Flowers and houses and tea, oh my!

By Helen Williams
Special to the Rappahannock News
As it has since 1955, the Trinity Episcopal Church community in Washington is preparing for its annual Dried Flower Sale and House Tour. Flowers are growing in gardens from Amissville to Boston for later drying and the three houses for this year’s tour are being readied for visitors.

The sale and tour event is set for Saturday, Oct. 16 and Sunday, Oct. 17. Tea will be served at the Middleton Inn, as has been the custom for many years. This annual fundraiser, sponsored by the Episcopal Church Women of the Parish, is the sole event used to raise money for their charities. Local rescue squads and social services are aided but the funds also go to causes in the state, nation and world.

In Washington, up Harris Hollow Road, owners Alex and Ashleigh Sharp will be opening Mountain Green for the third time to house tour guests. Previous showings were in 1975 and 1993, when Alex’s parents were the owners. Extensive repairs and upgrading are in process now to bring the Revolutionary War era back stone section and the circa 1860 brick front section up to 21st-century standards.

The main focus of the work is to preserve and expose the historical structure of the house, whether it be stone, brick, or plaster and lath. On the exterior, brick and stone are being re-pointed, columns repaired and repainted, and new gardens are being installed. Inside, all the plaster has been redone, stone exposed, and the rooms newly painted to showcase the pictures, furniture and mementos of the long history of the house and its occupants.

Mountain Green is one of the oldest houses in the county, and yet only three families have owned it: the Millers, for 161 years, the Cheathams and the Sharps.

The Parrish House, home of Chris and Caroline Parrish, was built in 1892 and sits serenely beside Richmond Road in Viewtown, a sweep of lawn and several perennial flower beds providing a peaceful setting among the pastures and hayfields of Thornton River Farm. The house, never before on the house tour, still sits on its original footprint some 120 years later. Its interesting clapboard exterior is the product of Charley Hawkins, from a noted family of builders in Rappahannock County. Large porches front and back set off the generous windows and graceful lines. Inside the house the Hawkins trademarks of high ceilings, a large center hall, and graceful staircase and bannister, evoke a quieter and more settled era.

The spacious ground floor will be open to visitors, with the living room, library, and dining room filled with interesting furniture, paintings, pictures, and accessories. The large one-over-one windows let in light and air. The dining room has built-in china cupboards, an antique corner cupboard and large, traditional dining table. A new door to a small patio brings the greenery and flowers inside. The family kitchen is spacious and functional, the seat of many late night conversations with family and friends.

The newest house on the tour belongs to John and Ann Henry, who have transformed a typical Rappahannock rural landscape into a dramatic setting of monolithic stones, stone walls, and rolling countryside. A fairly ordinary late- 20th-century house has been reconfigured with open space defined by soaring stone walls and other natural materials. In the central room and great hall, the couple has attempted to obliterate the distinction between outside and inside by installing large windows and consistently using locust posts and stone inside and out. A 15-foot vintage dining table, custom made in London, accommodates 24 guests and provides unrestricted views of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

The open kitchen and eating areas flow seamlessly into the library shelving facing the powder room and open staircase. Sculptural arrangements of antique African pre-coin currency are seen throughout the house. An open staircase of halved locust logs leads to the second floor.

Other stone structures on the property include a hillside tomb that holds the pool pump and equipment, and three interlocking sheepfolds 40 feet wide guarded by two 10-ton boulders. Still in process is the opening up of a 30-foot-high amphitheater on the property of The Henry House, and continuation of the stone walls around the property.

The houses on the tour differ from each other in myriad ways, but they all attest to a common theme — to use the old and new together, and to do that in such a way that the native beauty of the landscape is enhanced by man-made endeavors.

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