Editorial: Comment on the comments

Little Washington from above by Laurie Smith and Mark Reinhardt

If a tree falls in a forest . . . If something happens in Rappahannock County and it’s not reported in Big Washington media, does it really happen?

Apparently not, based on the ruckus stirred up by the front-page story in Sunday’s business section of The Washington Post, whose headline read: “The ‘in’ at Little Washington: Known for overhauling gritty urban corridors, developer Jim Abdo turns to Rappahannock County.”

But it’s not as if Mr. Abdo’s buying up just about every available property in the county seat had been a secret; indeed, the Rappahannock News had even run its own front-page story a few weeks back. Until Big Washington media deemed it a big deal, however, it seemed hardly worthy of local reaction and comment — just another day in the country.

Herein lies an irony almost as delicious of one of the famous Inn’s signature dishes: Most of the negative reaction about the latest invasion by Big Washington newcomers would have never occurred but for the sudden attention of Big Washington media.

Then, just as suddenly, a county-wide conversation erupted — whether via email and Internet or in person, over coffee or something stronger. “Conversation” is a euphemism; the more accurate description is “outrage.”

How dare a Big Washington newcomer — together with his “co-conspirators,” town mayor John Sullivan and Inn owner Patrick O’Connell — be so “arrogant” and “greedy” as to turn a historic town into his own personal “Potemkin village?”

It reminded some of the movie actress Kim Basinger’s $20 million deal some years back to “save” a small town in rural Georgia by buying up all the houses and lots, thereby turning it into her (now abandoned) personal plaything and fancy tourist destination.

But since she was a Georgia native, at least she wasn’t a snotty newcomer. And that seems to be the biggest complaint about Mr. Abdo — his “newcomer-ness,” lodged most often from newcomers themselves (another delicious irony).

As in the immigration debate roiling the nation, how long you and your ancestors have lived here confers credibility. And yet the most shrilly anti-immigrant voices often come from those with the weakest pedigree.

Many true Rappahannock natives couldn’t care less about what happens in the little town of Washington, anyway. To them, it’s a place apart, already invaded and taken over, like Crimea. The authentic Ukraine (to continue the analogy) can be found in the countryside and in Sperryville and Flint Hill, real towns with organic, not superimposed, energetic spirit. (In these readers’ eyes, the Rappahannock News covers Little Washington entirely too much, at the expense of more interesting happenings elsewhere in the county.)

Given the county’s native-newcomer fracture that this latest controversy exposes, Mr. Abdo’s chosen name for his flagship enterprise — The White Moose Inn — seems especially fitting.

Though not indigenous to Rappahannock (maybe they were here during the last Ice Age?), these awkward but charismatic non-native creatures would probably be welcomed, not considered an invasive species, unlike stink bugs.

The White Stink Bug. Yes, as Mr. Abdo’s critics must surely recognize, things could always be worse. Think about it. The White Stink Bug.

Walter Nicklin


  1. I lived in Rappahannock county for years and loved it Why should the developer try to make it a little Georgetown? Leave it the same. I remember it when I was a magistrate there years ago and having great food there, and stopping by after a late night call from the sheriff having coffee and dessert with Patrick and Reinhart More money in his pocket Mary A. Schumaker

  2. Dear Walter,
    The insinuation that Rappahannock residents had been forewarned about Abdoland,
    the commercial takeover of the ambience of our village, is a bit disingenuous. This should have been a banner headline as none before it in this space.
    Instead, if one waded through the subjective prose about the town’s recent history,
    and read as far as the 10th paragraph, one could possibly deduce what was about to
    The most important story on our town’s future got neither a headline or a mention in the first nine paragraphs of that story.
    Do not, uh, spit in our face and say it is raining.
    This story deserved a serious investigative piece of journalism. And it still does.
    This deal stinks to high heaven and low hell.
    There is plenty of blame to go around. The newspaper must accept its part of it.

    Ben Jones
    Harris Hollow Rd.

  3. You are partly correct and partly wrong on this. The Washington Post piece gave the impression that Mr. Abdo’s intention and plans are “out of touch” and very overly ambitious for a town which does “have a pulse”.
    We wonder “What is he up to?”
    As to your comparison with the purchase of Braselton (spelling?), Georgia by Kim Basinger, it is not comparable. The family (I think the Braseltons) who owned all, or most, of the town put it on the Real Estate market as a whole.
    I think Time magazine covered this at the time. Kim Bassinger “abandoned” it because she got into financial
    problems because of an unrelated legal judgment. So, not comparable. Braselton, Georgia was not a functioning town to be compared with Washington, Virginia. I have photos of the “before” and “after” of Braselton, someplace.
    Jim Warwick

  4. This editorial from Mr. Nicklin is just plain gibberish. Whether one is a native or a newcomer to this area, or whether one gets their news from a city newspaper or a small town paper two weeks ago or this week….what does that have to do with the topic at hand? Mr. Abdo and ‘friends’ want to create and build activity in Little Washington simply because he feels there is nothing to do and in his words, the town has “no pulse”. Seriously? No pulse sir? Walk down Main Street or Gay Street, then deeply breathe in the fresh clean air, gaze around, enjoy the beauty, the smiles and slow way of life here. THAT’S the pulse of this town and surrounding area. I certainly don’t think one needs to be a native of this area to know and enjoy this feel.
    What concerns me are the busy minds that are not able to allow themselves to slow down long enough to enjoy what is right in front of them. Why must those busy minds always want to build things to occupy themselves?
    As one reader previously posted, we already have Middleburg. Please allow Washington, VA to stay “quaint, quiet and sincere”. Mr. Abdo not only has the ability to change the landscape as we now know it to be here, but also in the future. Is that what we want?
    I will look forward to an open floor forum on this topic.

  5. “… the Rappahannock News had even run its own front-page story a few weeks back.”
    When you reference yourself like this, will you plz put in the source (for example RappNews, the date or Issue # or Edition # or a link or…however you guys reference yourselves.
    Purpose – I’d like to easily go back to check out what I missed that you are referencing. I read this paper and can’t believe I missed the original story.

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