The Exchange Hotel

Civil War Museum

Our History

Who We Are

Sitting at the edge of downtown Gordonsville is The Exchange Hotel Civil War Medical Museum. Our museum is rich in history and the original structure has survived over 150 years from war to abandonment to what is now a thriving museum. We tell the story of this building from its start as a grand hotel in the early years, through the harsh realities of the Civil War as Gordonsville's General Receiving Hospital, on through to the end of the war when it became a Freedmen's Bureau. 

     Today, the museum is owned and run by Historic Gordonsville Inc. We are a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. The museum obtains it's funding through museum tours, events, private special interest group rentals, grants, and donations from individuals and organizations. Our goal is to preserve and present, as accurately as possible, the history of this beautiful building and honor those who lived, worked, and served here. We are open year round for self guided tours of the museum. We offer special events and programs throughout the year highlighting the museum and it's history. 

Civil War Wounded

In March of 1862, the Confederacy transformed the Exchange Hotel into the Gordonsville Receiving Hospital. The wounded and the dying from the nearby battlefields of Cedar Mountain, Mine Run, Chancellorsville, Trevilian, Brandy Station, and the Wilderness were brought in by the trainloads to the railroad platform in front of the hotel. In one year alone, 23,000 men were treated at the Exchange; 6000 of these were admitted in just one month. The once beautifully manicured lawn and gardens around the building were churned into a sea of mud and debris as tents and crude sheds sprang up to houses the overflow of wounded. The fields behind the hotel became a garden of graves that would eventually claim a harvest of more than 700 soldiers.

The Freedmen's Bureau

After the Emancipation Proclamation, newly freed slaves had basic care needs such as reading, writing, healthcare, and justice. To protect these newly freed slaves the Federal Government stepped in and created The Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, usually referred to as the Freedmen's Bureau. Using confiscated Confederate property the government established schools, hospitals, and courtrooms.

The Exchange Hotel was used as all of the above from 1865 to December 1868. In 1867 there were 250 students registered to learn to read and write in our building. Court sessions were held for cases no higher than $100 or 30 days in jail and were adjudicated on the first floor.




"The Chicken Leg Centre of the Universe"
(As proclaimed by famous literary Dr. George W. Bagby in 1869)                                                                                 

In 1854, when the Orange Alexandria railroad came to Gordonsville and connected with the Central Virginia tracks, waiting passengers were treated to fried chicken, ham sandwiches, fried pies, and fruits. After these slaves were freed, they formed the first entrepreneurship and the chicken vendors were created. It would be another eight decades before train cars provided food and beverage services.


In 1997, The Exchange Hotel was chosen as the memorial site dedicated to the legendary chicken vendors.