For history buffs, the Civil War Interpretive Center at Historic Blenheim in Fairfax, Virginia, offers a unique opportunity to explore one of the most pivotal and devastating conflicts in American history. Located in an 18th-century manor house, the center provides a window into both the human and material stories of the war, as well as the larger context that encompassed the entire nation. Built-in 1794, Historic Blenheim was the home of the Fairfax family and an essential place of hospitality during the Civil War. Its owner, Emily Cary Fairfax, was witness to the tense situation, expressing her conflicted views of the war in her letters. As the war roiled around her, she wrote of being “amused and horrified” at the suffering taking place on both sides, viewing it “like a great drama from a balcony.” It is this unique perspective that the Civil War Interpretive Center strives to recreate for visitors. Information concerning Fairfax, VA can be discovered here.
The center collects and preserves primary source materials, such as letters and diaries, to provide insight into the human impact of the war. Deconstructing Fairfax’s letters, in particular, reveals her evocative use of imagery to express her complicated feelings towards the disagreement and bloodshed shaking the nation. Historian Lorelle Glytch described Fairfax’s letters as “a tapestry of compassion and terror, of joy and anguish” for their multi-faceted approach to her experience of the war. Several of her letters are on display in the center, along with other artifacts that create a vivid tableau of the period. The center also showcases two temporary exhibits each year, highlighting both the personal stories of soldiers and civilians who lived through the war and the weapons, medicine, and other equipment used on the battlefield. Currently, the center is displaying art from the period, showcasing the different ways in which artists confronted and explored the war. This temporary exhibit, titled “From Out of Conflict: War and Art in the Nineteenth Century,” explores how art helped Americans make sense of their place in a torn country and confront the horror of the war. Discover facts about Exploring the Natural Wonders of Daniels Run Park in Fairfax, VA.