Staunton, Virginia

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West Beverley Street
Nickname(s): Queen City of the Shenandoah Valley
Location of Staunton, Virginia
Coordinates: 38°9′29″N 79°4′35″W / 38.15806°N 79.07639°W / 38.15806; -79.07639Coordinates: 38°9′29″N 79°4′35″W / 38.15806°N 79.07639°W / 38.15806; -79.07639
CountryUnited States
 • Total20 sq mi (50 km2)
 • Land20 sq mi (50 km2)
 • Water0.1 sq mi (0.3 km2)
Elevation1,417 ft (432 m)
Population (2010)
 • Total23,746
 • Density1,200/sq mi (460/km2)
Time zoneEastern (EST) (UTC-5)
 • Summer (DST)EDT (UTC-4)
ZIP codes24401-24402
Area code(s)540
FIPS code51-75216[1]
GNIS feature ID1500154[2]
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West Beverley Street
Nickname(s): Queen City of the Shenandoah Valley
Location of Staunton, Virginia
Coordinates: 38°9′29″N 79°4′35″W / 38.15806°N 79.07639°W / 38.15806; -79.07639Coordinates: 38°9′29″N 79°4′35″W / 38.15806°N 79.07639°W / 38.15806; -79.07639
CountryUnited States
 • Total20 sq mi (50 km2)
 • Land20 sq mi (50 km2)
 • Water0.1 sq mi (0.3 km2)
Elevation1,417 ft (432 m)
Population (2010)
 • Total23,746
 • Density1,200/sq mi (460/km2)
Time zoneEastern (EST) (UTC-5)
 • Summer (DST)EDT (UTC-4)
ZIP codes24401-24402
Area code(s)540
FIPS code51-75216[1]
GNIS feature ID1500154[2]

Staunton (/ˈstæntən/ STAN-tən) is an independent city in the U.S. state of Virginia.As of the 2010 census, the population was 23,746.[3] It is the county seat of surrounding Augusta County,[4] although the two are separate jurisdictions.

Staunton is a principal city of the Staunton-Waynesboro Metropolitan Statistical Area, which had a 2010 population of 118,502.

Staunton is known for being the birthplace of Woodrow Wilson, the 28th U.S. president, and the home of Mary Baldwin College, historically a women's college. The city is also home to Stuart Hall, a private co-ed preparatory school, as well as the Virginia School for the Deaf and Blind.


Bird's-eye view c. 1910

The area was first settled in 1732 by John Lewis and family. In 1736, William Beverley, a wealthy planter and merchant from Essex County, was granted by the Crown over 118,000 acres (478 km²) in what would become Augusta County. Surveyor Thomas Lewis in 1746 laid out the first town plat for Beverley of what was originally called Beverley's Mill Place.[5] Founded in 1747, it was renamed in honor of Lady Rebecca Staunton, wife to Royal Lieutenant-Governor Sir William Gooch.[6] Because the town was located at the geographical center of the colony (which then included West Virginia), Staunton served between 1738 and 1771 as regional capital for what was known as the Northwest Territory, with the westernmost courthouse in British North America prior to the Revolution.[7] By 1760, Staunton was one of the major "remote trading centers in the backcountry" which coordinated the transportation of the vast amounts of grain and tobacco then being produced in response to the change of Britain from a net exporter of produce to an importer. Staunton thus played a crucial role in the mid 18th century expansion of the economies of the American Colonies which, in turn, contributed to the success of the American Revolution.[8] It served as capital of Virginia in June 1781, when state legislators fled Richmond and then Charlottesville to avoid capture by the British.

Lewis Miller, Sketchbook of Landscapes in the State of Virginia, 1853-1867. Courtesy, Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum, Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, Williamsburg, Virginia; slide 84-896c.Titled, “Slave trader, Sold to Tennessee.” The caption states: “ The company going to Tennessee from Staunton, Augusta county, the law of Virginia suffered them to go on. I was astonished at this boldness, the carrier stopped a moment, then ordered the march, I saw the play it is commonly in this state, when the negro’s in droves Sold.”

Slaves were held in Staunton. For instance, in 1815, a slave named Henry ran away from John G. Wright's Staunton plantation. Wright later placed an ad in the Daily National Intelligencer in Washington, D.C. seeking Henry's return. This ad is notable in its genre for the fact that it notes that Henry was an excellent cook and was widely travelled, having been to the West Indies.[9]

In August, 1855, President Franklin Pierce visited Staunton. He gave a speech at the Virginia Hotel, in which he stated that his "feelings revolted from the idea of a dissolution of the union." He said that "[i]t would be the Iliad of innumerable woes, from the contemplation of which he shrank."[10]

Located along the Valley Pike, Staunton developed as a trade, transportation and industrial center, particularly after the Virginia Central Railroad arrived in 1854. Factories made carriages, wagons, boots and shoes, clothing and blankets.[11] In 1860, Staunton Military Academy was founded. By 1860, Staunton had at least one pro-union, anti-slavery newspaper (the Staunton Spectator) and at least one pro-secession, pro-slavery newspaper (the Staunton Vindicator).[12] The Spectator ran editorials before the war urging its citizens to vote for union,[13] while the Vindicator ran, e.g., stories reporting on "unruly" slaves mutilating themselves to escape being sold.[14]

On May 23, 1861, Virginians voted on whether or not to ratify articles of secession from the Union. The articles were overwhelmingly approved throughout the Commonwealth. In Staunton the vote was 3300 in favor of secession and 6 opposed.[15] During the Civil War, the town became an important Shenandoah Valley manufacturing, staging area and supply depot for the Confederacy. On June 6, 1864, Union Major General David Hunter arrived with 10,000 troops to cut supply, communication and railway lines useful to the rebellion. The next day, they destroyed the railroad station, warehouses, houses, factories and mills. Union soldiers looted stores and warehouses and confiscated supplies.[11]

On July 10, 1902, Staunton became an independent city.[16]

Entrance gates, Stuart-Robertson House, Staunton, Historic American Buildings Survey

Western State Hospital[edit]

Staunton is also home to the former Western State Lunatic Asylum, a hospital for the mentally ill, which originally began operations in 1828. The hospital was renamed Western State Hospital in 1894.

In its early days, the facility was a resort-style asylum. It had terraced gardens where patients could plant flowers and take walks, roof walks to provide mountain views, and many architectural details to create an atmosphere that would aid in the healing process. However, by the mid 19th Century, this utopian model of care had vanished, replaced by overcrowding in the facility and the warehousing of patients. Techniques such as "ankle and wrist restraints, physical coercion, and straitjackets" were used.[17] After the passage of the Eugenical Sterilization Act of 1924 in Virginia,[18] patients were forcibly sterilized at Western State[19] until the law authorizing the practice was repealed in the 1970s.[20] Later, electroshock therapy and lobotomies were practiced at the facility.[17]

When Western State vacated the property and moved its adult patients to its present site near Interstate 81, the facility was renamed the DeJarnette Center and served mentally ill and troubled juveniles and children. The state closed the DeJarnette Center in 1996 and moved its patients to Western State. In 2005, the state of Virginia gave the original property to the Staunton Industrial Authority.[21]

The site is now a condominium complex called The Villages at Staunton.[17]


According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 20 square miles (52 km2), virtually all of which is land.[22] Staunton is located in the Shenandoah Valley in between the Blue Ridge and Allegheny Mountains of the Appalachian Mountains. It is drained by Lewis Creek. Lewis Creek flows into the Shenandoah River, which flows into the Potomac, and eventually to the Chesapeake Bay.


The climate in this area is characterized by hot, humid summers and generally mild to cool winters. According to the Köppen Climate Classification system, Staunton has a humid subtropical climate, abbreviated "Cfa" on climate maps.[23]


Historical population
Est. 201223,9210.7%
U.S. Decennial Census[24]
1790-1960[25] 1900-1990[26]
1990-2000[27] 2010-2012[3]

As of the census[28] of 2000, there were 23,853 people, 9,676 households, and 5,766 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,210.3 people per square mile (467.3/km²). There were 10,427 housing units at an average density of 529.1 per square mile (204.3/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 83.29% White, 13.95% Black or African American, 0.22% Native American, 0.46% Asian, 0.01% Pacific Islander, 0.52% from other races, and 1.55% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.11% of the population.

There were 9,676 households out of which 24.9% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 44.4% were married couples living together, 11.7% had a female householder with no husband present, and 40.4% were non-families. 34.7% of all households were made up of individuals and 14.3% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.19 and the average family size was 2.81.

In the city the population was spread out with 19.8% under the age of 18, 10.2% from 18 to 24, 27.8% from 25 to 44, 24.1% from 45 to 64, and 18.0% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 40 years. For every 100 females there were 89.1 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 87.0 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $32,941, and the median income for a family was $44,422. Males had a median income of $30,153 versus $22,079 for females. The per capita income for the city was $19,161. About 7.7% of families and 11.7% of the population were below the poverty line, including 15.9% of those under age 18 and 10.7% of those age 65 or over.

As of 2008, Staunton was suffering one of Virginia's "most severe population declines", with the immigration rate and the birth rate failing to make up for the emigration rate and the death rate. The population declined almost 4% between 2000 and 2007, according to a study done by Charles Spar of the University of Virginia.[29]

In 2011, Tim Heaphy, the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Virginia stated that Staunton, along with other small cities in his district, had "pockets of ... gang and drug activity."[30] As late as 2006, the city had an active set of the Bloods.[31] According to Augusta County Sheriff Randy Fisher, the Bloods, Crips, Latin Kings and MS-13 are active in the area.[32]

Arts and culture[edit]

Coffee On The Corner building, with Blackfriars Playhouse and the Stonewall Jackson Hotel behind
The Masonic Building

Staunton is home to the American Shakespeare Center, a theatrical company centered at the Blackfriars Playhouse, a replica of Shakespeare's Blackfriars Theatre. The Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library is open for visitors, as well as the Museum of American Frontier Culture, which provides insight into life in early America.

Staunton is also home to the Statler Brothers, country music legends who until 1994 performed free concerts at the annual Fourth of July celebration, accompanied by other country music artists. Statler Brothers members Don Reid, Harold Reid, and Phil Balsley grew up and still reside in the city.

Folksinger Phil Ochs attended Staunton Military Academy between 1956 and 1958, where he played clarinet in the marching band. His exposure to the country music played on local radio, quite different from what he was used to hearing in his home state of Ohio, was a significant influence on his decision to become a singer.[33]


Downtown Staunton and Sherwood Avenue were used in the American Civil War film Gods and Generals. The local Shenandoah Valley Railroad as well as a number of nearby houses were used in filming of Hearts in Atlantis. In 1993, a portion of the Showtime production of Assault at West Point: The Court-Martial of Johnson Whittaker was filmed here. In the summer of 2006, some scenes for the movie Evan Almighty were also filmed in Staunton. Some scenes for Familiar Strangers were also filmed in Staunton in 2007.


Staunton is home to nearly 200 buildings designed by architect Thomas Jasper Collins (1844–1925), who worked in various styles during the Victorian era.[34] His firm, T. J. Collins & Sons, is still in business.

The city was once home to about ten hotels, but only one of them is still in operation - the Stonewall Jackson Hotel. This hotel was renovated in the early 2000s, and is now in operation as both a hotel and a conference center. The Ingleside Resort is also still in operation. During World War II it was used by the INS as a detention center for enemy aliens held under Executive Order 9066.[35] Some of the hotels that are no longer in operation are The Virginia Hotel, the Eakleton Hotel, the Valley Hotel, the American Hotel and the Hotel Beverley. All of these buildings are still standing except for the Virginia Hotel, which was demolished in 1930 to make way for a planned addition to the Stonewall Jackson Hotel which was never built. The New Street Parking Garage now stands on the site. Among the houses in Staunton on the National Register of Historic Places is The Oaks, at 437 East Beverley Street. An 1840s structure, it was modified and enlarged in 1888 by famed Civil War cartographer Jedediah Hotchkiss. Also on the National Register is "Waverley Hill", a Georgian revival house designed in 1929 by renowned architect William Bottomley with a landscape designed by Arthur Shurcliff.


Staunton Mall is the city's main shopping center.[citation needed]


Top employers[edit]

According to Staunton's 2011 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report,[36] the top employers in the city are:

#Employer# of Employees
1Western State Hospital500-599
2Staunton City Schools500-599
3Mary Baldwin College250-499
5City of Staunton250-499
7Fisher Auto Parts100-249
9Virginia School for the Deaf and the Blind100-249
10Home Instead Senior Care100-249


In 1894, Staunton fielded a baseball team in the original Virginia League: The Hayseeds.[37] In 1914, the city fielded a team in the Virginia Mountain League: The Staunton Lunatics.[37] The Lunatics moved to Harrisonburg in July 1914, just before the league disbanded.[38] From 1939 to 1942, the city fielded a team in the second Virginia League: the Staunton Presidents.[37] Staunton currently has no minor league baseball, but the Staunton Braves represent the city in the Valley Baseball League, a collegiate wooden bat league that plays in the Shenandoah Valley.

Parks and recreation[edit]


Staunton operates under a council-manager form of government. In 1908, Staunton was the first city in the United States to give an appointed employee authority over city affairs through statute. In 1912, Sumter, S.C., was the first U.S. city to implement the council-manager form of city government.[47] The city of Staunton refers to itself on its website as the "birthplace of President Woodrow Wilson, and the city manager form of government."[48]

Staunton is part of Virginia's 6th congressional district.


Black Virginians were largely barred from education until Reconstruction.[49] The first school in Staunton which allowed African-Americans to attend was established by the Freedmen's Bureau under the supervision of the commanding general of the occupying Union army in late 1865. Arrangements were made to bring in women from the North as teachers, and the jury rooms of the Augusta County Courthouse, located at 1 E. Johnson Street, were to be used as classrooms. The court protested this plan, however, and it is possible that another location was found.[50]

Attorneys for the city of Staunton submitted a plan for the desegregation of its public schools in 1965 by eliminating all negro schools in time for the 1967-68 school year, which was approved by the Department of Health, Education and Welfare. However, the implementation of this plan was delayed to such an extent that a group of African-American parents brought suit in the United States District Court for the Western District of Virginia against the city. This case, Bell v. School Board of Staunton, was decided on January 5, 1966, with the court stating that the delay was a violation of the rights of the students under the Fourteenth Amendment and ordering that the schools and their faculty be desegregated in time for the 1966-67 school year.[45]

The Staunton city school district is one of about twenty left in Virginia which take elementary school students out of class for Bible lessons on a voluntary basis, a practice known as Weekday Religious Education. Although the U.S. Supreme Court ended taxpayer funded religious education in 1948 in McCollum v. Board of Education, four years later they opened the door for privately funded voluntary classes held during school hours but away from school premises in Zorach v. Clauson. In 2005, a group of parents in Staunton asked the school board to halt the practice.[51] However, the challenge was unsuccessful, and the Bible classes are still being taught (as of July 2011).[52]






Amtrak provides service to Staunton under the Cardinal route. The route serves Staunton's downtown train station. It also serves as the closest station for the nearby cities of Harrisonburg and Lexington.

Staunton had a municipal bus system during the 20th century, known as the Staunton Transit Service, but it was dissolved in 1989.[54] In 1944, World War II veteran S. Melvin Johnson wrote to Truman Gibson, assistant to William H. Hastie, advisor to Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson, regarding segregated seating on the Staunton Transit Service and stating that returning African-American soldiers would not stand for such conditions.[55] This letter was an indication of the role that African-American veterans would later play in the American civil rights movement. Currently, the Staunton Trolley provides fixed-route bus service throughout Staunton.[56] It includes three routes - the Red Route, the Green Route and the Silver Route. The Green Route connects to the City's Amtrak station. The Coordinated Area Transportation Services (CATS) operates a demand-response service throughout the Staunton area, as well as a fixed shuttle service between the downtown areas of Staunton and Waynesboro.[57]

The city is located very close to the intersection of I-81 and I-64. VA-262 provides a partial beltway around the city. US-11 passes through the city.

The nearest commercial airport is Shenandoah Valley Regional Airport in Weyers Cave, Virginia.


Notable people[edit]

President Woodrow Wilson

Sister cities[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  2. ^ "US Board on Geographic Names". United States Geological Survey. 2007-10-25. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  3. ^ a b "State & County QuickFacts". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved January 6, 2014. 
  4. ^ "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Retrieved 2011-06-07. 
  5. ^ "Chapter 3: From the First Court to the First Indian War - Page 52, Waddell's Annals of Augusta County, Virginia, from 1726 to 1871". Retrieved 2009-06-14. 
  6. ^ Room, Adrian (1989). Dictionary of World Place Names Derived from British Names. Taylor & Francis. p. 168. ISBN 978-0-415-02811-0. 
  7. ^ "Augusta County, VA : History". Retrieved 2009-06-14. 
  8. ^ Gordon S. Wood (2002). The American Revolution: a history. Modern Library. p. 13. ISBN 0-679-64057-6. 
  9. ^ "Wanted: Experienced Cook, World Traveler, Runaway Slave". The History Engine at the University of Richmond. Retrieved 2 August 2011. 
  10. ^ "The President in Staunton, Va.". New York Daily Times (reprinted from the Staunton Vindicator). August 22, 1855. p. 1. 
  11. ^ a b "Staunton During the Civil War". Encyclopedia Virginia. Retrieved 17 August 2011. 
  12. ^ Fritz Umbach. "A Disunited South: Augusta and its Pro-Unionists". Retrieved 2 August 2011. 
  13. ^ "How to Vote". The Staunton Spectator. 11 September 1860. Retrieved 2 August 2011. 
  14. ^ "Desperate Negro Woman". The Staunton Vindicator. 1861. Retrieved 2 August 2011. 
  15. ^ "The Vote for Secession in Virginia". New York Times. June 1, 1861. p. 8. 
  16. ^ "Virginia: Individual County and Independent City Chronologies". Retrieved 2006-12-26. 
  17. ^ a b c "The HooK: On architecture - Historic treatment: Staunton commits to Western State". 2006-02-02. Retrieved 2009-06-14. 
  18. ^ HOUSE JOINT RESOLUTION NO. 607 (HJ607ER), "Expressing the General Assembly's regret for Virginia's experience with eugenics", Virginia Legislative Information System
  19. ^ Amanda Brocato (2008). "The Campaign for Eugenics in Virginia: The Influence of Dr. J.S. DeJarnette". Augusta Historical Bulletin: 105–117. 
  20. ^ "Eugenics in Virginia". Claude Moore Health Sciences Library, University of Virginia. Retrieved 31 July 2011. 
  21. ^ "Virginia HB1943/SB1015". Retrieved 30 July 2011. 
  22. ^ "US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990". United States Census Bureau. 2011-02-12. Retrieved 2011-04-23. 
  23. ^ Climate Summary for Staunton, Virginia
  24. ^ "U.S. Decennial Census". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved January 6, 2014. 
  25. ^ "Historical Census Browser". University of Virginia Library. Retrieved January 6, 2014. 
  26. ^ "Population of Counties by Decennial Census: 1900 to 1990". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved January 6, 2014. 
  27. ^ "Census 2000 PHC-T-4. Ranking Tables for Counties: 1990 and 2000". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved January 6, 2014. 
  28. ^ "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2011-05-14. 
  29. ^ Michael Owens (6 February 2008). "Staunton Figure Drops Severely". Richmond Times-Dispatch. Retrieved 31 July 2011. 
  30. ^ Steve Doane (April 27, 2011). "A Q&A with U.S. Attorney Timothy Heaphy". Danville Register & Bee. Retrieved August 16, 2012. 
  31. ^ David Reynolds (September 20, 2006). "' Blood ' Suspects Indicted - Gang Grand Jury Charges Four More". Daily News-Record. p. 1. Retrieved August 16, 2012. 
  32. ^ Bob Stuart (October 28, 2011). "Incumbent Fisher seeks fourth full term as Augusta Sheriff". News Virginian. Retrieved August 16, 2012. 
  33. ^ Schumacher, Michael (6 September 1996). There but for fortune: the life of Phil Ochs. Hyperion. p. 27. ISBN 978-0-7868-6084-5. Retrieved 14 September 2011. 
  34. ^ "Eye candy: Staunton cures visual blues". The Hook (newspaper). 2006-01-05. Retrieved 2006-12-13. 
  35. ^ Tetsuden Kashima (2004). Judgment without Trial: Japanese American Imprisonment during World War II. University of Washington Press. p. 264. ISBN 0-295-98451-1. 
  36. ^ City of Staunton CAFR
  37. ^ a b c "Staunton, Virginia Minor League City Encyclopedia". Retrieved 3 August 2011. 
  38. ^ "Virginia Mountain League". Retrieved 3 August 2011. 
  39. ^ Keith Jones (12 July 2008). "Staunton's Other Park". WHSV-TV. Retrieved 17 August 2011. 
  40. ^ Chris Graham (10 July 2008). "The true story of ‘Staunton’s Other Park’". Augusta Free Press. Retrieved 17 August 2011. 
  41. ^ "PDGA Disc Golf Course Details | Professional Disc Golf Association". Retrieved 2009-06-14. 
  42. ^ Trevor Brown (28 April 2010). "Staunton to close Montgomery Hall Park Pool". The Staunton News Leader. Retrieved 16 August 2011. 
  43. ^ "Area Overview: History -- African-Americans". The Staunton News Leader. Retrieved 17 August 2011. 
  44. ^ "Montgomery Hall Park entry on Staunton City website". Retrieved 31 July 2011. 
  45. ^ a b "Bell v. School Board of Staunton at findacase". Retrieved 30 July 2011. 
  46. ^ "Nelson Street Teen Center". City of Staunton. Retrieved 14 August 2011. 
  47. ^ Todd Donovan, Daniel A. Smith, and Christopher Z. Mooney (2010). State & Local Politics: Institutions & Reform: The Essentials. Cengage. p. 265. ISBN 0-495-56789-2.  (available on Google books)
  48. ^ "Economic Development". City of Staunton. Retrieved 17 August 2011. 
  49. ^ "Beginnings of Black Education". Virginia State Historical Society. 2004. Retrieved 5 August 2011. 
  50. ^ "Freedmen's School". Staunton Spectator. 31 October 1865. p. 3. 
  51. ^ Carol Morello (23 January 2005). "Bible Breaks at Public Schools Face Challenges in Rural Virginia". The Washington Post. Retrieved 31 July 2011. 
  52. ^ Eric Niller (28 February 2005). "Bible Study Program Divides Rural VA Town". NPR. Retrieved 31 July 2011. 
  53. ^ "News Leader web site". Retrieved 5 August 2011. 
  54. ^ "1973 GMC TDH3302 Staunton Transit at Commonwealth Coach and Trolley". Retrieved 31 July 2011. 
  55. ^ Letter from S. Melvin Johnson to Truman Gibson, collected in Subject Files of Judge William H. Hastie, Civilian Aide to the Secretary of War, “N” through “Z”. National Archives, College Park, Maryland.
  56. ^
  57. ^
  58. ^ "A. Caperton Braxton (1862–1914)". Encyclopedia of Virginia. Retrieved 19 August 2011. 
  59. ^ Peter B. Flint (June 21, 1990). "St. Clair Drake, Pioneer in Study of Black Americans, Dies at 79". New York Times. p. B7. 
  60. ^ "A. C. Gordon Jr. Dies; Virginia Professor". New York Times. May 14, 1953. p. 29. 
  61. ^ "Henry W. Holt Dies; A Virginia Jurist, 83". New York Times. October 5, 1947. p. 68. 
  62. ^ Bill McKelway (10 May 1995). "Right Rebellious - Guru Wages a War of Words on Conservatism's Fringe". Richmond Times-Dispatch. 
  63. ^ "Wilton B. Persons is Dead at 81; Chief Assistant to Eisenhower". New York Times. September 6, 1977. p. 42. 

External links[edit]