Belle Grove Plantation Makes Press Again!

23/10/12 10:24 PM

Taking a little break in our postings on our “working vacation” to share the news that

Belle Grove Plantation Has Made Press Again!

This piece is from the Citizen of Chesapeake, a new local newspaper that covers stories of

the residences of Chesapeake, Virginia.

We wanted to share this great piece with you!

Uncovering History and Pursuing Dreams:

Belle Grove Plantation Bed and Breakfast

by Amanda Armstrong

Belle Grove Plantation close up

Brett and Michelle Darnell hope to bring “the forgotten Founding Father” James Madison to life through the very first Bed and Breakfast at the Belle Grove Plantation, the birthplace of our nation’s fourth President.   With a breathtaking view of the Rappahannock River in Port Conway of King George County, Virginia, Belle Grove Plantation is nestled in an American history hotspot off of US 301.  The Darnells’ story is truly an amazing testament of pursuing dreams.  This two year process of research, planning, prayer, and business development has been a labor of love.

Brett Darnell was born in Pennsylvania and grew up in Ohio, while Michelle was born and raised in South Carolina.  Brett and Michelle met at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, while they were both serving in the US Military in June of 1985, and wed in October the following year.  In 1988, the Darnells sparked their shared love for history when they purchased their first home together in Dayton, Ohio.  The two restored both the inside and outside of the 1885 brick house to its traditionally historic appearance.  In June of 1992, the Darnells moved to Chesapeake, Virginia, where the family resides today with 23 year old daughter Alexa and 20 year old son Tyler.

Brett and Michelle Darnell

Every wedding anniversary in October, Brett and Michelle have upheld their tradition of visiting a Bed and Breakfast in a historic location.  Speaking of their October 2010 anniversary trip to James Madison’s lifelong home Montpelier, the Darnells exclaimed, “…the story of Madison really captured us.”  James’ wife Dolley sent countless love letters to her traveling husband, as Michelle wrote many similar letters to Brett when away on Military duty.  After 24 years of witnessing one another’s love of history each October, the couple agreed it was time to embark on their own Bed and Breakfast journey.  The hunt began.

On a Thursday afternoon in July 2011, Michelle came across an online advertisement for a plantation owner seeking to lease the home as a Bed and Breakfast.  Michelle claimed, “As soon as I saw it was the birthplace of James Madison, it was DING and I was sold.”  The Darnells quickly expressed interest to the Austrian owner of Belle Grove Plantation, and Michelle dove into 11 months of research at the Library of Virginia and the Historic Society of Virginia. The couple spent months visiting Bed and Breakfasts around the country, gathering ideas for commercial business success and guest approval.  Just a mere 412 days and an 80 page business plan later, the Darnells proudly attained the lease.  The couple is currently in the process of generating a preliminary sight plan for a zoning package to be reviewed by King George County.

Brett and Michelle hope to open Belle Grove Plantation Bed and Breakfast on March 16, 2013, James Madison’s birthday.  The house was built in 1791 after the original structure in which James Madison was born burned down; the exact location of the first house remains a mystery the Darnells seek to uncover.  The inside of the plantation holds four guest suites: two master suites upstairs and two junior suites downstairs, all four  including a bathroom with an exquisite claw foot bathtub.  In devotion to American history and James Madison, a US Constitution will be found in every suite.  The kitchen will be operated by former Sous Chef Michelle, who will serve guests the delicious items from her menu, ranging from crab stuffed crepes to Mediterranean bruschetta.  The house also includes a parlor, library, formal dining room, smaller dining room in which Michelle will host wine and cheese hours for arriving guests, and a basement complete with a jacuzzi and sauna.

The Darnells have put countless months of effort into uncovering historical treasures stored in Belle Grove Plantation and are beyond thrilled to open the house to the world this spring. For more information and to support the cause, please visit the blog site and Facebook page of Belle Grove Plantation Bed and Breakfast: and

Posted by Michelle Darnell | in Year of the Virginia Historic Homes | 51 Comments »

51 Comments on “Belle Grove Plantation Makes Press Again!”

  1. terry1954 Says:

    congratulations!!!! you truly deserve all this publicity!!!!!!

  2. Thank you! It was a real nice piece!

  3. vanbraman Says:

    Great Press! Keep up the great work toward your grand opening.

  4. Thank you! It was really well done!

  5. Fantastic! What a nice write up!

  6. talkavino Says:


  7. Thank you!

  8. Thank you! She did do a great job.

  9. Gina Marie Says:


  10. Thank you! 😉

  11. awesome! congrats!

  12. Thank you so much!

  13. 🙂

  14. Lissa Rabon Says:

    You have worked hard and deserve these accolades! Cograts!

  15. Thank you! We really enjoy sharing all the fun!

  16. So happy to see your hard work get the recognition it deserves. You two are awesome! Only addition the article needs is a mention of Hurley, the plantation dog.

  17. Next time! Promise!! He was here when she was interviewing us, but she didn’t write about him! But he desires it too!

  18. Angeline M Says:

    What a great article. So glad you are being recognized for the work and love you have put in to this.

  19. Thank you! It has been an amazing journey so far!

  20. seniorhiker Says:

    Congratulations on a great article. It should raise a great deal of interest in your bread-and-breakfast.

  21. Thank you! We are just excited that others have enjoyed reading about the passion we have for this plantation!

  22. Jennifer Says:

    What a fantastic piece and a lovely insight into your lives. Well done. 🙂

  23. Thank you! It was great fun in doing the piece!

  24. nightlake Says:


  25. Thank you! 😉

  26. That’s a great article and what fantastic publicity too. Well done.

  27. Thank you so much!

  28. Mrs. P Says:

    Excellent article! I do hope that you are keeping track of all this in a dream journal or something similar. I can only imagine the excitement that your journey is going to bring for those who stumble upon your works, say fifty years from now. 🙂

  29. Thank you! We are keeping track through the blog. However, I made a big mistake! I needed room for more pictures and thought I could delete some of the photos in my media library only to find out it took them off the postings too! Now I have to figure out how to put the back 🙁 Wow wouldn’t that be great if someone did research on us?! 🙂

  30. Mrs. P Says:

    As an avid genealogist, I am certain that someone will be elated to find you and your documented project. 🙂

  31. I think that would be so cool!

  32. How wonderful – excellent! You two were meant to do this. Blessings on your continued success! Patty

  33. Thank you so much! It means a lot to have your support!

  34. Congratulations! What a wonderful write-up!

  35. Thank you! It was great fun to do the interview and to see the results!

  36. David Says:

    Congratulations. It’s nice to receive good press.

  37. Thank you! It was very well written and we are excited to have someone interested in us!

  38. belocchio Says:

    Michelle – how wonderful to receive this press. And there is going to be a lot more to come. You and your husband are to be congratulated! Virginia

  39. Thank you Virginia! I can’t wait to see what is next!

  40. camparigirl Says:

    It makes me want to visit even more!

  41. Thank you! We can’t wait to see you at the plantation!

  42. shofar Says:

    GREAT STORY, CONGRATULATIONS! Together you’ve come a LONG way to seeing your dream realized!

  43. Thank you so much! It has been a journey but well worth the trip!

  44. Congratulations! A lot of hard work and 2 beautiful human beings, well deserved!

  45. Thank you so much! There is still a lot to go, but we think it is so worth it.

  46. Ray's Mom Says:

    Congratulations, you are doing such a grand job on your project. so glad the newspaper agrees.

  47. Thank you so much! It was such a great honor to be recognized!

  48. Joyisnow Says:

    What a stunning place. Fantastic work and even better to see lovely people like you living your dreams for the greater good (ours basically). I would certainly pay a visit if I could.

  49. Thank you! We are so excited to share this passion and hope that one day you might find your way to the plantation!

  50. Congratulations! Keep all the good press coming, I say!

  51. Me too! It is all coming together!