Richmond, Virginia: Too much to do, Too little time!
Last week I spent a scant 30 hours in Richmond, Virginia, as a guest of the Tuckahoe Woman’s Club, where I presented a lecture entitled “Southern Style: Town and Country.” This was my second trip to lecture in Richmond, and both times, the short period of time I was there was only enough to tantalize me into wanting much, much more.
During my first visit, lecturing for the RAMA Antiques and Fine Arts show, I stayed at the famous Jefferson Hotel (www.jeffersonhotel.com) which, built in 1895, is a fine Southern hotel in the grand tradition and a cultural and architectural landmark. Even if you don’t stay in this beautiful behemoth of a hotel, be sure to take high tea beneath the Tiffany stained glass rotunda in the Palm Court (Friday-Sunday, 3:00 and 4:15 pm; best to make reservations.)
On my recent stay, I had the pleasure of spending the night at Maury Place, www.mauryplace.com, a luxurious bed and breakfast located in a handsomely appointed historic house. Built in 1915, the house stands on Richmond’s famous Monument Avenue, across from the Maury Monument, which honors the father of modern oceanography and Commander of the Confederate Navy, Matthew Fontaine Maury.
Maury Place is a perfect jumping off point for strolling on Monument Avenue (www.monumenthouse.com/Richmond/monument), walking the streets of the Fan district lined with historic townhouses (www.fandistrict.org), and visiting the nearby Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (www.vmfa.state.va.us).
I fell in love with this B&B for several reasons. Its location is without parallel for exploring historic Richmond, its innkeepers Mac Pence and Jeff Wells are charming and attentive, and, should you ask to meet them, the resident dogs, Chico and Lucy, are delightful. Oh, and did I mention breakfast?
Jeff Wells is the decorator behind the inn’s tasteful, retrained, and inviting decor. The furnishings include a combination of antiques from his family’s home in Norfolk, Virginia, objects he and Mac have collected over the years, and antiques that came with the house when they purchased it (Mac and Jeff are only its 4th owners). Colored primarily in shades of brown and earth tones (inspired by the tresses of their beloved terrier Chico and the Roseville pottery Jeff collects), the style is a bit more masculine and tailored than most B&Bs.
“I didn’t want stereotypical B&B style, which is a little bit more feminine,” says Jeff. “I wanted the look to be tailored, not all velvet and Victoriana. The rooms are gender neutral, or a little bit masculine.” The room where I spend the evening, The Fontaine Suite, was a perfect example of this aesthetic. Decorated in beige, tan, and brown, it featured a pair of Victorian settees upholstered in decidedly un-Victorian fabric. For those who, like me, have inherited one or two of these relics, I recommend taking a look at what Jeff did to give them a crisp, updated look.
The highlight of my trip was a few hours spent with the members of The Tuckahoe Woman’s Club (www.TheTuckahoe.org) in Richmond, Virginia. Founded in 1936, it is one of the most vibrant woman’s clubs in the South, hosting speakers weekly on a wide range of subjects. The club’s 1954 Colonial Revival brick clubhouse, with an auditorium that seats several hundred and a spacious reception room, embodies the classic Southern woman club’s twin commitment to education and community. In addition to being the site for lectures and other member activities, the club and its gardens are also available for wedding receptions and events.
One of the biggest surprises I discovered in Richmond is Agecroft Hall, an astonishing anachronism among the Colonial Revival houses gracing the beautiful Windsor Farms neighborhood where it stands.
Built in Lancashire, England, in the late 15th century, it was sold at auction in 1925 to Richmond resident Thomas Williams, Jr., who had the Tudor estate moved to the banks of the James River. For information about tours and events, including the Richmond Shakespeare Festival, visit www.agecrofthall.com. Also contact Agecroft Hall for information about the Seven Historic Homes tour (March 23-24). Another reason to visit Richmond and the surrounding area is the Virginia Garden Week tour of houses and gardens, April 20-27 (www.vagardenweek.org), now in its 80th year.
Oh, and I almost forgot to tell you something very, very important. When you prepare your walking tour of Richmond, don’t forget to pick up a box lunch from Richmond institution, Sally Bell’s Kitchen (www.sallybellskitchen.com). Since the 1950s, Sally Bell’s has been making delicious box lunches that include a sandwich on a handmade roll (I had chicken salad but they have many choices including cream cheese and olive), a deviled egg with a slice of sweet pickle on top, potato salad, the crispest bite-size cheese wafer, and a little cake to rival anything my grandmother from South Carolina could make…and that’s almost heresy to admit!
So hurry up and make plans to visit Richmond—it’s gorgeous in the springtime and autumn—be sure to leave enough time to dawdle—and eat a Sally Bell’s box lunch for me!