By Beth DeBergh
Special to the Rappahannock News
Prestigious Historic Garden Week, dubbed “America’s Largest Open House,” is returning next month for a rare appearance in Rappahannock County. And with it will come enthusiastic crowds from across the state and beyond.
The Town of Washington tour on Saturday, April 27, will offer a glimpse inside five private homes, historic Trinity Episcopal Church, and the gardens of the Inn at Little Washington — all situated within a 3.5 mile radius of the county seat.
For nearly a century, the Garden Club of Virginia has been committed to preserving the beauty of Virginia for all to enjoy. During Historic Garden Week, an 8-day statewide event at the height of spring bloom, visitors are welcomed to over 250 of Virginia’s most beautiful homes, gardens, and historic landmarks.
The Town of Washington tour is being hosted by The Garden Club of Warren County.
(Editor’s note: Beth DeBergh, a resident of Harris Hollow and author of this article, is president of the Garden Club of Warren County, as well as this year’s garden tour chairman).
Rappahannock Tour homes include:
— The Winsor House: Located on Main Street, the Winsor property consists of two historical structures. The original owner of the property was John O’Neal in 1798. In 1843, the lot was purchased by John Carter for 8 pounds 2 shillings. The structure was torn down and the present home was built by John and Alice Clark and purchased by Walker B. Jenkins in 1920.
The current retail structure housed the Walker B. Jenkins Bus Line. This depot, a one-story wood-frame building, provided bus service between Culpeper and Winchester. Until the mid-1950s there was daily service between Luray, Washington, D.C., and Fredericksburg. This bus station was later used for offices.
The adjacent residence, surrounded by well-maintained English boxwoods, originally had a formal living room in the front left room. The large room on the right was the master bedroom and parlor. The “outbuilding” was once divided into two rooms, one for food storage and the other a smokehouse.
Of the Jenkins’ four daughters, Ruby and Mary did not marry and remained in the home for most of their lives — Mary, a local first grade teacher, and Ruby, secretary for the Virginia Extension Service.
In 2014, the property was purchased and both the retail space and the home were restored. The house was renovated with great care — preserving its character and updating the interior by adding comforts such as stone fireplaces and French doors to open up the magnificent views of the mountains. Deborah Winsor, owner.
— Mount Prospect: An extraordinary country estate sited on 41 acres — mostly in the Town of Washington — Mount Prospect was built on top of a hill in the 1850s, the original structure a small Victorian farmhouse with Italian influences. Then, as now, the house provided an artist’s eye view of the town of Washington and a sweeping panorama of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
For many years, following the Rappahannock fox hunters’ celebration of George Washington’s birthday, the traditional “hunt” breakfast was served at Mount Prospect, then home of “Master of the Rappahannock Hounds,” W. Arthur Miller.
After a century and a half of life, the home is ready for a new chapter in its history. For four years Mount Prospect was beautifully restored, rebuilt, and landscaped with splendid trees and extensive gardens. The drawing room and library, with high ceilings, fireplaces, original windows, doors and floors, bring back the flavor of an elegant life in the nineteenth century.
Two wings have been added to the original home. These wings contain a study, master bedroom, and great room. At the back of the house, a new dining room, family room and gourmet kitchen complete the improvements. The renovations combine a respect for preserving the past along with modern technology such as geothermal heating. Dee and Chuck Akre, owners.
— Big Branch: Located on Lee Highway, across from the Town of Washington, Big Branch — named for the stream running through the property — is a Virginia estate with an old soul and young construction.
Surrounded by the Rush River, its rolling acres in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains have been farmed by the Miller family for generations. Construction of the residence was completed in 2005.
Efforts in design by J. Stewart Willis created a stately Federal home consistent with the architecture of the Antebellum era. Its brick exterior is laid in a Flemish bond pattern and finished with a brick water table.
The formal entrance faces the Skyline Drive and Blue Ridge mountains to the north, displaying two stories with five bays across and parapet walls with central chimneys at each end.
A large covered porch extends to the west with tremendous views of the southern Blue Ridge Mountain range, including Old Rag Mountain. Southern exposure of the manor displays its full three-story height with an English basement at its base, beautifully supported by three brick Jeffersonian archways.
The interior of the home continues the elegant Federal style with ten-foot ceilings finished with detailed cornices, footboards and handsome woodworking around the oversized mahogany doors and 9×9 pane windows.
Fine antiques are displayed throughout along with a large collection of custom furniture made by local master craftsman, Mark ‘Ozzie’ Pace, using walnut and cherry woods harvested off of the farm. This cherry, along with heart pine is used in the custom flooring.
Stonework within and outside of the home was constructed using stones from fallen walls found across the farm. Every effort has been made to honor the generations of the past as well as sustain the generations of the future with this home and the land on which it stands. Ann and Brooke Miller, owners.
— Pleasant View Farm: Established in 1799 off of Tiger Valley Road by the Miller family, whose relatives live in Rappahannock County today, the original house of Pleasant View Farm was small, consisting of one main room downstairs, currently the dining room; an upstairs bedroom; and a detached kitchen due to the threat of fire. The current kitchen, originally a breezeway, separated the house from the original kitchen.
A 19th century addition resulted in the structure as it appears today. The Miller family sold the farm to the Keyser family in the early 1900s. Robert and Elizabeth Haskell purchased the property in 1971, taking possession of the residence along with its 238 acres after the death of Joseph Keyser in 1977. After a substantial renovation, the Haskell family lived in the home on weekends and whenever away from their primary residence in Martinsville. After their deaths, the farm was left to their son in 2014.
In the 1970s, the front fields were commercial apple orchards. The well-maintained stone walls, many built prior to the Civil War, still function to fence in cattle. The gardens and swimming pool adjacent to the house were added in the 1980s and were designed to reflect the Haskells’ enjoyment of gardening and natural spaces.
In 2001, a modern addition, designed by renowned architect Robert Gurney, was added to complement the Virginia farmhouse structure with a glass-enclosed space to enjoy the surrounding outdoor beauty and the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Today, this active farm consists of 793 acres. Andrew Haskell, owner.
— Pleasant View at Harris Hollow Farm: Located in Harris Hollow, just outside of the Town of Washington, Harris Hollow Farm is named for the many generations of the family that have lived in the “Hollow.”
The road through the valley follows the Rush River — a dashing, crystal clear stream. Harris Hollow Farm, dating from circa 1770, is a notable example of the Colonial style in Rappahannock County. It lies between the county seat of Washington and Mount Marshall, one of the Blue Ridge’s highest peaks.
Typical of Colonial-era log homes, later additions were incorporated by future generations. Originally, each added section had its own stairway. The log part was constructed of large hand-hewn logs with V-notching and chinking. The one-and-a half-story original log portion was constructed on a random rubble-stone foundation and measures two bays in width. The steeple pitched side-gable roof, now clad in standing-seam metal, features two added gabled wall dormers.
The cabin was subsequently enlarged to the west with the construction of a three-bay wide two-story stone addition in 1812 and a two-bay wide brick addition in 1834, forming a linear façade. A frame addition with half-dormers and a gable roof was added to the back of the house in 1984.
The dwelling is currently owned by a sixth generation Harris family relative. Their children and grandchildren are the seventh and eighth generations of Harris relatives. Beth and Jimmie DeBergh, owners.
— Trinity Episcopal Church: An example of a Country or Carpenter Gothic-style church, this circa 1857 structure originally had a board and batten exterior, which was covered in pebble-dash stucco in 1924.
James Leake Powers, the master craftsman hired to build the church, had worked with Thomas Jefferson in building the University of Virginia.
Tickets: Advanced tickets $40; $45 on tour day; $15 per individual house at location. Details online at www.vagardenweek.org; by mail by sending a self-addressed, legal sized envelope to Kathy Napier, 195 Park Ridge Court, Front Royal, VA 22630; email@example.com, 540-635-7831; Beth DeBergh, firstname.lastname@example.org, 540-675-3236. Tickets also available at the Front Royal-Warren County Visitor Center, 414 E. Main Street, Front Royal, VA; Laura Dodd, Washington Town Hall,485 Gay Street, Washington, VA, 540-675-3128, email@example.com.
Tour proceeds fund the restoration and preservation of more than 40 of Virginia’s historic public gardens, a research fellowship program, and a new partnership with the Virginia State Parks. Historic Garden Week dates to 1927, when a flower show organized by the Garden Club of Virginia raised an impressive $7,000 to save trees planted by Thomas Jefferson on the lawn at Monticello.