Education History

Have ‘Tea with Mrs. Wilson’ and immerse yourself in Augusta history

(Featured image of Stephanie Herzberg as Mrs. Wilson during the August “Tea with Mrs. Wilson” program at the Boyhood Home of Woodrow Wilson)

Augusta has many historic spots, but one has a unique tie to the nation’s capital.

The 400 block of Seventh Street is home to two former residences with ties to both the White House and the U.S. Supreme Court. As a child, the nation’s 28th president lived on that block next door to his friend who would later serve as a U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice.

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Each month, the “mothers” of both President Woodrow Wilson and Justice Joseph Lamar are part of a special tour of the boyhood home of the president followed by tea at the Lamar House.

For the monthly “Tea with Mrs. Wilson” program, his mother, Janet “Jessie” Woodrow Wilson takes guests through the home as the Wilson family plans to leave the Presbyterian manse in Augusta for their new life in Columbia. The next “Tea with Mrs. Wilson” will be at 4:30 p.m., Friday, Sept. 1 and noon, Sept. 2.

The Wilsons lived in the Augusta manse from 1860 to 1870.

“I know the Augusta congregation is going to miss him when we go, but God ordains our next calling. We’re strong believers in providence, but it was a difficult decision for us to go to Columbia. For there, my husband is going to have to work two jobs to make the same salary that he makes with one here in Augusta. Not only is he going to be a professor at the seminary, but he is going to be the stated supply minister at Columbia’s First Presbyterian Church,” said Stephanie Herzberg as Mrs. Wilson on Aug. 8 as she led the tour group through the former manse.

 Woodrow Wilson’s father was the Rev. Joseph Ruggles Wilson and served as the pastor of First Presbyterian Church located diagonally from the manse.

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Stephanie Herzberg as Janet “Jessie” Woodrow Wilson points out where her son, Tommy, took her diamond to etch his name in the window during the Aug. 7 “Tea with Mrs. Wilson” program at the Boyhood Home of Woodrow WIlson. Charmain Z. Brackett/Augusta Good News

As she led the group through the historic venue, which is furnished according to the time when the Wilsons lived there and contains some of the original pieces, she gave an insight not only into Wilson’s family, but into the 28th president’s character. He exhibited a mischievous streak including taking his mother’s diamond ring and using it to scratch part of his name in a window.

Wilson was known as “Tommy” as a child, and that original etching remains.

She also highlights the Lightfoot Baseball Club, of which Wilson and neighbor Lamar were part.

The president’s involvement in the sport foreshadowed his future. He served as its president and ran it according to parliamentary procedure.

As the tour came to a close, Mrs. Lamar (played by Maria Elser) led the group from the Wilson home to the neighboring Lamar House, where the group had tea and pie.

“Tea with Mrs. Wilson” is one of 10 different immersive programs at area sites as part of the Authentic Augusta Experiences, which were launched in the spring.

“People want unique, one-of-a-kind experiences that engage them in something memorable.  Authentic Augusta Experiences are specially designed to engage the five senses: taste, smell, sight, sound, and touch. When each of these senses is engaged, a memory is sure to be made,” said Jennifer Bowen, Destination Augusta’s vice president of Destination Development and Community Engagement, in an April Destination Augusta news release.

Other organizations with Authentic Augusta Experiences include the Morris Museum of Art, Augusta Museum of History and Westobou.

“Tea with Mrs. Wilson” is $25. For more information, (706) 722-9828.

Charmain Z. Brackett, the publisher of Augusta Good News, has covered Augusta’s news for 35 years. Reach her at Sign up for the newsletter here.

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