A publication of the Virginia, Maryland & Delaware Association of Electric Cooperatives

Our Communities
Home | Our Communities | Preserving the Past

Preserving the Past

Culpeper vineyards’ WWII museum continues to grow

April 2024

(Courtesy Old House Vineyards)

by Gregg MacDonald, Staff Writer

WHEN YOU WALK INTO CULPEPER’S OLD HOUSE VINEYARDS’ DISTILLERY TASTING ROOM, it’s like going back in time to a WWII officers’ club in occupied France. Military memorabilia line the walls while stoic mannequins stand at attention in their uniforms. There’s even a ceiling fresco of the Women’s Auxiliary Air Corp parachuting in from above.

According to General Manager Ryan Kearney, the tasting room was designed and created in honor of World War II veterans by Old House owner and founder Pat Kearney, who has a storied background of designing and building exhibit halls and visitor centers. “Pat has built museum exhibits up and down the East Coast,” Ryan Kearney says, “it has been his passion and primary occupation for 40 years.”

Launched on Father’s Day in 2015, Kearney says the concept for the WWII design at the distillery originated with the vineyards’ neighbors, the Lenn brothers, Edwin, Wayne and Boots. All three brothers were Army Air Corp WWII pilots who also helped Pat Kearney get his vineyard up and running: welcoming his family to Culpeper in the late 1990s.

Many of the first pieces put on display in the distillery were donated by the Lenn brothers. Pieces like the Honorable Service lapel button or pin that was awarded to U.S. military service members who were discharged under honorable conditions during WWII.

The lapel pin began being colloquially called the “Ruptured Duck” and served a dual purpose. Primarily, it served as proof that the wearer was an honorably discharged veteran returning from duty. Unofficially, it was also used as an identifier to railroad, bus and other transportation companies offering free or subsidized transportation to returning WWII veterans.

Kearney says that for the past several years, the museum has grown exponentially as visitors continually bring pieces representing their own family’s WWII history to share with others at the tasting room. “We look forward to continuing to expand the museum portion of the distillery,” he says.