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Southwest Virginia Museum Historical State Park


Elevation: 1569 ft., Southwest Virginia Museum Historical State Park sits atop Poplar Hill and was originally the private residence of Rufus Ayers, Attorney General of Virginia from 1886 to 1890. The mansion was completed in 1895, and is constructed of local limestone and sandstone. Ayers helped to develop the Town of Big Stone Gap and the surrounding area. Today, the mansion is a shrine to life in southwest Virginia, from its early pioneer years through its development into a coal-mining town. The grounds offer a patchwork of habitat typical of this area. An interpretive pamphlet of the flora and fauna of the grounds is available at the front desk. Eastern hemlock, yellow poplar, and flowering dogwood provide nesting habitat for northern cardinal, cedar waxwing, white-breasted nuthatch, Carolina wren, and song sparrow. Look for brown thrasher and gray catbird in the bushier vegetation such as American holly and Catawba rhododendron. Flowering ornamentals, including azaleas, mountain laurel and rhododendron attract butterflies such as eastern tiger swallowtail, red-spotted purple, and several species of skippers. Even the hosta blooms attract summering ruby-throated hummingbirds. A small herb garden at the southwest corner of the gardens may attract the attention of egg-laying butterflies as well.


Leaving Fraley Park, return to Spring Street and turn left. Follow Spring Street to Wood Avenue. Turn left on Wood Avenue and follow it for 9 blocks to the Southwest Virginia Museum Historical Park on the right. This site is located at the intersection of Wood Avenue and West First Street.

Location & Directions

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Site Information

  • Site Contact: (276) 523-1322,
  • Website
  • Access: Daily, sunrise-sunset; admission free to tour groups

Seasonal Bird Observations


  • Fee
  • Information
  • Interpretive Nature Program
  • Interpretive Trail
  • Parking
  • Picnic
  • Restrooms