Rappahannock residents open their doors for Historic Garden Week

Prestigious tour dates to 1927, when a flower show raised $7,000 to save trees planted by Thomas Jefferson

Final touches — and even treats — are being made for Historic Garden Week, “America’s Largest Open House,” which makes a rare appearance in Rappahannock County this Saturday, April 27, and promises to bring with it enthusiastic crowds from across the state and beyond.

“I’m baking wonderful cookies right now for Trinity Church — Jimmie’s grandmother’s black walnut cookies!” Harris Hollow resident Beth DeBergh said of her husband’s family recipe.

Harris Hollow resident Beth DeBergh, president of the Garden Club of Warren County, relaxing on her front porch this week ahead of Historic Garden Week. By John McCaslin

As president of the host Garden Club of Warren County — and this year’s garden tour chairman — DeBergh is responsible for bringing Historic Garden Week to the county seat of Washington, showcasing five private homes, the gardens of the Inn at Little Washington, and Trinity Episcopal Church — all within a 3.5 mile radius.

“Trinity has been just wonderful, allowing us to set up our headquarters there. The Inn has been a huge, huge help, opening their gardens, and they’ve planned a special food and vendors’ market. And the town has been very welcoming. And the Garden Club of Rappahannock is helping us!” said DeBergh.

In addition, she said, historic Avon Hall owners Bill Fischer and Drew Mitchell are opening their spacious grounds to those tour-goers “who might like to bring a blanket and pack a picnic basket and enjoy a picnic overlooking Avon’s pond.”

DeBergh said green signs with directional arrows will be going up throughout the county seat pointing attendees to the tour homes and other attractions.

She has made one request of tour-goers: Please do not come into contact with any garden boxwoods at the homes or in Washington. Last year, easily transmittable boxwood blight hit 50 percent of the town, wreaking havoc and spreading elsewhere. In addition to garden tools, the relatively new fungal disease in Virginia is carried on clothes and soles of shoes.

“This is also a good way to educate and make people aware that this is a big issue,” DeBergh noted.

Tickets to Historic Garden Week can be purchased prior to the tour at Washington Town Hall on Gay Street (please ask for Laura Dodd) and at the Front Royal-Warren County Visitor Center, 414 E. Main Street. On tour day, tickets can be obtained at Trinity Church on Gay Street or at the individual homes.

Advanced tickets $40; $45 on tour day; $15 per individual house at location. Details online at www.vagardenweek.org. 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. The Garden Club has since been committed to preserving the beauty of Virginia for all to enjoy. During Historic Garden Week, which is actually an 8-day statewide event at the height of spring bloom, visitors are welcomed into 250 of Virginia’s most beautiful homes, gardens, and historic landmarks.

Rappahannock Tour homes and attractions include:

— The Winsor House: On Main Street, the Winsor property consists of two historical structures, including one that housed the Walker B. Jenkins Bus Line providing service between Culpeper, Luray, Winchester, Fredericksburg, and Washington, D.C. Of the Jenkins’ four daughters Ruby and Mary did not marry and remained in the adjacent home — Mary, a local first grade teacher, and Ruby, secretary for the Virginia Extension Service. In 2014, the home and retail space were restored with great care. Deborah Winsor, owner.

— Mount Prospect: An extraordinary country estate 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 and a sweeping panorama of the Blue Ridge Mountains. For four years recently, Mount Prospect was beautifully rebuilt, restored and landscaped with splendid trees and extensive gardens. Two wings were also added to the original home. Dee and Chuck Akre, owners.

Big Branch: Located on Lee Highway, 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 have been farmed for generations by the Miller family. Construction of the residence was completed in 2005. Efforts in design created a stately Federal home consistent with the architecture of the Antebellum era. Stonework within and outside of the home was constructed using stones from fallen walls found across the farm. Ann and Brooke Miller, owners.

Pleasant View Farm: Established in 1799 off Tiger Valley Road by the Miller family, whose relatives remain in Rappahannock County, the original house of Pleasant View Farm was small. A 19th century addition resulted in the structure as it appears today. 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. This active farm consists of 793 acres. Andrew Haskell, owner.

Pleasant View at Harris Hollow Farm: 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. Typical of Colonial-era log homes, later additions were incorporated by future generations. Originally, each added section had its own stairway. The cabin was subsequently enlarged with a three-bay wide two-story stone addition in 1812 and a two-bay wide brick addition in 1834. 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 sixth generation Harris family relatives, their children and grandchildren the seventh and eighth generations. 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, worked with Thomas Jefferson in building the University of Virginia.

 Inn at Little Washington Gardens: The renowned Inn at Little Washington is virtually surrounded by formal ornamental gardens, with boxwoods, flowers and fountains, and larger herb and vegetable gardens.

About John McCaslin 446 Articles
John McCaslin is the editor of the Rappahannock News. Email him at editor@rappnews.com.

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