New Trend

Jul. 18th 2012

The Inn at Warner Hall
Gloucester, Virginia

Process Update

 Brett had his meeting with VDOT (Virginia Department of Transportation) today to discuss our road entry from State Route 301. We weren’t sure if we might have to install a turn lane from Route 301 into the plantation. The discussion went well. We found out that more than likely we will not need to install the turn lane. Whew…. If we did have to do it, it would have cost us around $100,000.00 to do it. We are so glad we made it over that hurdle! Now we just need to finish reviewing the contract and get that signed and get the zoning package started for approval. We have to complete our package in time to be submitted before the next zoning meeting, which is the second Tuesday of August. Then it’s a 120 day wait with back and forth reviews. THEN we can get the rest done…. hopefully.

Our visit to the Inn at Warner Hall was wonderful! Brett and I drove separate cars since he was going to Saluda to meet with VDOT in the morning and I had to return to work in Chesapeake. He arrived first and I followed about 45 minutes later. When I arrived, he was sitting down talking to several other guests as everyone was enjoying a glass of refreshments. I joined in and met some really wonderful people. There were two couples we met, one from Williamsburg and one from Virginia Beach. Troy, the innkeeper, had introduced Brett to the couples as an inspiring innkeeper, so the conversation was mostly about our plantation and about Warner Hall. We just love to talk about history.

As the couples moved on to dinner, Troy sat with Brett and I and answered questions we had and talk to us about their experience. I had noticed the sun setting and I excused myself to get some pictures of the grounds before the light was gone. When we had been there before, I had not walked the grounds since it had been mid-day and was too hot. It was still pretty hot, but I was able to get around to the points of interest I wanted to see.

The main point was the family cemetery. In this cemetery were the Warner’s and Lewis Family. Augustine Warner, great-great grandfather to George Washington as well as his son Augustine Warner II and his daughter, Elizabeth Warner Lewis and her husband John Lewis. There were several other grave sites, but they were difficult to read.

Once I made it around to the front, I was able to stop and chat with Theresa, the other innkeeper at Warner Hall. It was a great conversation as I talked to her about our plans and about my background. She was good to point out some items we might want to look closer at and give me some advice on Inn Ownership. She also encouraged us to use them for questions and advice as we go along. It is great to have a sounding board. We can’t tell you how much we appreciated them opening up and sharing with us. It is invaluable.

When I came back in, Brett and I decided to eat our dinner. The Inn at Warner Hall offers a Chilled Supper Basket for Two Sunday – Thursday. On Friday and Saturday, they offer a sit down meal with a Chef’s Tasting Menu. We had ordered the Supper Basket and took ours out to the enclosed porch to enjoy. Other couple also ordered a basket and took theirs out to the boat house to enjoy and watch the sunset.

This basket was so full of food, Brett and I couldn’t eat it all. It was beautifully presented and so delicious! We started with some Sour Dough Bread and Butter and our appetizer of Chilled Shrimp Cocktail. Then we moved to the main entree. Brett had the Chilled Pan Seared Salmon and I had the Chilled Roasted Chicken, both with a Pesto Dipping Sauce. Both meals came with a Fresh Green Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing, Fregola Salad, Carrots and Portobello Mushrooms. For dessert we had Chocolate Rum Hazelnut Tart with Blueberry Sauce. We also had in our basket a Hummus with Crudités and an Artisan Cheese Selection of Iberico, Bellavitano and Herb Boursin with Juicy Red Grapes and Sliced Figs. We didn’t eat the Hummus, but took the Cheese plate upstairs for a later snack. Our basket came with a personalized card wishing us a good meal. Perfect!

Okay…… Now you can be jealous!

We finished our meal and heading upstairs to our room, the Robert E. Lee room. We were greeted with a beautiful Iron Bed with very comfortable and soft sheets. When we woke in the morning, I didn’t want to get up! I was way too comfortable.

Sadly, I was not able to stay for breakfast due to work, but Brett got to enjoy a wonderful offering of breads and fruit with a main entree of Mushroom Omelets and potatoes and bacon. He really enjoyed his meal! And the presentation (I made him take pictures) was to die for!

This was a great getaway, even in the middle of the week! I think we are going to have to start a new trend of middle of the week vacation day! It was so relaxing and I was all charged up to finish the week. I highly recommend a stop here if you are in the area! Please tell Troy and Theresa, Michelle and Brett sent you!

Posted by Michelle Darnell | in Year of the Virginia Historic Homes | 54 Comments »

Middle of the Week Vacation

Jul. 16th 2012

The Inn at Warner Hall
Gloucester, Virginia

Okay, no getting jealous about this one!

Tomorrow night (Tuesday night), Brett and I are going to be staying at the Inn at Warner Hall in Gloucester, Virginia. You may remember it from our previous post, Nothing ventured, nothing gained posting. Brett has a meeting on Wednesday in Saluda, Virginia with VDOT (Virginia Department of Transportation) to discuss our entry into the plantation from State Route 301. After that meeting, he is meeting with our surveyor/engineer to discuss the site plan for zoning. So we thought it would be allot easier for him to get there if we slept closer. (That excuse is good as any… haha) After breakfast, I will be returning to Chesapeake and my current job to work.


But we are hoping to be able to look a little closer at Warner Hall and how they have things set up. So far it is the closest to what we want for Belle Grove. We are also hoping to talk with the owners and innkeepers. We hope to gain some answers to questions and learn as much as we can from their experience. I also hope to get some more photos of Warner Hall. It is just so beautiful! And we will be staying in the Robert E. Lee room! There was no James Madison room, so this is the next best thing!

The Robert E. Lee Room
The Inn at Warner Hall
Gloucester, Virginia


************One Quick Note!**************

Our Indiegogo campaign will be ending in just 7 days! Please consider a small contribution towards helping us Save our History and restore our three outbuildings!

Thank you!

The Smokehouse

Posted by Michelle Darnell | in Year of the Virginia Historic Homes | 37 Comments »

Nothing ventured, nothing gained

Jul. 9th 2012

Swan Tavern – Yorktown, Virginia

On Sunday, we decided to head up to Yorktown and Gloucester, Virginia to look at some antiques. Our first stop was at an antique store in Yorktown, the Swans Tavern. This location is on the waterfront of Yorktown in a historic district. The building itself is an 18th century colonial and it offers 18th and 19th century antiques. I think I could have bought the whole place, but our budget would not allow us to. But it was a great place to see and gave us some ideas for our décor.

Then we headed up to Gloucester to an Antique Market that we have passed many times on our drive to and from Belle Grove. It just seemed that we could never make it back in time to walk this antique mall before it closed. As we were driving, I started thinking about the colonial homes in the Yorktown area and it dawned on me that there was a colonial home not too far from Gloucester. So as we were driving I pulled up my GPS and looked to see the location of this home. Score! It was only four miles from the market we had planned to go to. So I made the suggestion to Brett that we might detour to see what this house looked like. We knew it was an inn and as future Innkeepers, we are always looking to see what others are doing so we can get ideas of what we want to do. Research… it’s so much fun sometimes!

Augustine Warner, Great, Great Grandfather of George Washington and owner of Warner Hall

The inn is called The Inn at Warner Hall and was built sometime in or around 1642. It was a 600 acre land grant given to Augustine Warner for transporting twelve people to the new colonies from England. Sound familiar? Belle Grove was part of a 5,000 acre land grant for transporting 162 people from England.  It was here that Augustine Warner lived and expanded the property to several thousand acres until his death in 1674. The house would pass to Augustine Warner II and then to his daughter, Elizabeth and her husband John Lewis. As the family grew so did the plantation. The house would extend with two side brick dependencies wings. One wing was the plantation kitchen and laundry and the other was the school, tutor’s room and the shipping office.

There were two fires that would destroy the main house, one in 1740 and one in 1849. After the 1849 fire, only the brick dependencies and outbuildings remained. Before the turn of the century, the Cheney Family would purchase and rebuild the Colonial Revival mansion on the same foundation and using the same floor plan as the Lewis home.

Augustine Warner was George Washington’s great, great grandfather through his father’s mother, Mildred Warner Washington. Mildred was the daughter of Augustine Warner II. Augustine Warner is also an ancestor of Robert E. Lee. He is also a direct descendent of Queen Elizabeth I through the Bowes-Lyon family and the Earl of Strathmore. It is for this reason that Warner Hall is called the home of the Queen’s American ancestors.

Drive way into Warner Hall

When we arrived at the front gate of Warner Hall, the grounds and house were hidden behind some larger bushes that line the road. But it makes for a spectacular first view! Again we were awe struck by the beauty of the grounds and house. Brett pulled into the drive and I quickly called to see if we might be able to come in and view the house. We were greeted warmly by Amanda who quickly welcomed us to come on to the house.

Inn at Warner Hall

As you drive up to the house, you have long white fencing lining the drive. At the entry gate, you pull into a small courtyard and with views of the fields and river just beyond the house. We got out and walked up to the door, making note to ourselves of things we really liked and thought that would work well at Belle Grove.

Front Door

The large front door opens to the main hallway and grand staircase. Amanda came out and greeted us and we told her of our venture with Belle Grove. She was so accommodating and helpful. She gave us leave to walk around the house and offered us a cool drink and snack if we wanted. She explained that the innkeepers wereout of town for the day, but that they would return on Monday.

The Washington Suite

She walked us back to the first room on the main floor, the Washington Suite. There she allowed us to ask questions about their operation and gave us alot of insight on how theirs worked. This information was so helpful to us. Even now as we work towards our goal, we still find that we are always learning and improving on our own ideas. She then allowed us to move around the house and grounds on our own and even told us that we could visit the other rooms upstairs if the doors were open.  Brett and I walked around and quickly become separated as he headed upstairs and I was down taking endless pictures of how their home looked.

Living Room

Living Room


Dining Room

Dining Room

Sitting Room

As I made my way up the grand staircase, I could see how well thought out the décor was and how beautiful the views from each window was. On the second floor, we viewed the Mildred Warner room, Bacon’s Retreat room, and the Meriwether Lewis room. On the third floor we viewed the Robert E. Lee room and Austin’s Desire room. Each room was beautifully done and had everything you could have wanted for in comfort. The housekeeping staff was just as accommodating as Amanda and cheerfully took the time to answer our questions. You can tell customer service is a top priority at this inn!

Grand Staircase

Windows on the Staircase Landing

Austin’s Desire Room

Again Brett and I ended up getting separated as each of us viewed rooms and would stop to talk to one of the staff. As I made my way back downstairs I realized I had no idea where Brett had gone. So I jumped on my cell and called him. Amanda popped her head out of the kitchen area and let me know that Brett was in the pantry with the Chef, Eric. Yes, I wanted to see the kitchen! The kitchen at Warner Hall is a very extensive commercial grade kitchen. The pantry, which is just off the kitchen in one of the brick dependencies, was filled with equipment and dishes for all their needs. Eric introduced himself and was as warm and open as the others. He answered our questions and gave us insight on questions we had been working on for our plantation. I think I was most impressed that he was a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America!

Ring Wing where The Washington Suite is located – This is part of the original brick structure that survived the fires

Left Wing where the kitchen and pantry are located – This is part of the original brick structure that survived the fires

As we left, Eric shared his email address and invited us to email him with any questions we might come up with. Then as we walked out, Amanda thanked us for stopping by and encouraged us to call and talk to the Innkeepers, Troy and Theresa. We left filled with new ideas and new answers to questions. Had we not ventured to this beautiful plantation, we would never have gained the insight and knowledge and ideas for our own plantation that we now have.

Front Gate Entry

Front Gate Entry close

View of the Front Drive

We would whole heartedly recommend you stay here if you are in the area. The level of service and the beautiful and historic surroundings makes this plantation a must see on your visit to Virginia and the Historic Triangle area (Yorktown, Jamestown & Williamsburg)!

After we left, we did stop by the Antique Market in Gloucester. Again, I scored! This time I found a tea port and three cups! We are almost done with the tea cups I need for our afternoon tea serve. We have just nine more to go! In a way, it is kind of sad; I won’t need to look for them anymore. But soon, we will be on to bigger and better purchases as we start to fill the house with its furnishing.

Posted by Michelle Darnell | in Year of the Virginia Historic Homes | 28 Comments »