Surprises around every corner… part two of four parts
From the Hite Family cemetery, we headed out to find a place to stay for the night. We ended up in Winchester, Virginia. As we drove we used my cell phone to look for bed and breakfast locations. There we found three and chose to stay in the oldest place.
This was the Nancy Shepherd Inn. The history of this inn according to the inn’s website is:
“The Nancy Shepherd House Inn was built as a dwelling in the 1700s on the south end of Winchester’s main street, lot 213 on South Loudoun Street. So far, our earliest findings of its existence are from insurance policies from 1792, but it was certainly built much earlier. In 1792 the building was listed as a one-story wooden dwelling.
It is constructed of log and was originally one and a half stories high with two rooms and a large central chimney. In 1798, the house was bought by Robert Cochran who considerably enlarged and embellished it for the purpose of an ordinary or tavern. He also added the fine moldings and a grand three-story staircase.
In 1814, the inn, now enlarged and greatly improved, was passed on by Robert Cochran to his daughter, Mary (then Mary Schenck), for $500. She, her husbands, and her children ran the inn until it was sold to O. M. Brown for $1,500 in 1840, a considerable amount of money at the time, indicating that the business was quite successful.
The property remained a thriving tavern until the war, but since Winchester repeatedly changed hands between union and confederate forces, the local economy was crushed and so was the tavern business. During the war, the building was used as a rooming house for occupying soldiers of both sides, and also as a hospital for the injured from surrounding battles. By the end of the war the property was listed in city records as a “two story wooden tenement”. After its glorious pre-war days as an inn, the building began a slow process of deterioration as it changed owners over the years. From the 1860s until we acquired it, Robert Cochran’s old tavern remained a rooming house or multi-unit apartment building. To this day, it has not been a single family dwelling since 1798!
The property was bought at public auction on the Winchester courthouse steps in early 1987 by Nancy Shepherd McLaughlin who realized that most of the building’s original fabric still lay intact under aluminum siding, dropped ceilings, drywall, and plywood & carpet floors. She decided that its preservation was critical and that it was too important to allow it to continue to deteriorate. Her mission was to bring the tavern back to life as a historic B&B inn, just as it had originally been during it grandest days between 1798-1861.
Nancy Shepherd McLaughlin (1927-1996) put her son David in charge of the restoration. David has had a life-long interest in the preservation of America’s early buildings. As the steward of the Nancy Shepherd House Inn, he has worked non-stop for twenty years making the old tavern suitable for a true historic bed & breakfast inn, undoing alterations and unsympathetic modernizations. He has brought it back to its early 19th century state, preserving everything that is original from the Robert Cochran period, and has done so without removing its essence of ‘old.’”
We met David and he walked us through this wonderful old building. It is filled with antiques from David’s family. Our room, located on the second floor was very comfortable. Unlike the grand rooms we have been staying in, this room had charm and atmosphere. It wasn’t large and gave us the feeling of what it would have been like staying in a tavern inn. Our bath was just across the hall and would have been a shared bath if another guest had been staying on the same floor. But since we were the only ones on the second floor, we had it to ourselves.
After showing us the room, David informed us that he was on his way to a concert he was performing in with friends just a town over from Winchester. He walked me through the house and showed me the kitchen area where he invited me to take anything we needed. As we were walking through, his friends were in the front parlor room playing banjo and preparing for their night. They were playing folk music at the concert. What a treat to hear the music and to see such a wonderful place.
Once David left, Brett decided to take a quick nap and I headed out to an antique mall I saw as we were coming over to the Inn. Sadly, I didn’t find any tea items to add to my collection. When I arrived back to the Inn, Brett was just waking. Our bed was like a Tempurpedic, but not a name brand Tempurpedic. It was glorious! We have a Tempurpedic at home so when we travel now, I find it hard to go back to a spring bed. I end up with sore spots from the springs. I think we could have slept the whole next day because it was so comfortable. Brett and I have been talking about what mattress to purchase for the plantation and I am sure we have to have at least two Tempurpedics.
We headed out to find some dinner at the Winchester Pedestrian Mall. This mall is located on Loudon Street and is about three or four blocks that has been closed off and is now a nice open air mall area. We have been here before, so we had a good idea where we wanted to go. It was up to two choices, Union Jacks, which is a British Pub and Violino’s Italian Restaurant. We had eaten at Union Jacks before, but never at Violino’s so we head that direction.
As you walk down the mall, you can see limestone buildings dating back to the 1700s, brick building dating to the 1800s and early 1900s. There is a courthouse which is now a Civil War Museum as well. We stopped there first to check the hours, which we found that they would be open until 9pm, just for a special night that night. So off to dinner and we would return to see the museum after.
Violino’s was quite the place. It is fine dining, but it is open for both formal, business casual and street wear. Brett and I were in blue jeans. The atmosphere is wonderful. They have both indoor and outdoor dining. The wait staff went over and above in their service. As we walked up to the door, the hostess opened it before I could and welcomed us. We had a cozy table for two and were surrounded by Italian pictures and musical instruments hanging on the wall.
After reading the menu, our waitress tempted us with delicious specials of which we tried one of the appetizers. This plate was fried zucchini blossoms stuffed with mascarpone and mozzarella cheese, a zucchini fritter, caramelized figs and fresh slices of tomatoes. As we delighted in this appetizer plate, I heard someone walk by with a strong Italian accent.
Brett and I have friends who own an Italian restaurant here in Chesapeake that are from Sicily, so we are familiar with that accent. I asked our waitress if it was one of the owners and if she was from Italy. She told us that it was an owner and she was from Italy, but wasn’t sure where. So she asked the owner, who came to our table to talk with us. Her name was Marcella and she was from Torino, Italy in the Northern Region. She told us that her husband, Franco was the chef and he was from Friuli, Italy. Brett has traveled to Italy with his job in the Navy and his current job so he and Marcella were able to talk about places in Italy that he had been and food he had eaten. We talked with her about why we were in the area and about our Belle Grove. She told us that she would love to come see us once we opened and that she and her husband would jump on the motorcycles and take a ride over soon.
Our dinner came shortly after our conversation with Marcella. Brett ordered the basic spaghetti with Bolognese sauce and I had manicotti filled with ricotta cheese and asparagus and topped with a cream sauce, fresh basil, pine nuts and red currants. What a meal! It was beyond delicious! As I sat there enjoying the meal, I was working out in my head how to make this dish into a savory breakfast dish. So I am going to make it using crepes instead of pasta and call it “Crepes Marcella”. So next week, you may see my new menu item!
We finished up and were offered desert. As wewere eating, we had seen the deserts coming by and could not say no. We decided on the Chocolate Hazelnut Torte with Raspberry and Whip Cream. It was heavenly! What made it even better was as we were eating our desert, they had a violinist come out and play. It was a great dinner!
After dinner, we headed over to the Courthouse Civil War Museum. The Courthouse was built in 1840 on the site of the previous 1741 Courthouse. The tour started with a small speech located in the court room of the courthouse. The room reminded me of the courtroom in the movie “The Patriot” with Mel Gibson. You could almost see him standing there expressing his views. After the speech, I was able to talk to the director and we talked about how the Civil War affected the Winchester area compared to our plantation. Afterwards we headed upstairs for a self guided tour of the artifacts and history of this area.
During the Civil War, Winchester, just like Belle Grove in Middletown, Virginia, exchanged hands many times. Most of the local buildings and churches in the area were destroyed by the Union army. The courthouse had been spared and had been used for a hospital and prison. When it was in the hands of the Union army, they had housed 1500 prisoners in the front yard area.
The collection upstairs was a range of items from guns, cannons and artillery to personal items like belt buckles and buttons. One of the most interesting parts was the graffiti that the soldiers left behind. During the restoration of the courthouse, they have preserved this graffiti and have it on view to the public.
One of the most interesting pieces was a curse on Jefferson Davis. It reads as follows:
“To Jeff Davis -May he be set afloat on a boat without compass or rudder then that any contents be swallowed by a shark the shark by a whale whale in the devils belly and the devil in hell the gates locked the key lost and further may he be put in the northwest corner with a south east wind blowing ashes in his eyes for all eternity.”
As we walked out, I felt sad by the loss of so many. You know Brett and I poke fun at each other because he was born in the North and I was born in the South. He likes to point out that they were the ones who won. But you know I don’t look at it that way anymore. I look at it as we all lost. So many died, so many came back without arms and legs and families were torn apart. It truly was a sad part of our history.
We arrived back at the Inn and settled down for the night. Our room was without television so I grabbed a book and settled into bed to read for awhile. As I lay there, I realized how quiet and peaceful this place was. I tried to imagine what it would have been like with the Inn and Tavern next door to each other and how the people who came to stay felt. I thought about the solders from the Civil War that hid out in the Inn. One thing David had told us was that they had found both Union and Confederate uniforms stuffed into the walls. I thought about the fear of discovery for those men. And what the owners felt as they watched this drama unfold around them.
I finally turned the light off and drafted to sleep. This time, my mind wasn’t racing with the thoughts of what we needed to do for our Belle Grove. This time, it was quiet and peaceful.
The Story Continues Tomorrow…
Going Sky High!