-block historic district, or download a free pdf of the walking tour brochure for your next visit to Abingdon.Download the historic walking tour brochure
1. THE MARTHA WASHINGTON INN & SPA 150 W. MAIN ST.
In 1832, the central building of the complex that is now the Martha Washington Inn was constructed as a private residence for General Francis Preston and family. It was sold in 1858 and in 1860 became Martha Washington College, named in honor of the first lady. The two wings were added at this time. During this period the college served as a Civil War hospital. It began operating as a hotel in 1935 and has seen such illustrious guests as Eleanor Roosevelt, Jimmy Carter, Elizabeth Taylor and Gregory Peck.
2. ST. THOMAS EPISCOPAL CHURCH 124 E. MAIN ST.
Completed in 1925, the current church was built following a fire that destroyed the original 1846 frame church. It is based on a 14th century English Tudor Gothic chapel. The chancel layout is the traditional “split chancel” design popular after 1840 in England and later in this country.
3. SINKING SPRINGS PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH 136 E. MAIN ST.
In 1837 the original Sinking Spring congregation divided over a “new school – old school” controversy. Part of the congregation remained at what is now Barter Theatre, while the “new school” group built Sinking Spring Presbyterian Church at the present location and dedicated it in 1851. It was built on the lines of the Greek rectangular plan of many of the Presbyterian churches found in the Valley of Virginia, with a tall steeple over the front entrance.
4. GREENWAY-TRIGG BUILDING 152 E. MAIN ST.
Built in 1884 by James G. Greenway, David Greenway and Thomas Trigg, it operated under the firm name Greenway Brothers & Company, then later became the duplex home of the Greenway and Trigg families. The Greenways lived on the east side and the Triggs lived in the mirror image western side of the house. The initials on the uppermost window stand for the firm’s name.
5. DUNN’S HOTEL/THE VIRGINIA HOUSE 208 E. MAIN ST.
John Dunn built this building with its stepped gables in 1846. Known as Dunn’s Hotel, the building was both a store and a hotel, with two front entrances. John Dunn & Sons’ store sold hats, yard goods, boots, groceries, and paints. The western part of the building was the hotel. After John Dunn’s death, his sons operated the businesses and renamed the hotel “The Virginia House.” The Bank of Abingdon purchased the eastern half in 1873, while the hotel was sold in 1879 to Frank S. Findlay and renamed The Arlington House. The house was “rejoined” in 1965 under the ownership of G. R. C. Stuart. It has housed the offices of Penn Stuart Attorneys at Law since 1962.
6. THE TAVERN 222 E. MAIN ST.
Considered the oldest building in Abingdon, the Tavern was built around 1779 and used from its beginning as a tavern and inn for stagecoach travelers. It saw such guests as Henry Clay and President Andrew Jackson. Abingdon’s first post office was located in the addition on the east side of the Tavern where the original mail slot can still be seen. The Tavern has also served as a bank, bakery, general store, cabinet shop, barber shop, private residence, post office, antique shop and restaurant. The top floor was used a hospital during the Civil War.
7. THE WASHINGTON HOUSE/THOMAS FINDLAY’S HOTEL 228 – 230 E. MAIN ST.
In 1835, Thomas Findlay built “The Washington House,” Abingdon’s first hotel. It saw many travelers and stage drivers who had a room set aside for their regular use. Newcomers occasionally used hotel rooms for professional purposes. Dr. Gilliam, a surgeon-dentist, took one of the rooms, and in 1843, The Banner newspaper announced he was ready to serve the public with “ladies to be waited upon in their homes, if required.” The building has been a boarding house, meat market, and hat shop.
8. LUDOWICK C. PRICE/E. L. DAVENPORT HOUSE 268 E. MAIN ST.
In 1825, the Lynch family built a log cabin that is still present in the western portion of the house. The eastern addition was built in 1835 by Ludowick C. Price, an Abingdon merchant. E. L. Davenport resided here from 1849 – 1890. The house originally sat closer to Main Street. Between 1903 and 1907 it was moved back and a basement was added.
9. JAMES LONGLEY/JAMES K. GIBSON HOUSE 281 E. MAIN ST.
Originally two separate houses, with the western halfbuilt in 1790 by Morris Morrison, and the eastern half by Matthew Willoughby in 1791. By 1798, James Longley had acquired both houses and he joined them together sometime before 1817. During recent restoration work, owners found clues to the age of the house including pegged rafters, log floor joists, hand-forged rose-headed nails, and original door locks and H & L hinges. A particularly interesting feature is the holes in the sides of the exterior doorways, where curtains were hung on rods during warm weather to allow the doors to remain open.
10. ADAM HICKMAN HOUSE/THE CAVE HOUSE 279 E. MAIN ST.
This Gothic Revival style house was built in 1857 by Adam Hickman, who was in the tannery business and made saddles and harnesses. In 1949, Alice Brown Hilton, widow of James Hilton, author of Goodbye Mr. Chips and Lost Horizon, purchased the home. Behind the house are cave entrances where legend has it that wolves attacked Daniel Boone’s dogs in 1760. Boone named this area “Wolf Hills,” which later became “Black’s Fort” and finally Abingdon.
11. THE BANK/PRESTON HOUSE 225 E. MAIN ST.
Built in 1858 for the Exchange Bank of Virginia. Designed as a combination bank and residence, the western side of the building had a separate front entrance, iron bars on the windows and a vault. The bank failed after the Civil War and was purchased by a brother of the first cashier, Robert Preston. Now a private residence, its dining room still has the original bank vault. The Bank is a National Historic Landmark.
12. THE WILLIAM KING HOUSE 108 COURT ST., NE
A wealthy merchant and salt manufacturer from Ireland, William King constructed this residence, naming it “Grace Hill” in 1803. It was the first brick house in Abingdon. The house has been used as a residence, a school, and offices. He died at age 39 in 1808. William King’s will provided a legacy to the Abingdon Male Academy for property that today is home to William King Museum of Art.
13. SUMMERS LAW OFFICE 120 COURT ST.
Built in 1872 as the Johnston & Trigg law office, this building was deeded to Lewis P. Summers, lawyer and historian. Summers compiled The Annals of Southwest Virginia, a major historical resource for the area, and authored History of Southwest Virginia, 1746-1786. His son, Andrew, collected materials to preserve the musical heritage of the region.
14. WASHINGTON COUNTY COURTHOUSE 191 E. MAIN ST.
A courthouse on this site burned in 1864 in the aftermath of General Stoneman’s Civil War raid and the present courthouse was constructed in 1869 in the Greek Revival style. The three stories are bricked in the Flemish Bond pattern with a shallow hipped roof, Doric columns and portico. The bracketed cornice and two-stage cupola reflect the Italianate style that was popular at the time. The stained glass window was designed by Tiffany Studios and added as a memorial to those who served during WWI. Many came to the county seat on court days, whether they had business or not. They gathered behind the courthouse to exchange news, transact business, and buy and sell goods, horses, land or livestock. Horse and mule trading became so established the lot became known as “Jockey Lot.”
15. COL. JAMES WHITE HOUSE 171 E. MAIN ST.
As a wealthy merchant and businessman, White built this house in 1819 and added the store/office building to the east in 1828. The house and store were partially destroyed in 1864 in General Stoneman’s raid – the same fire that burned the nearby courthouse. The buildings were restored immediately after the war, when a bracketed Italianate cornice was added to the Federal façade.
16. THE ANDREW RUSSELL HOUSE 165-167 E. MAIN ST.
One of Abingdon’s oldest buildings, the western part of this house was built in 1792 by Andrew Russell. During the Civil War the house was used as a Confederate officers’ headquarters.
17. GENERAL FRANCIS PRESTON’S LAW OFFICE 159 E. MAIN ST.
Built in 1815, the front portion of the house is the law office, with the original logs underneath the siding. John B. Floyd used the building as a law office 1830-1863, while serving as Governor of Virginia, Secretary of War in Buchanan’s Cabinet, and Brigadier General in the Confederate Army. Judge R. M. Page had his insurance office here 1880 – 1891 and Dr. Jack Barrow had his medical offices here with Dr. George V. Litchfield in 1915.
18. THE REVEREND ROHR HOUSE/MARCELLA 133 E. MAIN ST.
This brick townhouse was built in 1845 by the Reverend Phillip Rohr as a residence. Through the years it has been used as a millinery shop, a physician’s office, and the Town Library.
19. THE VALENTINE BAUGH HOUSE 129 E. MAIN ST.
The western part of this house is a log building built around 1798 by Robert Duke. It was purchased in 1805 by Valentine Baugh. Two years later he purchased the eastern part of the lot, expanding the building and adding wood siding. Baugh was a surveyor appointed by the Governor of Virginia to mark the state boundary line between Virginia and Tennessee in 1802. The house descended through Valentine’s son Leonidas to his daughter Minnie Baugh who added an apothecary shop in 1891 (now a clothing boutique). When the 1832 Presbyterian Church was converted into Abingdon’s Town Hall (now Barter Theatre) in the early 1900’s, Miss Minnie purchased the church’s wood columns and used them to remodel the front porch. Minnie and her sister Ethel were instrumental in organizing the Washington County Historical Society.
20. ABINGDON UNITED METHODIST CHURCH 101 E. MAIN ST.
Construction began in 1883. By December 26th that year, the church, “though not completely finished, was beautifully decorated” for the marriage of Nannie E. Honaker to Silas Jones. A 2-story frame parsonage was built on the east side by 1880, and a brick annex was added behind the sanctuary in 1914.
21. WILLIAM RODEFER HOUSE 123 W. MAIN ST.
Rodefer, a carpenter and joiner, began construction of this Federal style house, with its classically symmetrical façade, in 1857. The Civil War intervened, and Mr. Rodefer filed for bankruptcy in the early 1870s.
22. BARTER THEATRE 127 W. MAIN STREET
Constructed in 1831 as the original Sinking Spring Presbyterian Church. In 1837 the building was acquired by the Sons of Temperance who hosted performances and social events, and the building became known as Temperance Hall. In 1890, The Sons of Temperance transferred the building’s title to the Town of Abingdon, to be used as a Town Hall. In 1905, the current front portion of the building was added. The Town Hall included offices upstairs, a jail in the basement, and fire department in the rear. The main floor was referred to as the Opera House. In 1933, during the Great Depression, Robert Porterfield brought a group of actors to Abingdon, where they bartered theatre tickets for produce, livestock, and other goods, giving the new theatre its name.
Buildings on this tour, with the exception of three churches, are those which were shown to have existed on the O. W. Gray & Son map of 1880. Historical descriptions are from Places in Time by Nanci King.Explore more of Abingdon's history with a 3-day itinerary