Patrick Henry’s Scotchtown – virtually

Scotchtown, photo by Peter Hedlund

Scotchtown, photo by Peter Hedlund

Historyplaces is about the joy of exploring new historic sites, those powerful places that transport you to another time.  I encourage people to seek out these places on their travels, but the truth is you don’t have to travel to explore history. History organizations are working harder these days to make sites accessible online.

Never been to Patrick Henry’s home Scotchtown in Virginia? It’s one of the oldest 18th century homes in the state. Check out this virtual tour, courtesy of a collaboration between the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities and Google. 

Virtual tour of Scotchtown

This article explains the project at Scotchtown. Here’s an excerpt from the article by Brendan Wolfe:

“These were his most productive years, but they were also very unhappy,” Jennifer Hurst-Wender tells us, referring to Patrick Henry, who lived in this house from 1771 to 1778. Hurst-Wender is the director of museum operations and education for Preservation Virginia. She’s also our guide to Scotchtown, the Henry estate in rural Hanover County.

Built around 1719, it’s one of the oldest surviving eighteenth-century homes in Virginia, and it was from here that Henry rode to Richmond, famously declaiming on the subjects of liberty and death. It was here, too, that his wife, Sarah Shelton Henry,

Straight-dress similar to one sometimes worn by Patrick Henry's first wife. Photo by Peter Hedlund.

Straight-dress similar to one sometimes worn by Patrick Henry’s first wife. Photo by Peter Hedlund.

gave birth to their sixth child and where, soon after, she was confined to a more feminine version of a straitjacket—something called a strait-dress.”

“Perhaps already suffering from mental illness, Mrs. Henry came down with what today might be considered a case of severe postpartum depression. In the eighteenth century, however, her behavior was deemed lunacy. A new asylum opened in Williamsburg in 1773, but out of either shame or concerns about the conditions there (or both), Patrick Henry decided to keep his wife at home. He made a room for her in the cellar.”

Almost sounds gothic. Not many historic sites interpret mental illness. I’ve never been to Scotchtown, but this virtual tour offers me the opportunity to poke around with the click of a mouse. It’s never the same as going in person, but I applaud Encyclopedia Virginia and the many other organizations that are attempting to reach virtual visitors.

Another site in this series is Thomas Jefferson’s retreat Poplar Forest near Lynchburg, Virginia, one of my favorite sites. Here’s the link to the virtual tour.

Here’s a blog post I wrote about a visit to Poplar Forest.

What do you think of virtual tours? Have you encountered one that you really like? Tell us about it.

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