"Discover Your Past" at Belle Grove
Belle Grove's exciting learning adventure uses hands-on activities to bring history to life. Combining four interactive learning experiences, the tour provides an understanding of how inhabitants of Belle Grove lived and worked over two hundred years ago. Belle Grove is a time machine, offering those who climb aboard a trip back through the extensive history of Virginia's northern Shenandoah Valley. The journey reflects the economic, social, and political development of the region over more than 200 years. Closely modeled on the Virginia Standards of Learning and the West Virginia Instructional Goals and Objectives, the “Discover Your Past” Tour brings classroom lessons to life. Belle Groves makes history come alive, offering the sights, sounds and activities of the past. During the tour, small groups rotate between locations on the property and participate in interactive learning experiences.
The Manor House
On Belle Grove's front porch children learn about the early settlement of the Shenandoah Valley. The Hite family, who built Belle Grove, were among the first pioneers to settle in the Valley of Virginia. From the porch, young visitors look out across farm fields that are still used today, but in 1864, were transformed into battlefields when the Civil War Battle of Cedar Creek swirled around the Manor House. Students can even see and touch original bullet holes in the porch columns. Once in the Manor House, children are encouraged to contrast plantation life with their own lives. During the tour, students come into contact with famous figures in American history such as James Madison, "Father of the Constitution," who was a frequent guest and Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independance, who was asked to help design the Manor House.
The Winter Kitchen
Sitting in front of an open hearth in the plantation’s Winter Kitchen, young visitors encounter slave life at Belle Grove. Children learn that 103 slaves, including a skilled cook named Judah, lived and worked at Belle Grove. They are also asked to compare Belle Grove’s kitchen with their own kitchens and note the important technological differences. In place of electric stoves and ovens, students learn about spider skillets and reflecting ovens.
The Blacksmith Forge
In the Forge, students witness blacksmiths hand-craft iron hooks and nails. During the demonstration, they learn about the importance of the forge to the plantation economy, and see the many skills a blacksmith possessed. Young visitors come away from the Forge understanding new words and concepts such as blacksmithing, bellows and oxidation. (This station is subject to the availability of the blacksmiths.)
Unearthing Enslaved Lives Archaeology Exhibit
On the lower level of the Manor House, students will learn about techniques archaeologists used when excavating the area where the enslaved community at Belle Grove lived. This interactive conversation includes discussion on what is known about the lives of the 270 people enslaved at here. Then students then have an opportunity to identify some objects found in the archaeology.
The Historic Landscape
If time allows, after touring the Manor House, Winter Kitchen and Forge, young guests visit Belle Grove’s lawns and garden. Children see the original Meathouse and Ice House, dating from 1820, and learn the methods used to preserve ice and food. Students also may have time to play with reproduction toys or try writing with with a quill pen and making a wax seal. Through these exercises they gain a greater understanding of the lives children led two hundred years ago.
Belle Grove offers programs for young audiences all year. After touring the Manor House groups may enjoy lunch on picnic tables on Belle Grove's lawns. Young visitors are welcome to visit the Museum Shop, which carries an extensive line of reproduction 18th and 19th century children's toys, games and books as well as Belle Grove souvenirs (we would be pleased to provide you with a price list before the tour).
School Tour Admission Rates
Lead Teacher: Free
Teachers and Chaperones: $9
Belle Grove requires one teacher/chaperone for every ten children. A $30 non-refundable deposit is required when reserving a date for a tour. The balance is due on the day of the visit. Payments may be made by credit card or checks (made out to Belle Grove, Inc.).
If you would like additional information about the "Discover Your Past" Program, or if you would like to book a tour at Belle Grove, please contact us at 540-869-2028 or by email.
Presentations on this material are also possible virtually or as in-classroom visits, contact us for further information.
The museum operations of Belle Grove Plantation are completely self-supporting and overseen by a non-profit, 501 (c) (3) foundation, Belle Grove, Inc. Belle Grove's operating income is generated through museum admissions, memberships, museum shop sales, special events, grants and contributions. Although Belle Grove's property is owned by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the Trust does not annually budget funds to support Belle Grove.
The Manor House
Located in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, Belle Grove offers guests inspiring tours of the…
Specialty / Group Tours
Group tours of the historic 1797 Manor House may be arranged all year. Click here for our hours of…