Artifacts of Civil War America

FreemanStoreCoffeeLast month, I had the pleasure of visiting the Freeman Store & Museum, a charming historic house in the Town of Vienna, Virginia, a Washington, D.C., suburb.

Built in 1859 by storekeeper Abram Lydecker, a New Jersey native, the house was occupied by both Confederate and Union Army troops during the Civil War. After the war ended, the Lydeckers moved back in. In 1892, however, Lydecker was charged with “improper dealing with the enemy,” i.e., the Union, from which Virginia had voted to declare secession. We’ve apparently forgiven Virginia, and him. The house later became the home of notable local citizens—including Leon Freeman, the first president of Vienna’s volunteer fire department—and was restored in accordance with historical records. It is currently operated as a shop and museum by Historic Vienna, Inc.


Model of the house that is now the Freeman Store and Museum, as it was during the Civil War.

The first floor is a replica of a country store, intended to gives visitors the opportunity to step back in time to experience the American general store of the Civil-War era. For sale are hand-crafted children’s toys and puzzles, books, postcards, candy, and historic-themed gifts including prints and ceramics by local artists. On the second floor, the museum displays what are called Living History Exhibits designed to illustrate the way people lived, practiced crafts, and entertained one another in the 1860s. I was especially interested in the displays of photographic equipment, canned goods, sewing equipment and kitchenware.


Women were involved from photography’s beginnings in the 1830s and ’40s. I think I can see a reflection of myself shooting this picture with my iPhone 6s.


The displays of canned goods included “Burnham Brand” produce canned by the Edgett-Burnham Canning Company, which was founded in 1863 by Ezra Edgett of Camden, NY, near Syracuse. The company processed crops that were were grown on the factory farm or purchased from area farmers. Fruit, vegetables and poultry were canned to feed Union troops. I hope some of them appreciated the lovely typography and illustration on the labels.


Showcases displayed Civil-War-era sewing and crocheting accouterments and kitchenware for cooking and home canning, which were lent by Vienna-area residents.


A new exhibit, opening this March, will chronicle the history of Farming in Vienna and surrounding areas of what is now Fairfax County.

The Freeman Store and Museum is located in 131 Church Street NE, Vienna, VA 22180. The House is open to the public Wednesday through Saturday from noon to 4:00 and on Sunday from 1:00 to 5:00 (in January and February, by appointment only).


About writedesigner

Graphic designer, writer, and gardener Ellen Shapiro is based in Irvington, New York. A frequent contributor to design blogs and magazines including Print, Imprint,, Communication Arts, and Etapes, she writes about trends, issues and personalities in design, illustration, photography, and visual culture around the world.
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