Washington column for June 19

The Inn’s open house and garden tour

The cloudy skies did not put a damper on The Inn at Little Washington’s open house last Tuesday (June 10) — an all-day event attended by 300 or more guests.

Chef and proprietor Patrick O’Connell greets tour guests in the Inn’s kitchen.Ruthie Windsor-Mann
Chef and proprietor Patrick O’Connell greets tour guests in the Inn’s kitchen.

The inspiration for it all, chef and proprietor Patrick O’Connell, stood in his new kitchen with a smile and a handshake that afternoon and talked to the tour guests. The beautiful kitchen was decorated with white and blue tiles wrapping the walls. Everything was so neat and orderly!

“The tables are in use every night,” O’Connell said. “The wonderful thing is that you have your own space and your own little world, but you are not cut off from everything going on around you.” O’Connell oversees a staff of 126, including 36 in the kitchen (which operates 24 hours a day).

Since he took over an old Amoco gas station, the Inn has won every culinary award imaginable — some of them many times. Usually regarded as the best restaurant in America, its reputation goes from strength to strength, and the opening of the Parsonage signals its plan to continue into the future.

During the past two tours, only the Inn’s interior has been viewable, but this year, to mark this opening of the Parsonage, three of the Inn’s facilities were open. From the door of the Inn through the dining rooms, lounge, kitchen and two guest rooms, around the garden to the first floor of the Claiborne House, then through Trinity Church and on to the newly opened Parsonage, tour visitors “oohed” and “aahed” at décor, furniture, paintings and fabrics.

For the third time in their respective histories, the tour’s proceeds were donated to Trinity Episcopal Church. “It’s the neighborly thing to do,” said Trinity’s rector Rev. Jennings Hobson, “and the generous thing to do, too.”

The Inn at Little Washington’s open house last Tuesday (June 10) ended with tea and treats on the large lawn overlooking the beautiful nearby mountains.Ruthie Windsor-Mann
The Inn at Little Washington’s open house last Tuesday (June 10) ended with tea and treats on the large lawn overlooking the beautiful nearby mountains.

Inn staffers and Trinity members accompanied each tour, and the most frequent comment was “fabulous.” Commentary told of the history and design of each room, and tried to convey some idea of the interesting and varied provenance of the old pieces of furniture and décor, but mostly, the guests’ eyes were so filled with lovely wood, interesting fabric, exquisite china and silver that comments were almost irrelevant.

Gifted craftsmen and women from all over the world contributed to the look, and many locals did too. Architect Jay Monroe, Joseph Keyser Construction, and carpenters Scott McBride and Sam Dwyer were all lauded for their recent work on the Parsonage.

The open house ended with three choices of tea and petite sandwiches, ham biscuits and dainty treats in the ballroom and outside on the “field of dreams,” as the Inn calls it, behind what was once the Washington House. Built in 1740, it now houses retail shops and offices.

Trinity was built in the 1850s, so the Inn is a relatively new addition to the crossroads of Warren and Main streets. But it certainly means to stay, and while it does, the people across the street, at the church, will be happy to call it neighbor.

I had the opportunity to go on the tour and was amazed at how beautiful the rooms were. All the guests seemed like they were enjoying themselves. I know I was. I could not get over how the rooms were decorated — so beautiful and clean, not even a trace of dust anywhere.

(Special thanks to Helen Williams for contributing some information to this column.)


Sympathy goes out to the family of Sarah Ann “Sally” Havstad. Sally, 74, of Sperryville, died Wednesday (June 11) at Fauquier Health and Rehabilitation Center. She was a member of Sperryville Methodist Church, Rappahannock Garden Club, Rappahannock County Band Boosters “Fruit Queen,” and sewing and quilting groups. She was active in 4-H, Girl Scouts and enjoyed singing in the church choir.

The family will receive friends from 6 to 8 p.m. tomorrow (Friday, June 20) at Found and Sons Funeral Chapel (850 Sperryville Pike, Culpeper). Interment will follow in the family cemetery. She will be missed by many.

Counting butterflies

On July 19, the Old Rag Chapter of Virginia Master Naturalists will be participating in an official butterfly count for the North American Butterfly Association (NABA). The public is invited to participate and no previous knowledge or skill is required.

Butterfly enthusiasts will gather at 9 a.m. in the habitat restoration and nature area on Leggett Lane. From there they will proceed to various properties in the county. The count is expected to last until early afternoon, but may end earlier at some properties.

Registration ($3 per person) ends July 15. Make sure to wear sturdy shoes, bring lunch or a snack, drinks, bug spray and other personal necessities. If you are interested (or if you just need directions), contact Don Hearl at 540-825-6660 (during the day) or 540-672-5712 (after 5:30) or email donh@ess-services.com. (Rain date is July 20.)

Have a wonderful week and stay cool!