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 »