Every year, the Garden Club of Virginia welcomes visitors to over 250 gardens, homes, and historic landmarks across the state for Historic Garden Week. This spring in Fredericksburg, the Rappahannock Valley Garden Club graciously hosted guests at five historic properties in rural Caroline County. Two properties were close by in the small town of Port Royal and three others stood alone in vast agricultural areas along the Tidewater Trail.
I wouldn’t normally post about other historic houses, but I’m always curious to see how other historic property owners, particularly those in rural areas, live and maintain these big projects. Historic Garden Week is a great chance to be inspired and after several years of attending, this may have been my favorite tour yet.
The day started out with breakfast at Horne’s, a Port Royal landmark in its own right. Breakfast served 24-hours a day with my personal favorite: Fried quail, eggs over easy, home-fries, and a homemade biscuit. Yum!
From there, we headed toward the Rappahannock and saw Riverview (1846) and Townfield (1745). Even at the start of the day, the lines were quite long with enthusiastic tourists from Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Northern Virginia, the Shenandoahs, and Norfolk. Riverview definitely maintained a renovated, yet simple, presentation with basic furnishings, highlighting its river overlook. In contrast, Townfield emphasized its varied existence through the 17th and 18th centuries with a mix of period antiques, different architectural and building styles where additions met older elements, and quite a bit of sloping. I was actually quite surprised at the condition of the foundation showing a lot of settling and water damage over the years. The challenges and importance of keeping water away from an old brick foundation keep many a homeowner awake at night!
The next stop was Rose Hill. Although originally built around 1790, the home went through many changes and eventually burned in 1959 except for the chimneys, foundation, and part of the wings added in 1839. Rebuilt in the 1960s in stuccoed brick, the current owners that purchased the property in 2008 maintained this style and previous footprint while gutting and rebuilding most of the entire main house. It’s always a little confusing to know which part is actually historic and which part is a happy reconstruction. Either way, it’s a lovely home with fantastic gardens. This is a good article about the house’s rebuilding as featured in Architectural Digest. Another unusual element is that the home was purchased in 2008 with many 18th and 19th-century antiques that are noted as “original” to the home – at the very least, they have been there a long time. (And the view isn’t to be missed either!)
Moss Neck Manor (1856) was also on the tour with perhaps one of the best interior layouts of the lot. A long central hallway runs along the entire backside of the house, connecting each main room and making flow very easy. Although the interior design was a bit hodgepodge, the flower arrangements created by the garden club, as with each house on the tour, were exceptional. The best part about Moss Neck Manor is the English park-like setting with its numerous mature, towering trees.
The final stop was the gem of the tour, no doubt. Prospect Hill (1842) stole the show with its meticulous preservation, comfortable livability, bucolic setting, functional gardens, and (my favorite) the Scottish Highland cattle roaming the pastures out front. I was sold and thank goodness it wasn’t for sale… I might have cheated on White Plains. A big compliment to Dr. and Mrs. Angus Muir for their commitment to, and vision for, the property.
A great day to tour the Virginia countryside and a much-needed inspiration to enter the next phases of projects here at home. The bar has been set very high!