The End of a Great Weekend

Mar. 22nd 2013
The James Madison Museum

The James Madison Museum

After we finish visiting with the Madison’s at Montpelier, we headed over to Orange, Virginia. Orange is just five miles from Montpelier. We have stayed here several times before. If you have been following the blog, you might remember the Holiday House Inn and Mayhurst. But this time we wanted to go to the first bed and breakfast we stayed in, Chestnut Hill Bed and Breakfast.

Before we made our way there, we made a stop at The James Madison Museum, another attraction in Orange that we enjoy seeing. At this museum, you can see items from James and Dolley Madison as well as others from contemporaries of theirs. The museum as has exhibitions that they carry for a limited time. On this visit, we wanted to see the Victorian exhibition.


Dress, Jacket and Cape

Dark blue taffeta with velvet trim and decorative buttons.

Worn by Miss Mildred Ann Bond when she wed Mr. Edward Virgil Huffman on January 10, 1886



This chair was owned and used in the White House by President James Buchanan



2 Pair of High-Top Shoes

(left) two-toned black leather with grey/green brushed leather buttons

(right) black leather and black satin lace-ups



16 piece composition with bisque head, brown human hair wig and brown glass eyes.

Manufactured by Guttmann & Schiffnie (1897-1924)

The doll has original undergarments and wearing a period party dress



Carriage Parasol

Black silk parasol with lace covering and fully lined; Chinese ivory handle not carved or engraved. Carriage parasols were smaller and could be folded by sliding the brass fitting.


Hump-Back Dome Trunk

The dome lid trunk allowed for the packing of bulky items such as lady’s hat and it prevented other trunks from being put on top. The pictures are ancestors of the lender. Circa 1870s


Deck Chair

Early version of the folding lawn chair, it is hinged to fold in a number of positions. It was made in 1876 of walnut and caned back and seat with beautifully carved sunburst and flower petals.

To see more of the exhibition,

you will need to hurry to the James Madison Museum in Orange.

It is here for just a short time.


After our visit to the museum, we headed to Chestnut Hill Bed and Breakfast. We were excited to see our favorite innkeepers, Troy and Kathleen. Most people don’t know this, but they have been mentoring us since the beginning. We first spoke to them shortly after seeing Belle Grove for the first time. It is these two wonderful people that we come back to with questions and who have helped guide us with their experiences. Brett and I can’t tell you what wonderful examples they have set in helping others reach for their dreams, just as they have gotten theirs. Brett and I hope we too will be able to help guide others as they have us.

Chestnut Hill is a wonderful B&B that sits at the top of a small hill. Many may not know this of Chestnut Hill, but this historic home was purchased by Kathleen and Troy through a city auction for just one dollar. But to see it today, you would never know that it was in such bad need of repair! Wonderful rooms and a grand breakfast await the tired travelers. In the evening, they serve some of the most delicious appetizers along with their wine social!


We arrived just towards the end of the wine social and had the chance to meet several wonderful guests who would also be staying at Chestnut Hill with us. We met people from Hampton, Stafford and Richmond. But it isn’t unusual to see couples from across the United States staying here.


For dinner we headed over to our favorite place in Orange, Elmwood at Sparks. We have been here three times now, but you wouldn’t know that if you saw us enter. We were greeted by staff who knew who we were and got a wave from the open kitchen from the Executive Chef, Randy Cooper. This time we set at the back counter so we could watch the kitchen staff at their craft. To see some of their food leaving the kitchen, it was just too beautiful to eat!

We started our dinner with our favorite, Shrimp and Grits! I just love Chef Randy’s version of this classic Southern dish. Being back by the kitchen, I was able to pull together the recipe for Belle Grove!! What a great dish to serve to our guest!!


We were able to order our favorite entrees, Wild Mushroom Pasta for Brett and Filet Mignon for me. These are the same dishes we have ordered each of the time we have come. Believe me, they have several other wonderful dishes, but we just love these entrees!



For dessert, we ordered Sweet Crepes with Port Butter Sauce, Raspberry Sauce and Vanilla Ice Cream. We should have started with dessert!! Wow! It was just so good that we could have licked the plate if it had not been bad manners.

Our Room at Chestnut Hill B&B

Our Room at Chestnut Hill B&B

Chestnut Hill B&B

Chestnut Hill B&B

Chestnut Hill B&B

Chestnut Hill B&B

After a great night’s sleep and filling breakfast, we sat down for a quick conversation with Kathleen and Troy. As other guests came to say good-bye, it was funny to see each couple lingering in the hall as if they just didn’t want to leave.

Funny, we had the same feeling.

Please visit our Facebook Fan Page

Facebook Link

Don’t forget to get your Cookie Recipe Submitted!

Deadline is just 9 Days away!

Click on James Madison to find out how to enter!

Cookie Contest Image

No Entry Fee!

Please Consider Donating to our “Restoration Fund” 

to help us restore our 1700-1800 outbuildings!

Posted by Michelle Darnell | in Darnell History | 10 Comments »

Dining at Elmwood at Sparks

Dec. 13th 2012
Elmwood at Sparks

Elmwood at Sparks

After we arrived at Holladay House Inn, we knew where we wanted to get dinner. In October we had come to Orange, Virginia to celebrate our anniversary and had eaten at Elmwood at Sparks Restaurant. So we knew how good it was and looked forward to another great meal.

Just as before, we made last minute reservations through our bed and breakfast, Holladay House Inn. With little notice, we were able to get in within minutes, even though they were very busy. We are even able to sit at our original table as we had for our anniversary. We were greeted by the waitress that helped us before and remembering her name I greeted her with it. She was surprised that I remembered. I have to say our last visit had been such a wonderful delight that it wasn’t hard to recall those that made it so good. Kristen got our drinks and allowed us time to read over the menu.

KristenElmwood at Sparks

Elmwood at Sparks

We quickly knew just want we wanted. I ordered a starter of Shrimp and Parmesan Grits with Shallots, Herbs, Tomatoes and Chardonnay Butter, which I enjoyed the last time I came and a Filet Mignon with Wild Mushroom Risotto and Roasted Vegetables. Brett ordered the Creamy Mushrooms and Penna Pasta Roasted Red Peppers, Parmesan, Belchamel, Basil Pesto and Toasted Pine Nuts which he had the last time as well.

Shrimp and Parmesan Grits with Shallots, Herbs, Tomatoes and Chardonnay Butter

Shrimp and Parmesan Grits with Shallots, Herbs, Tomatoes and Chardonnay Butter

Filet Mignon with Wild Mushroom Risotto and Roasted Vegetables

Filet Mignon with Wild Mushroom Risotto and Roasted Vegetables

 Creamy Mushrooms and Penna Pasta Roasted Red Peppers, Parmesan, Belchamel, Basil Pesto and Toasted Pine Nuts

Creamy Mushrooms and Penna Pasta Roasted Red Peppers, Parmesan, Belchamel, Basil Pesto and Toasted Pine Nuts

As we waited for our starter, the Chef Cooper peeked out from behind the counter which was very close to our table and asked us how our Bed and Breakfast was coming. We were very surprised since we had only been there once before and were not local residence or business. How wonderful that he remembered!

The food was out of this world as it had been before. After we finished we ordered a single dessert of Crepes with Maple Butter Sauce and Pumpkin Ice Cream. As we finished, we spoke to Kristen and enjoyed the very special customer service she offered. We left wishing that they were closer to us so we could enjoy their wonderful food, gracious customer service and warm atmosphere more often.

Crepes with Maple Butter Sauce and Pumpkin Ice Cream

Crepes with Maple Butter Sauce and Pumpkin Ice Cream

The Sparks Building is a historic two and one half story Federal period commercial and domestic building that was built around 1830 for James Forbes. There has been some exterior alterations with include the construction of modern store front; the Sparks Building still retains much of its original material. The Sparks Butchery & Deli was located on the west side of the building in 1902.

When Chef Randy Cooper opened Elmwood at Sparks, the cafe had formerly offered a deli menu. Executive Chef Randy Cooper was trained in classical French and New American cuisine at Johnson & Wales University. Over the past fourteen years Chef Cooper has worked in many prestigious restaurants including Vista Verde Guest Ranch in Steamboat Springs, Colorado as Chef de Tourant; Boar’s Hear Inn as Chef de Cuisine; Ivy Inn as Sous Chef; Glenmore Country Club as the Fine Dining Chef, and most recently, as the Executive Chef of the Grille at Prince Michel Vineyards, receiving the coveted Four Diamond AAA rating.


Looking for those who are dedicated to natural and sustainable farming and seeking the best of local ingredients, Chef Cooper has quickly made Elmwood at Sparks a local favorite. Using his southern heritage along with his training, Chef Cooper will frequently change his menu to reflect the season and availability. Chef Cooper also showcases his ability to sift from a casual lunch stop to a fine dining restaurant in the evening. It is the evening menu that Chef Cooper culinary skills shine.


Whether Chef Cooper is offering a lunch menu, dinner menu or a catered event, according to his web site he stands by his philosophy that “It’s all about the food – whether customers want to grab a quick sandwich to take back to the office or dine here. Using the best products, I use my menu to offer quality dishes.”

Facebook Link

Posted by Michelle Darnell | in Year of the Virginia Historic Homes | 34 Comments »