History buffs on Saturday opened a new museum in the , the first such facility in the community’s historic district that dates back to pre-revolutionary Virginia.
The launch of the Stuart-Mosby Civil War Cavalry Museum was timed to coincide with Centreville Day, the one-day festival that celebrates the community’s rich historical tapestry back to when it was known as a humble crossroads town.
The museum display artifacts connected to Confederate stalwarts Gen. James Ewell Brown "Jeb" Stuart (who first distinguished himself at the battle of First Manassas in July 1861) and , whose daring Partisan Raiders turned most of Fairfax County into what was known as Mosby’s Confederacy.
Work on the museum has been going on for about six months, said museum curator and author Howard Crouch, who added that the site was historically significant. Centreville’s location, as a trading crossroads, was a key factor that led to the construction of seven massive Civil War fortifications by Confederate forces.
The new museum is on Braddock Road, near Route 29, and is adjacent to the Mt Gilead house, built circa 1785, the oldest standing structure in the county. The museum’s location is fitting because it sits near the site of one of the old Confederate forts.
“With a good pair of field glasses, you could watch troop movements all the way to Manassas,” said , who toured the museum on Saturday. “That’s why they put the forts on the top of the hills here.”
Frey, himself well-versed in local history, said the museum is a welcome addition.
“The museum is a significant addition because it demonstrates how the Civil War was very important to how Centreville grew,” Frey said.
The yellow-brick museum occupies an old realtor's office that was donated to the group, Crouch said. The building is actually an old gas station that was moved from Lee Highway into the historic district years ago. It was said to have been the first gas station in Centreville, according to Frey.
On Saturday, the museum enjoyed a brisk business as school children and their parents viewed the display cases – which included sabers and a pistol that could have been used by Mosby. Organizers hoped that visitors will keep coming.
“It’s more than just a bunch of artifacts,” said Mike Singer, a volunteer from the Northern Virginia Relic Hunters Association. “This is history. If you don’t put the relics that we find together with the history, then you don’t have anything. And this is important to preserve for future generations.”
The museum is free and will be open on Saturday and Mondays.