Our area wineries keep “upping their game” to provide even more reasons to visit—other than their fine wines. You’ll find games including cornhole and axe throwing, entertainment like bands and comedy nights, fire pits, a plethora of dining options, and now…museums! In this column, we’ll introduce you to two of Northern Virginia’s winery/museum options located at The Winery at Bull Run and adjacent to the Vint Hill Craft Winery.
Witness to History Civil War Museum at The Winery at Bull Run
The Winery at Bull Run added a new attraction to its popular tours in March 2022: its Witness to History Civil War Museum. Explore the collection of more than 200,000 artifacts and become your own witness to history through the relics and stories of real Civil War soldiers. A knowledgeable tour guide takes guests on an hour-long adventure through the exhibits, along with four coordinated wine and cider pours.
The museum, located downstairs from the main tasting room, hosts one of the largest Civil War artifact museums open to the public in a beautifully-curated exhibit. It includes the vast collection of D.P. Newton, former curator of the White Oak Civil War Museum who died in 2019, along with relics acquired by winery owner Jon Hickox and others.
Hickox wanted to create a non-political way to let people experience what life was like for soldiers in the Civil War. You’ll see relics from both Northern and Southern forces, including the African American troops, along with descriptions of the items and where and how some were recovered.
Don’t miss the pyramid composed of 60,000 bullets (120,000+ in the collection); a flag made by the wives of the 4th Virginia Cavalry soldiers that flew at the Battle of Bull Run; a trunk belonging to Captain W.C. Hearn, 1st Mississippi Chaplain; and the recreation of a camp hut with its Sibley stove and mural of a winter quarters camp scene. The museum also hosts a unique collection of 30 IDs and dogtags, alongside photographs of these individuals.
You’ll discover what life was like both in the camps and on the battlefield. “The soldier’s experience was 99% boredom and 1% sheer terror,” Hickox said. His favorite part of the exhibit? The boom room!
History of Manassas National Battlefield
The museum is especially poignant as it sits on the edge of the Manassas National Battlefield Park where two major battles of the Civil War were fought: the First and Second Battles of Bull Run, also known as the Battles of Manassas. It was also where Confederate General Thomas J. Jackson acquired his nickname “Stonewall.” The park was established in 1936 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1966, and hosts more than 700,000 visitors yearly.
Cold War Museum, adjacent to Vint Hill Craft Winery
The Cold War Museum was founded by Francis Gary Powers, Jr., the son of the CIA U-2 pilot shot down over the Soviet Union in 1960, and John C. Welch to preserve Cold War history, honor Cold War veterans, and educate people about this time period. The museum spans a two-story building adjacent to the Vint Hill Craft Winery where guests can enjoy a tasting and a meal at the nearby Covert Café while visiting. It is not associated with the Winery.
Enter the museum and you’ll be approached by one of several volunteers who will be glad to explain any of the numerous exhibits. Note the Tom Hanks movie poster from “Bridge of Spies.” See what you can recognize in the SR-71 film of Washington D.C. taken from a NASA SR-71 Blackbird. Learn about Lockheed’s Skunk Works®. Check out maps used by the Civil War balloon corps, and watch a video showing tests of Atomic Bombs at the Nevada proving grounds.
Upstairs, take notice of the many communist flags lining the ceiling. Touch a piece of the Berlin blockade wall and gaze at the array of German and Russian military uniforms.
Curator John DePerro, pointed out an important exhibit concerning the Cuban Missile Crisis. He explained how we were just minutes away from WWIII as he pointed out how the U.S. spotted and stopped a Soviet submarine carrying a nuclear torpedo by faking an attack with hand grenades that caused the submarine captain to believe he was under attack.
Numerous other stories can be found on the museum’s website at coldwar.org. The museum also offers a Presentation Series featuring distinguished speakers who discuss their experiences with and in the Cold War.
History of Vint Hill Farms Station
The site itself holds a significant history. The owner of Vint Hill Farm, Mitchell Harrison, was a Ham radio buff and in 1939, realized that he could receive transmissions from as far away as Europe due to the unique topography of the area.
In 1942, the farm was purchased by the U.S. Department of the Army as a top-secret post for the Signal Intelligence Service to operate, along with a cryptographic school that taught personnel how to encode, decode and translate messages. It was named “Monitoring Station No. 1.” The upstairs area of the smaller dairy barn (now the Vint Hill Craft Winery), was one of the areas where monitoring took place. The lower barn was still a dairy barn.
In November 1943, a message from the Japanese ambassador in Berlin was intercepted and decoded, giving a detailed description of the German Atlantic Wall defenses, troop strengths and contingency plans. The “Oshima Intercept” was a crucial contribution in D-Day planning.
Go out and enjoy some of Virginia’s fine wines, and take in a bit of local history at the same time with these museums.
Pictured at top:
Photo credit: Drew Hickox
The Winery at Bull Run Tours
$36.50 each/includes tastings
Tours held Friday-Sunday or by appointment
15950 Lee Hwy
Centreville, VA 20120
Book online at:
- Witness to History Museum Tour
- Past to Present Historical Tour
- Grape to Glass Production Tour
Cold War Museum
Open Saturdays and Sundays
or by appointment
7172 Lineweaver Rd.
Warrenton, VA 20187