Historic Garden Week showcases Rappahannock homes

Hundreds of visitors to descend on town of Washington and county

“Avon Hall” was selected for this year’s garden tour, even though the home is undergoing a complete renovation. It will be on the garden tour again in two years upon completion. Courtesy image

There will be a splendid invasion this spring of Rappahannock County and in particular the town of Washington.

Historic Garden Week in Virginia — dubbed “America’s Largest Open House” — will bring literally hundreds of visitors to the county seat, many seeing the historic town and the county’s surrounding villages and attractions for the first time.

“This is the first time that any homes in the town of Washington have been on the Virginia garden tour,” notes Washington Mayor John Fox Sullivan. “It’s going to attract hundreds of people who have never been in the town or the county before, which in and of itself is great. And they are going to experience what an extraordinary, lovely, hidden gem we have.”

While Historic Garden Week is held statewide from April 22 to 29 — in those eight days showcasing 250 of Virginia’s most beautiful homes and gardens — organizers have arguably saved the best for last. Five homes in and around Washington will be opening their garden gates and front doors on the prestigious tour’s final day, Saturday, April 29, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

“It’s known as the Virginia garden tour, but along with the gardens the participants are keenly interested in viewing the houses themselves,” Sullivan points out. “So there will be floral arrangements set up in each house, there are docents in every room. It certainly is exciting.”

The five homes in and around the town chosen for the tour include “The Meadows” (John and Beverly Sullivan, owners); “Jessamine Hill Farm” (John Anderson, owner); “The Lodge at Rush River Springs” (Sarah and Bill Walton, owners); “Greenfield Inn” (Audrey and Al Regnery, owners); and “Avon Hall” (Bill Fischer and Drew Mitchell, owners).

“The Meadows” is among the five homes chosen in and around the town of Washington for the prestigious Historic Garden Week in Virginia.

In addition, the Inn at Little Washington will be opening its expansive campus and gardens to the visitors, while Trinity Episcopal Church will serve as tour headquarters and registration center.

All this said, were in not for the many years’ of effort by Beth DeBergh, a Rappahannock resident and chairman of the Garden Club of Warren County, the garden tour now in its 84th year might never have found its way to Washington and Rappahannock County.

“I’m very excited,” says DeBergh. “Even though it’s been a lot of work I could not be more thrilled.”

The same feeling, no doubt, shared by her husband Jimmy DeBergh, whose family has been a part of Historic Garden Week in Virginia for four generations.

“His family has a long history with the garden club,” notes Mrs. DeBergh, recalling an often shared story that every little girl in Virginia, no matter their background, should have the experience of putting on her finest dress and touring the tour’s beautifully decorated gardens and homes.

Now for the first time many such young girls in Rappahannock County will have opportunity to do just that without having to travel to other parts of the state.

DeBergh notes that a few homes surrounding Huntly were once on the garden tour when neighboring Fauquier County drew attention to John Marshall — secretary of state under President John Adams and the longest-serving chief justice in U.S. Supreme Court history — who was born in a log cabin not far from there.

But this is the first time, as the mayor pointed out, that Rappahannock and the town of Washington will be exclusively showcasing homes.

DeBergh says local residents can expect to see Garden Week’s trademark “green arrows going up all over the town” and surrounding area pointing visitors to each home on the tour.

Meanwhile, DeBergh let us in on another secret: Historic Garden Week in Virginia will be returning to the town of Washington in 2019 to showcase two historic homes currently undergoing extensive renovations, including Avon Hall — which while on this year’s tour won’t be completed for another two years — and the 41-acre Mount Prospect estate on the southern boundary of the town owned by Chuck and Deanna Akre.

In other words, two garden tours in two years’ time for Rappahannock County.

Nina Mustard, president of the Garden Club of Virginia, says the Garden Week recently gained new respect when it reported the results of its first statewide economic impact study.

“The Garden Club of Virginia was able to provide reliable figures estimating the cumulative impact over the last 45 years to be $425 million,” she reveals.

“It’s certainly good for the town, calling attention to its history and how unique it is, and it’s important to the county for many similar reasons,” Sullivan agrees. “And certainly many businesses throughout Rappahannock County are likely to benefit.”

“It might not be a Pen Druid crowd,” the mayor quips of the widely popular craft beer brewery in Sperryville, “but they don’t need it.”

About John McCaslin 448 Articles
John McCaslin is the editor of the Rappahannock News. Email him at editor@rappnews.com.