House tour: old and new homes, floral art and a closing concert

This is the 59th year that the women of Trinity Episcopal Church have presented their house tour to the public, opening three homes to visitors so that they can enjoy the architecture, décor and personal taste of three of our county’s residents.

The Stolks' Huntly Farm & Studio, the oldest house on the tour, is the scene of one of Rappahannock's significant Civil War stories.Ruthie Windsor-Mann
The Stolks’ Huntly Farm & Studio, the oldest house on the tour, is the scene of one of Rappahannock’s significant Civil War stories.

From 11 to 5 Saturday, Oct. 17, and noon to 4 Sunday, Oct. 18, the houses will be open to the public, and, in Trinity Church Hall in Washington, floral art will be on display and for sale — unique designs inspired by nature, and enhanced by the 60-plus years of expertise and experience of county designers.

Tickets ($30 to see all three houses, $15 for a single house) will be available at the church hall on Gay Street in Washington, and at all the houses.

Another highlight of the tour will be the Evensong service and concert, which will end the weekend. Scheduled for 5 p.m. Sunday, it is open to the community as well as tour guests. Ronald Stolk, a Dutch musician — and the owner, with wife Ruth Anna, of one of the houses on the tour — will be the organist and choir director. A champagne reception in the hall next door to the church will follow the short service. This is a new part of the weekend, and it allows the volunteers at the houses and the flower sale to celebrate the weekend together with the community.

Little Eldon, a lovely brick manor house in Woodville, dates to 1870.Courtesy photo
Little Eldon, a lovely brick manor house in Woodville, dates to 1870.

This year, the three houses for the tour span the history of American architecture from 1740 to 2013. The oldest, with the original log cabin and fireplace, enclosed in additions, is Huntly Farm & Studio, owned by the Stolks. This house is the scene of one of Rappahannock County’s significant Civil War stories, as the home where Kitty Payne, a slave, was born and raised. Freed, she left the county with her three children, but was brought back by bounty hunters, and lived in the jail in Washington with her children for 300 days before she was set free. (That story will be retold this Sunday at 1 p.m. on the courthouse grounds in a Rappahannock Historical Society marker dedication. See the Events listings on page 3 for more.)

Today, Huntly Farm is a plain country farmhouse, with stone walls and gardens to set it off, and with rustic furniture that enhances its old oak paneling, floors and built-in china cabinet. Many additions have made it what it is today, and the intricacies of its interior attest to a long past. Meals for the haymakers of old were laid out on the old porch, barn wood made the cabinets and shelving of the kitchen, and narrow stairs lead to a complicated upstairs — where nowadays Ruth Anna’s studio provides space and light that inspried many of her paintings, which brighten up the whole house. And even today, it is a part-time home for artists and dissertation writers, friends of the Stolks, who use the house as an oasis of tranquility as they work and study.

The second house on the tour, Little Eldon, dates to 1870. It is a lovely brick manor house surrounded by rolling pastures in Woodville, spacious and serene, once the site of elegant parties and coming-out dances, and other times dubbed “The Spooky House” by little boys, when it was empty for many years and they dared each other to go up on the porch and peer in the windows.

Completed in 2013, this Southern California-style home is set in beautiful gardens with sculptures of stone, iron and steel.Ruthie Windsor-Mann
Completed in 2013, this Southern California-style home is set in beautiful gardens with sculptures of stone, iron and steel.

Now it is restored to a timeless elegance by the Lane family heirs, as well as its longtime renters, Scott and Mary-Sherman Willis. Original beautiful wood floors, fireplace surrounds, staircases and bannisters are enhanced by the Willis’ family antiques and art, and artifacts they have collected from around the world.

Our final house, just finished in 2013, took “a sort of modern, small house in the deep woods, with hostas by the front door” to a Southern California-style house, with open plan, generous dimensions, and something for every member of the four-generation family, set in beautiful gardens punctuated with sculptures of stone, iron and steel. A breathtaking dining room table and chairs made by Peter Kramer, striking art on all the walls, and views from its many windows of the mountains, pastures and outdoor pool provide a visual feast for the eyes. In this house, too, its owners’ travels around the world are our gain in every way.

October is a wonderful month to enjoy Rappahannock County, and for many years, the Floral Art and House Tour was the only event that capitalized on that fact. Now, with the Farm Tour and Artists Tour, it is just one among the group, but it has a long history of celebrating life in the county — and the proceeds are donated to local, state, national and international charities.