This is the first in a series of three articles about the 56th annual Trinity Episcopal Church Dried Flower Sale and House Tour Oct. 20-21. Tickets for all three houses, including tea from 2 to 5 at Middleton Inn, are $30 and available at Trinity’s parish hall on Gay Street in Washington and at each of the houses. Admission to a single house or to the tea is $10.
The Grosso House, on Seven Ponds Road in Amissville, sits surrounded on all sides by gardens bordered by stone walls; the color and variety of both the flowers and stones delights the eye. Most of the annuals are grown by the Grossos in their greenhouse on top of the barn. Most of the stones, as well as old benches, iron pots, broken masonry, hitching posts, and even a millstone dragged from the James River, were individually discovered and placed perfectly into their surroundings.
The house itself, built in 1987 and occupied by the couple full time since 2009, was designed by the two of them, and then, with the help of their builder, refined to the perfection it is today: a wood frame home, with a wide front porch filled with old slab furniture, with its soft blue color accentuating the flowers and greenery. A handmade stained glass window at the entrance – with the rose of New York, Paul’s home place, and the poppy of California, Jackie’s state, joined with the dogwood of Virginia – is a perfect metaphor for their collaboration in the design, building and furnishing of their home. The entryway holds the Peter Kramer staircase and a huge wagon wheel chandelier. Two wood saws decorate the back of the chimney.
The great room is an octagonal room dominated by the free standing fireplace, crafted from Shenandoah stone. The immediate visual impact is of green plants and the patina of old wood. Big American storage pieces from the past, such as pie safes, hanging cupboards, hutches, wardrobes and dry sinks, hold the couple’s collections of Americana and Jackie’s house plants, all thriving and bursting. A three-generations-old silk scarf covers the piano. Jackie’s collection of tinware and ironstone and Paul’s paddles and cutting boards dot the walls and cabinets of the dining area, where a generous table and chairs, handmade by Samuel Case of Purcellville, is ready for company.
But these collections take up little space when compared to the ox yokes, grain cradles, singletrees, scythes and other farm tools that hang from the ceilings and walls. To the Grossos, these relics of America’s past, with their handmade wood parts, accented by the dents and scratches of centuries of use, are art, and like art, will only grow in intrinsic value. Comfortable upholstered furniture provides color and many angles for viewing all the treasures.
The kitchen has a corner fireplace; its mantelpiece, as well as the one in the great room, came from an old barn in Loudoun County. A large rag rug, 15 years in the making by Jackie, covers the pine floor. Views from the kitchen show glimpses of flowering bushes and plants, with mature trees lending shade.
The master bedroom and bath are on the main floor, and upstairs are three more bedrooms. The walkway, a space around the chimney on the second floor, is home to a collections of dolls – Jackie’s as well as her mother’s and grandmother’s. It’s a favorite spot for grandchildren to play and survey the goings-on in the great room. The sitting room upstairs, with its own fireplace, has a section of floor open to the kitchen downstairs, ensuring no one feels lonely.
Pictures and old hand tools line the stairway to the basement, where there is a separate apartment, ready for use when needed. Here too, are more pieces of the past – carriage wheels that decorate the walls, Jackie’s roll top desk and Paul’s 19th century French Voltaire desk. There is a recently completed wine cellar, filling up nicely, and numerous pictures of the couple’s children and grandchildren, a reminder that the past is always becoming the future.
Inside or out, the Grosso House is a tribute to fidelity of interest in, and respect for, America’s past. Exuberant family parties and gatherings, weddings of friends, and now the House Tour, give the Grossos a way of sharing their home and its collections of history with as many as possible.
“We call our home a place to share,” they say, and all the sharers are delighted to find that it is a treasure.