At 60 years, the House Tour remains an autumn evergreen

A craftsman cottage in the town of Washington.A craftsman cottage in the town of Washington.
This year’s tour features three houses, spanning four centuries — including this craftsman cottage in the town of Washington.

Long ago, in a county right here, when Eisenhower was president and Nixon his vice president, when Elvis Presley got a record on the charts for the first time and the Dow Jones first closed above 500, a group of women from Trinity Church started a tradition that will this year year celebrate its 60th year, a diamond jubilee.

The world was a different place then, but the idea of the Episcopal Church Dried Flower Sale and House Tour has never changed, from that day to this. Then, as ever, it was a way for the women of the parish to raise money for charity and church improvements, as well as a way to show the beauty and history of Rappahannock County to all. Three house were chosen for guests to visit, and dried flower arrangements were offered for sale. The houses, to this day, are chosen for their diversity, as well as interest and historical importance. The first three were in Flint Hill, the town of Washington and Castleton. And this year’s three houses are in Flint Hill, Washington and Boston.

The year 1956 was an ordinary one in the history books. The interstate highway bill was passed, and is still being implemented. Grace Kelly married Prince Ranier, and “My Fair Lady” opened on stage. IBM introduced the first hard drive for computers. Harry Byrd was the senior senator from Virginia, from Berryville, and “massive resistance” to integration was a byword in some southern states.

Here in Rappahannock County, things were quiet. The newspaper reported that guests were entertained at Avon Hall. Hunt Balls and their participants were very newsworthy. Names such as Miller, Davis, Massie, Tapps, Snead, Fletcher, O’Bannon and Quaintance filled the pages of the Rappahannock News. The President of Indonesia, Dr. Sukarno, visited Rappahannock, to see C.E. Johnson’s farm with its apple orchards, cattle grazing, and experimental Chinese chestnut tree growing. W.C. Campbell was chair of the board of supervisors, and $217,258 was earmarked in the budget for school funds.

On a more mundane level, a Rappahannock County cookbook was published; it had 30 pages of meat, vegetable and salad recipes — and 70 pages of desserts!

In 1950, a minor revolution had occurred when the town of Washington elected a woman mayor, Dorothy Davis, and a completely feminine town council. Women continued in these roles for almost 20 years, getting an article in the national papers about “She Town.” The women wore dresses, hats and gloves to council meetings, of course. And, a surprise to no women, the town did just fine.

Trinity Episcopal Church women were not to be outdone, and, when the Rappahannock County Garden Club decided not to continue with a house tour, they decided to have a tour of homes in which they could sell the dried flower arrangements they had been making.

The dried flower arranging had begun innocently enough with three gourds, which Dotsy Davis had arranged with some wild flowers. They were admired and sold at a church dinner. The next year, they made and sold more, and some were taken to Woodward and Lothrop at Seven Corners. They sold so well there that Woodies wouldn’t let them sell there the next year, so the women, now including Lily Hening, Ruth Pillar, Dot Estes, Jeanne McNear, Quita Parrish, Flossie Williamson, Christine Johnson, Lois Snead and Sarah Frizzel, and others, decided to confine their selling to Rappahannock County. Flower arrangements in the House Tour houses, and flower arrangements in the Parish Hall soon rose to totals of 300 to 400 a year. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Sixty years is a long time; daughters and granddaughters of the founding members are now hostessing in the tour houses and making homemade treats for the tea. Dried flower arrangements are no longer the décor of choice in today’s homes, but the lure of autumn in the mountains, and the beauty of Rappahannock domestic architecture is still a great reason to enjoy the 60-year-old house tour scheduled for this weekend (Oct. 15-16).

Three houses, spanning four centuries — an original log cabin of the 1700s incorporated into a home in Flint Hill.
An original log cabin of the 1700s incorporated into a home in Flint Hill.
A recently built, modern and ecologically sound home in Boston.Photos by Ruthie Windsor-Mann
A recently built, modern and ecologically sound home in Boston.

The House Tour

The 60th annual House Tour and Floral Art Sale this weekend (Oct. 15-16) features three houses, spanning four centuries, that are open to visitors — an original log cabin of the 1700s incorporated into a home in Flint Hill, a craftsman cottage in the town of Washington and a recently built, modern and ecologically sound home in Boston.

Tickets for the tour are available at Trinity Episcopal Church in Washington and at each house on the days of the tour. Hours are 11 to 5 Saturday, noon to 4 on Sunday. The tour costs $30 for all three homes, or $10 to see a single house.

Organist Ronald Stolk plays and conducts for Trinity's after-the-tour Evensong service Sunday at 5.Courtesy photo
Organist Ronald Stolk plays and conducts for Trinity’s after-the-tour Evensong service Sunday at 5.

Tea is served 4 p.m. Sunday at the church campus on Gay Street in Washington, with a festive Evensong service 5 p.m. with Rev. H. Miller Hunter and with Ronald Stolk playing the organ and conducting the Trinity Church Choir and guest singers. A reception follows the service.

Floral art, wreaths and preserved arrangements will be sold both days of the tour. For more information, visit trinwash.org/SaleTour or call 540-675-3716.

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