Once we finished when our whirlwind tour of the Capital Square and the Virginia Executive Mansion, we jumped on the highway and headed for Charlottesville and Orange, Virginia. We had two meetings set up for Friday so we thought it would be best to spend the night in Orange. We love this area of Virginia. Just miles from James Madison’s Montpelier, this area has lots to offer. This area is the home of the Monticello Wine Trail and 30 wineries. It is also home to three Presidential homes, Montpelier, Monticello and Ashlawn-Highlands.
We have stayed in Orange before at the Chestnut Hill Bed and Breakfast. This is a wonderful location and we really enjoyed our stay with Kathleen and Troy. In fact, it was Kathleen and Troy who we consulted with when we first started this journey for advice. They were more than willing to offer advice and suggestions and have made themselves available to us if we need help. We really appreciate all they have done for us.
This time, however, we decided to give a new bed and breakfast a try. I have to say, it was mostly because I wanted to stay in this house. If you are a long time reader of this blog you know our love of historic homes, especially with connections to major history. This has both!
The Mayhurst Inn is 153 years old and is a beautiful Italianate Victorian House built in 1859. At 9,200 sq ft this home is 1,200 sq ft larger than Belle Grove. It has four floors and a beautiful oval-spiral staircase. When Brett and I saw it, our first thought was that it looks like another plantation home we know very well called Camden. Camden Plantation is located just outside Port Royal across the river from Belle Grove. It too is an Italianate style home. But Camden doesn’t have its tower like the Mayhurst does. Camden’s tower was shot out by a Union gunboat during the Civil War. It sits on 37 acres and is surrounded by old trees, fields and gardens.
The Mayhurst was constructed in 1859 on the Willis Plantation by architect Mr. Starkweather of Baltimore. Colonel John Willis, owner of the Willis Plantation was the great nephew of James Madison. On this plantation they would raise corn, cattle, hogs and horses. They would also have fifty slaves working the fields and house. After the Civil War and because he heavily supported the Confederacy and was unable to pay his taxes, Colonel Willis lost his beloved home and about 1700 acres of his land. With Southern pride, Colonel Willis bore his loss with not a word. He is buried in the family plot at Montpelier.
The Mayhurst has hosted notable people like Generals Robert E. Lee, Ambrose Powell Hill and “Stonewall” Jackson and it was the site where 18,000 Confederate troops stayed during the winter of 1863-64. General A.P. Hill was headquartered here at the Willis home with 18,000 Confederate troops. His wife Kitty was also here as a guest of the Willis family. It was here that Kitty gave birth to one of their daughters and where her Godfather General Robert E. Lee held her during her christening on May 1, 1864.
Brett and I stayed in the General’s Room on the main floor. The first thing that struck me is that over the bed is draped a Confederate Grey cloth with gold fringe. I looked at Brett laughed and said, “I guess you will be sleeping under the Confederate colors tonight.” He gave me a smirk. (Brett is from Ohio while I am from South Carolina) The second thing that struck us was the beautiful arched windows. It was dark outside when we arrived, but in the morning we were greeted by beautiful fall colors throughout the yard.
We had arrived late from Richmond and the Mayhurst was serving a wine and cheese reception in the parlor. While Brett and I enjoyed a glass of Virginia Wine, the innkeeper, Jack helped us select a restaurant for our 26th Wedding Anniversary dinner. Once we had decided, Jack contacted the restaurant and set up our reservation. After unloading our belongings and chatting briefly with Jack and the other two guests, we headed out to our reservation in Orange.
We ate dinner at a wonderful little restaurant located downtown Orange called “Elmwood at the Sparks”. It wasn’t a formal restaurant and we were able to go in blue jeans and be comfortable. The atmosphere here is just wonderful! We were seated towards the rear of the restaurant where we met our wait staff, Kristin. She was wonderful! She was open and friendly and was easy to have a conversation with as we ate our meal. Great attention to details was given to our every need.
I selected a three course special they had for this night. I received an appetizer, entrée and dessert. My appetizer was Shrimp and Parmesan Grits with Shallots, Herbs, Tomatoes and Chardonnay Butter. Now it is hard to impress me with Shrimp and Grits, but this one was a home run! For dinner I had Pan-Fried Filet Mignon with Truffled Ravioli, Squash, Mushrooms with Red Wine Sauce. It was so delicious. For dinner Brett decided to just get an entrée and steal from my appetizer and dessert. He got Creamy Mushrooms and Penna Pasta Roasted Red Peppers, Parmesan, Belchamel, Basil Pesto and Toasted Pine Nuts that was so good! For dessert we shared a warm Chocolate Cake with Pumpkin Ice Cream. (Okay, everyone get your napkins, your drooling!)
After dinner we headed back to the Mayhurst where we met two new guests in the parlor. They were from Minnesota and were down touring the area. They told us they were heading to Williamsburg and asked us if we had any recommendations. Then we talked about the history here in Virginia and enjoyed hearing about the weather in Minnesota.
Sleep came quickly after a full day of fun in Richmond. In the morning, we woke to the smell of breakfast cooking. It didn’t take us long to get ready and head down to the basement for a beautiful plate of Apple French Toast and Fresh Berries with Cream. Sitting around the large table we were able to meet two more couples who had stayed at the Mayhurst. One couple was from Ohio and the other was from Florida. Most were here to take in the beautiful fall leaves and tour the area attractions.
After breakfast, we spent a little time chatting with the innkeepers about their experiences with the Bed and Breakfast. We love to hear the good, the bad and the ugly so we have a chance not to run into the same issues. Before we realized it, we were about 15 minutes away from our first meeting. Thankfully it was only 5 minutes away. Quickly we packed up our belongs, said our good-byes and headed to what would be one of the best meetings of the week!
Tomorrow – James Madison Museum