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Just two and a half hours outside of Washington, DC, we’re happy to be “outside the beltway” during this crazy election season. At Chester, we’ve always encouraged our guests to step away from the daily business of life and do a bit of relaxing, take in some history, sample a wine (or four) and unwind. Many ask us about the history of our own “white house,” which was built in 1847. More than being owners, we find a great sense of responsibility and pride in being this generation’s caretakers for such a gorgeous and historically significant place. But we also find ourselves continually entranced by the incredible legacies all around us.
Just last week, we learned more about Highland (formerly called Ashlawn), which is just down the road, in an article published in the Washington Post. Highland was James Monroe’s home–our fifth POTUS. We’ve often wondered why the house was so modest (just two rooms on 535 acres?!), particularly when our friend Mr. Jefferson created the magnificent Monticello a few miles to the north. Apparently we weren’t alone in our confusion. Recent excavations have revealed a much more sizeable foundation in the yard that appears to have been the original Monroe home. The current house appears to have been built much later, during Monroe’s first term in the White House. Details are still coming in, but it does shed new light on an old question. Now owned by the College of William & Mary, Monroe’s alma mater, Highland will likely continue to reveal its secret past in the days to come.
During this election season, however, we might all be wise to take a page from President Monroe’s modest guest house and what it might have said about him as a leader. No fancy gold jets, no massive campaign funds. As former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, alumnus and current chancellor of William & Mary was quoted as saying, “This new find at Highland will help us to better interpret James Monroe’s historic legacy of duty and non-partisan leadership. [He] is relevant today because of his particular example of leadership, especially in his later years, of holding national interest above party interest.”
In the meantime, for all of you who need a break from Washington politics, Chester is just a quick car ride away.
Date: May 2, 2016
There’s something about coming “home” for the holidays. It starts with the journey…whether it takes an hour or ten is irrelevant. There is preparation and planning and packing, and the hurried finishing of tasks that must be completed before you can leave. Then, of course, there’s the traffic and the weather that, while annoying, seem to matter less because you are looking forward to the destination.
Never mind where you’re headed–the home you grew up in, a place where good friends and family come together, or a new place that you’ve picked out just for yourself for a few short days–you finally arrive.
With all of the preparation behind you, you can finally find the space to take in and appreciate all things–the small and the large. A favorite tree. A warm fireplace. A special view. A glass of wine with your partner. A visit with an old friend. A walk in the woods with your mother. Reminiscing about holidays past with your siblings. Or maybe it’s simply the blissful sound of silence as you turn to the first page of a good book and enjoy a cup of hot tea.
Here at Chester, we’ve welcomed hundreds of guests into our home each year, with the goal of making you feel like it’s yours as well. Wherever you find your home this Thanksgiving, we here at Chester send our very best wishes for a peaceful journey, a grateful heart, and the knowledge that “home” is just as much a state of mind as a place to visit.
Date: November 26, 2015
The arrival of fall in Virginia has always been marked by that unique combination of the warm late summer sun, the slightest bit of crispness in the evening air, and the magical hues that the fields and mountains take on as the season changes.
One of our favorite day trips from the inn is to head over to nearby Nelson County. Whether you enjoy antiquing, apple picking, beer tasting, or taking in some breathtaking views, this is the perfect place to do it.
We particularly enjoy the visit to Crabtree Falls (with varying degrees of hiking levels as well as access from a nearby parking lot). It is noted as one of the most beautiful falls in the United States, and is the largest vertical falls in the United States east of the Mississippi.
You can take a picnic lunch and make a day of the outdoor beauty. Or you can explore some of the nearby culinary offerings. Basic Necessities is a fabulous French-inspired cafe, as well as a gourmet wine and food store. Lunch in their quaint and peaceful dining room is always a delicious experience. If pub fare is more your style, try one of the many breweries in the area. One of our favorites is Wild Wolf Brewery–both for its beer tastings and its food. You also can’t go wrong at Devil’s Backbone Brewing Company at the foot of Wintergreen Mountain.
Join us for the weekend (or even a mid-week getaway) and find out for yourself!
Date: September 20, 2015
“Trees are the earth’s endless effort to speak to the listening heaven,” wrote Nobel prize-winning poet Rabindranath Tagore. We are always struck by the trees that “speak” at Chester…many of them older than the house itself (which was built in 1847). From the giant 300-year-old oak tree that majestically presides over the front lawn (and many a wedding) and one of the largest holly trees on record to the white pines and river birches that quietly provide shelter for many a bird and squirrel throughout the year, each tree has a special place on our arboretum grounds and in our hearts. On hot summer nights, fireflies congregate in their branches, lighting up the night like a well-choreographed holiday display. Birds take shelter, build nests, and teach their young how to fly. Squirrels store goods for the winter. And we walk among them every day, noticing their changing leaves, their weathered trunks, the directions they grow as they follow the sun …
So when we lose one (or six) in a storm, it is indeed a sad occasion. Yesterday’s storm took, among others, a beautiful Eastern white pine (“pinus strobus” for the arborists among you) that was likely 200 years old. The fragrance from the broken limbs was intoxicating and heart-rending. A scent can stir up memories in such a distinctive way … for me, years of freshly cut Christmas trees, walks in the woods on a cool autumn day, watching a baby bird find its wings, the feeling of soft needles and the discovery of tiny pinecones in their midst. And touching the trunk, rich with its own history of the many things that took up residence on it over the years, reminds me of just how small I am in the world. A bit sappy (yes, pun intended)? Perhaps. But when a tree comes down, it is a life ended, a chapter closed, a piece of history uprooted. A reminder of our impermanence in this world.
But there’s something reassuring about the Eastern white pine, noted by the U.S. Forest Service as “one of the most valuable trees in eastern North America.” It was here before Columbus arrived on our shores. It is the single best tree for reforestation projects. The one that fell here yesterday was already surrounded by its descendants, who will grow to keep the same watch for the next 200 years. And we will walk among them for as long as we can while they “speak to the heaven” and take peace in their shelter, their beauty, and the stories they tell.
Date: June 26, 2015
If you’re looking for a true small-town celebration that makes a big bang this 4th of July, you’ll find it in Scottsville. Each year, the town kicks off the day with one of the oldest and largest parades in the state of Virginia. From members of the armed forces (from the Revolutionary War forward!), a bagpipe clan, and fire trucks from many counties to pageant winners in convertibles, Shriners in small cars, and floats galore, there’s something to entertain everyone. (You’ll even get to meet many local politicians along the parade route!) For our granddaughter, nothing beats the candy that is tossed to the spectators along the way.
Following the parade, it’s time for lunch at one of the local restaurants, and a chance to try out the delicious brews at the James River Brewing Company. Or maybe you’d like to hop onto the river for a canoe or tubing adventure with James River Reeling and Rafting. Regardless, you’ll want to make your way down to the riverfront pavilion as the afternoon gets later to make sure you get a good spot on the lawn for the live music that starts at 5 pm, featuring Redlight Rodeo, a popular bluegrass band.
As the sun sets, you’ll want to turn those blankets around or climb up and sit on the levee to enjoy one of the most spectacular fireworks displays we’ve ever seen in a town of our size. The fireworks start at 9 pm, and are usually a good 30 minutes long!
Come and spend the 4th of July with us, get a true taste of Americana and celebrate the liberty and freedom of our country and a nice weekend away from it all! Rooms are available at the inn, and we can’t wait to see you.
Date: June 17, 2015
Welcoming wreathes at the main entrance
A festive welcome to the house
For the past twenty years, we’ve been entrusted with preserving the body and spirit of this wonderful home, built in 1847 in classic Greek Revival style. And there’s no better time to honor the beauty and history of this house than the holidays. We’ve done many different things over the years, from following the historic Williamsburg style of fresh fruit towers over the doors to decking the bannisters with wreathes, but when it comes right down to it, what makes this house so beautiful around the holidays is a nature-inspired approach that brings the outside in, and sends a warm and inviting glow back into the world during the darkest time of year.
English boxwood is a prized possession among the world’s best florists, and we’re lucky enough to have stands of it right outside the front door. Growing at only an inch a year, we actually have wholesaler florists who come and maintain them for us each year in exchange for what they trim! Luckily, there’s plenty to go around! Simple wreathes adorn the driveway pillars and front doors, and candlelit windows provide a beautiful winter evening scene.
200 bird ornaments and nests adorn the tree.
Our Fraser Fir
Those of you who have seen our Christmas tree know that, each year, we select the most beautiful Fraser Fir we can find and fill it with nearly 200 bird ornaments, the majority of which are authentic reproductions of what we see in nature, as well as a collection of nests from around the world. Complemented by classic ornaments that go back several generations, our share of children’s and grandchildren’s creations from years past, and the china doll angel that presides over the season, we think our tree is a sight to behold.
We also have a host of other interesting collections, from our Hummel crèche to our carolers and nutcrackers. All of them come with family history or stories. Along with our own traditions, many friends and neighbors bring their own touches to share with us, from a Kentucky iron horse on the front porch to handcrafted wreathes from the local commune. It is truly our privilege to add to the history and story that is this glorious and historic home, Chester. We wish you all a happy, peaceful, and joyous holiday season and look forward to seeing you soon!
Byer carolers on the piano
Nutcrackers on the mantel
Hummel figurines in the dining room
Hand-crafted bay leaf wreath
Poinsettias from Kingsland Greenhouse
Date: December 16, 2014
Those of you who have stayed at Chester Bed & Breakfast know that we sit on arboretum land just outside of Charlottesville, where a wide range of flora and fauna live happily. But it’s not just our grounds that provide a haven. Twice a year, we are visited by endangered migrating chimney swifts, as they look for safe places to build their nests and lay their eggs in … you guessed it … chimneys!
Flocks of migrating chimney swifts are common sights in the summer and early fall as they head to warmer climates in South America. Their silhouette has been aptly described as a “flying cigar.” These delicate birds spend almost their entire lives airborne. Unable to perch when they land, they cling to vertical walls in hollow trees, caves, and chimneys while resting. The swift population has declined sharply as chimneys fall into disuse in North America. Not every chimney works well as a safe haven for swifts—only well-maintained ones will do. While we don’t provide down comforters or complimentary wine for our swifts, we do offer them a luxurious chimney during their brief stay!
Swifts build beautiful and strong nests, adhered to chimney walls by their glue-like saliva. Following the migration season, we save one or two of the most beautiful ones for our Christmas tree, which now boasts over 20 nests from around the world and a collection of over 200 birds (no real ones—we can’t get them to sit still for long enough!).
Rest assured that the swifts don’t come inside of the house … only down into the chimneys where you might hear a bit of chirping during the night. If you’re lucky, you’ll see them arriving just before dusk, as they circle the chimneys in a beautiful funnel pattern. We’re delighted to be a brief respite for them on their journey, and hope you enjoy their beauty as much as we do!
Date: October 7, 2014
Here at Chester, we are privileged to serve local, free-range eggs for breakfast from some wonderful chickens who live just down the road. Free-range means different things to chickens, farmers, and innkeepers–but all with the same end result: happy chickens = delicious eggs. Last week, an entirely new meaning emerged: one red-tailed hawk thought it meant she was getting a free lunch.
Our chicken farmers heard the commotion and ran for the chickens, chasing the hawk off. One of the wonderful hens was left feeling a bit wobbly and with a few less feathers on her head and neck. But after a week of recuperation in the chicken house, she’s back with the flock, scratching for bugs and fresh greens. The chicken is presumably delighted, as are her keepers. We as innkeepers are happy that she’s made a full recovery and that more of her wonderful, buttery brown eggs are headed for our breakfast tables!
Date: August 25, 2014
If you’ve been to visit over the last few months, you’ll notice that we have welcomed a new four-legged friend to our family. Actually, she’s a three-legged friend, but you’d never know it from the way she runs!
Trixie is a purebred Brussels Griffon, a breed originally developed to keep rats away on the wharves in Belgium. From what we’ve been able to learn, she was likely born with a deformed front leg, and was then hit by a car, losing the leg completely. She was surrendered by her first family to a high-kill shelter, and amazingly made her way through the shelter system to Green Dogs Unleashed (www.greendogsunleashed.com). This incredible organization specializes in rescuing special needs animals, and in many cases, training them to work with special needs humans! Trixie was lucky to get there, and we were lucky to find her.
We fell in love with her spirit and spunk, and picked the name Trixie for its fitting meaning: voyager through life and bringer of joy. She certainly has done much of both, despite the fact that she is only two or three.
Trixie is settling in here at Chester, and is taking her role as greeter very seriously. She has a love/hate relationship with our resident cat, Miss D, but we suspect they’ll work it out on their own, as most siblings do.
Once she settles a bit more, we think she’d like to give back to the people who helped her find a new life. We’ll both be going for therapy training so that we can work with children, war veterans, the elderly, and anyone who needs a bit of special love.
Come and see us soon–Trixie is waiting to welcome you!
Date: August 8, 2014
When it comes to getting married, fewer places are more beautiful for three seasons of the year than central Virginia. Whether you choose a historic home with wide Southern porches, a vineyard with mountain vistas, or a gorgeous field with a billowing white tent, your event is bound to be as unique and special as you are.
But picking out your perfect wedding spot doesn’t usually include accommodations for your guests—especially the important ones. You don’t want your parents to stay in a generic hotel room, or your wedding party to be separated on different floors or different buildings. You need a unique and special space to call home while you’re getting ready to celebrate. Where you have access to an entire house and its beautiful grounds. Where you can enjoy a cup of coffee on the porch, a glass of wine next to the pond, or a glass of champagne as you get your hair done. Where you can come back from a wonderful afternoon or evening to a freshly turned-down bed and the promise of a gourmet, home-cooked breakfast in the morning. A place where you can connect, relax, and renew. You deserve it. Especially on the most important day of your life!
Date: May 20, 2014