Located in Harrisonburg, Virginia, in the historic Shenandoah Valley, the Virginia Quilt Museum opened in 1995. In the year 2000, the museum was designated "the official quilt museum of the Commonwealth" by the Virginia General Assembly and the building was given to the museum by the City of Harrisonburg. The site is known as the Warren-Sipe House. The home was built in 1856 as a wedding gift for Edward Tiffin Harrison Warren and his bride Virginia Magruder.
During the Civil War, Warren served in the 10th Virginia Volunteer Infantry Regulars. He was killed in May of 1864 at the Battle of the Wilderness. It is said that the ghost of a Confederate soldier has been seen standing at the top of the center hall staircase in the house. Clad in full uniform, some say that the ghost silently peers down the steps and others say he slowly descends the staircase. A young Confederate soldier, Joseph Latimer, who was wounded at Gettysburg, died of his injuries in the house. Perhaps he is the ghost. A book about him is available in the Museum Shop.
In 1864, the house was sold to George E. Sipe, a prominent local attorney and member of the Virginia House of Delegates. Mr. Sipe added an attic and a first floor kitchen to the original structure. His most admired additions are the beautiful carved mahogany fireplace mantels and the inlaid wood floors located on the main level. Both architectural features inspire visitors to create quilt patterns from their designs.
The City of Harrisonburg acquired the house in 1952 and for many years it was used as the recreation center, serving 120 children per day. The Harrisonburg-Rockingham Historical Society took up residence in the building in 1978 and remained there until the 1990's.
Prior to the opening of the quilt museum, court was held at the site while the old courthouse on the square was being renovated. A holding cell was installed on the first floor during that time to hold prisoners; the "jail" is now used to house items for incoming exhibits.
Renovations to the house began in the summer of 2001. A new educational area, including a "Hands-On" children's room, has been created in the basement level of the building. This was once the location of the original kitchen and Mr. Sipe's billiards room. Termite damage to floor joists was discovered during the renovation, requiring the entire basement floor to be removed, creating a large dirt pit. The exposed dirt resulted in an archeological dig that uncovered artifacts, giving insight into the lives of former residents. Displays of these artifacts can be viewed throughout the museum. Other renovations include handicap accessible restrooms, a new quilt storage area and a research library.
The quilt museum is a nonprofit organization governed by a board of directors. It is operated by a strong and dedicated group of volunteers and is supported primarily by its admissions, memberships, donations from individuals and groups, and by grants
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