Locals know it as the Old Tobacco Warehouse. Historically it’s known as the James Mill Scottish Factor Store, an old brick building that oozes Urbanna’s colonial past.
Built in 1766, the Scottish Factor Store in its colonial prime was a gathering place in Urbanna strategically located on a bluff above the town harbor. It was a time when Urbanna was a hub of commerce, tobacco flowing out of the port and imported supplies flowing in.
Tobacco hauled in from nearby and even distant plantations was exchanged at the Scottish Factor Store for cash or credit. Inside the store were the imported goods and supplies for purchase.
The tobacco was stored in large barrels called hogsheads that topped 1,000 lbs. when full. They were stored until a ship from England came to pick them up and at that point they were rolled down a gentle hill to the port below the Scottish Factor Store.
The building’s name is derived from its former owner, James Mill of James Mill & Co., a Scotsman and merchant. Although there was a time in the 1930s when there was talk of dismantling the building and seeing it up for an exhibit on the history of tobacco at the 1939 World Fair in New York, the Scottish Factor remained for the time being as a dilapidated rental house.
A movement in the town sparked by the Middlesex County Woman’s Club gained ground to preserve the structure and eventually it was purchased by the Ralph Wormeley Branch of the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities.
The building was restored and it became home to the Urbanna Town Library in the 1960s. The Town of Urbanna acquired the building from the APVA in 1997 and the building has since been refurbished to include being handicap accessible.
As the town’s museum and visitor’s center, coupled with the building’s long, storied saga in Urbanna, it remains a prominent architectural and historical gem. Even more so now that it is home to the most important map in American history: the 1755 Mitchell map.
In addition, the Scottish Factor Store is home to “The Oyster is King” exhibit that celebrates the town’s historic reliance on oysters, as well as an exhibit on how tobacco played an integral part in Urbanna history