Parsonage opens its doors

The Inn at Little Washington recently opened the Parsonage, the most recent addition to its 16-building campus, bringing the total number of guest rooms to 24. With chef and proprietor Patrick O’Connell leading the way, the Rappahannock News toured the new facility Monday afternoon (May 19).

The Inn at Little Washington’s newest addition, the restored  Parsonage.
The Inn at Little Washington’s newest addition, the restored Parsonage.
Gordon Beall

The Parsonage — as well as the Inn’s presidential cottage, Claiborne House, several guest rooms, the dining room and the kitchen of the Inn itself (where visitors can meet O’Connell) — will be on display for everyone to see as part of an afternoon of public tours on Tuesday, June 10. The event, from 1 to 5 p.m., is a fundraiser for Trinity Episcopal Church.

The Parsonage, so named because of its proximity to Trinity, is on Main Street, but the Inn’s year-long renovation moved the main entrance to face Middle Street — and the Inn’s front door. “Check-ins have been fast and furious,” remarked O’Connell.

The 6,000 square foot house, originally a Colonial-era structure, O’Connell explained, now offers six new guest rooms — four of which were occupied during Monday’s tour — with fireplaces and bay windows (some with private balconies) overlooking the village.

Many of the windows look out at either the Inn or the newly remodeled town square (which doubles as the Trinity Church parking lot) — a conscious decision, O’Connell said, which serves to help “establish a dialogue” with the Parsonage’s neighbors.

Collaborating with London designer Joyce Conwy Evans, the Parsonage’s interiors reflect a lighter, more modern interpretation of the Inn’s English country house aesthetic.

“We measure the success of all our projects with the same, simple standard,” O’Connell said. “When completed, each one should feel as if it has always been here just as it is. Nothing should ever look newly constructed.”

To wit, O’Connell explained the interior’s pine flooring is the house’s original, while the many pieces which decorate the inside — such as the custom-made mantels above the fireplaces — were all sourced locally, including to Jay Monroe of Flint Hill (who served as the project’s architect), Washington contractor Joe Keyser, and woodworkers Scott McBride and Sam Dwyer.

The Parsonage’s common room  features a number of restored items (including the bust in the corner).
The Parsonage’s common room features a number of restored items (including the bust in the corner). Gordon Beall

A former side porch is now a Moorish-inspired glass-enclosed conservatory which serves as the main entrance to the Parsonage. The ceiling has been tented in a soft, green-striped fabric and the floor is an intricately patterned Tunisian tile. An antique French lantern hanging in the center of the tent casts an inviting glow.

The long hallways, with natural light at both ends, were also intentional, O’Connell said. Before the renovations, O’Connell said it wasn’t possible to walk from one end of the house to the other on one floor — such a trip required going up and down a flight of stairs (the lone original stairway now serves to discreetly move guests’ luggage).

“I never knew how much house was here before,” laughed O’Connell, “and what an oasis it was . . . I’m happy with how the house responded — it was very demanding.”

A T-shaped center hall draws an arriving guest through the house and out through symmetrical French doors onto a wide porch, which looks over the garden leading to Stonyman Gourmet — whose parcel of land the Inn intends to purchase for $550,000 from owners David Cole and Jimmie DeBergh. It’s here that the house’s first long-term guest — possibly the world’s best-fed mourning dove, who has nested in a outside wall shelf — surveys her new residence.

The town and Trinity cooperated with the Inn to transform the car park in the center of town into a town square by adding stone walls, planters and trees, and landscaping. Around the square, handmade copper lanterns and lamp posts based on an original design found in Richmond were installed — with plans still to come for paving the area in front of the Country Cafe and the side street alongside the post office and the Inn at Little Washington Shops.

The entrance way is a Moorish-inspired, glass-enclosed conservatory.
The entrance way is a Moorish-inspired, glass-enclosed conservatory. Gordon Beall

Each guestroom is individually decorated in a fresh, light-filled style employing a soothing palette of pastel colors, English fabrics and wallpapers. Bathrooms feature Waterworks tile and fixtures, soft grey Carrera marble vanities and Bulgari amenities.

Despite a harsh winter delaying work on the building’s exterior, O’Connell and Inn marketing director Rachel Hayden said the Parsonage still managed to open on time — relatively. “We set a date of April 1 and opened on the 19th,” Hayden said. Construction began just over a year ago, in January of 2013.

Following the June 10 tour, tea will be served in the ballroom and on the veranda of the historic tavern building, home of the Inn’s shops. The price of the tour, including the tea, is $75 per person  ($60 ages 65 and older).

“Rarely has it been possible for anyone to view the Inn in its entirety,” said O’Connell. “This is a unique opportunity to experience a design project which has been evolving for more than three decades. We’re excited about sharing our world with new friends.”

At the last house tour 15 years ago, O’Connell and Hayden said more than 1,000 people arrived to tour the facilities, it being such a rare opportunity.

“We have staff who have never even seen the guest rooms,” laughed O’Connell.

Reservations and tickets for the tour may be arranged by calling 540-675-3800 between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. seven days a week. Rates for the Parsonage start at $575 per night and include afternoon tea service and breakfast for two. For reservations or more information, call 540-675-3800 or visit