29 July 2009

Martha Washington Inn - Abingdon, Virginia

The Martha Washington Inn was originally built in 1832 by Revolutionary War General Francis Preston for his family of nine children, over the course of the last 174 years, the building has served as an upscale women's college, a Civil War hospital and barracks, and as a residence for visiting actors of the Barter Theatre.
In 1834, General Francis Preston built the brick residence for his family at a cost of $15,000. The mansion remained in the Preston family possession until 1858, when it was sold at the cost of $21,000 to the founders of Martha Washington College. The college devoted entirely to women operated for seventy years until finally succumbing to the Great Depression. At the time of the Civil War, the college served as the training ground for the Confederate unit, the Washington Mounted Rifles. After various skirmishes between United States and Confederate forces, wounded were brought to the school for treatment. It was also during this time period that the building attained the nickname, "The Martha."

After passing through various hands over the next three years, in 1935, the Martha Washington Inn opened. The inn has operated ever since in the capacity of a hotel.

In 1984, the United Group, an investment group of businessmen, purchased the inn and paid for an 8 million dollar renovation. Eleven years later, the property was admitted to the Camberley Collection of historic places. Today, the Martha Washington Inn serves as both a hotel and spa.

Many famous guests have spent the night at the Martha Washington Inn. Among them are included, Eleanor Roosevelt, President Harry Truman, Lady Bird Johnson, Jimmy Carter, and Elizabeth Taylor.
There are several "ghost" stories tied to the Inn. I will share one with you here involving "The Yankee Sweetheart":

This story is about a tragic love affair between a student at Martha Washington College and her Yankee sweetheart. Although still a girl's college, Martha Washington College served as a hospital during the Civil War. Several of the girls did not return home during the war but bravely volunteered to stay at the school as nurses. Captain John Stoves, a Yankee officer, was severely wounded and captured in town. Soldiers carried Captain Stoves through the cave system under Abingdon and up a secret stairway to the third floor of the building. Captain Stoves lay gravely wounded in what is now Room 403. For weeks, a young student named Beth nursed and cared for him. She found herself falling in love with the brave captain, and he returned her sentiments. Often, Beth would lovingly play the violin to ease his pain and suffering. But, their love was not to last for long. As he lay dying, he called, "Play something, Beth, I'm going." Unfortunately, Beth was too late to escort him out with a song, because he died suddenly. Beth tearfully played a sweet southern melody as a tribute to him. When a Confederate officer entered and explained that he was taking Captain Stoves as a prisoner, Beth faced him triumphantly and said, "He has been pardoned by an officer higher than General Lee. Captain Stoves is dead." Beth died a few weeks later from typhoid fever. Many of the female students who later attended the college, as well as inn employees and guests, have heard Beth's sweet violin music in the night. Others report that Beth visits Room 403 to comfort her Yankee soldier (this information was borrowed from here).

23 July 2009

Through the Looking Glass...

Saw these lovely glass doorknobs in Abingdon last weekend. There is something about a glass doorknob that speaks to me. There is substance and charm. Now do the door knobs in our present day homes provide that? I think not.

Thought you might enjoy a little history about these beauties:


The technology for pressing melted or molten glass into molds was developed in 1826. Glass knobs were made then, but they did not become popular until after 1917 when the United States joined World War I. Metals that had been previously used for doorknobs, such as iron, brass and bronze, were needed to manufacture airplanes and other necessities for the war.

Time Frame

By 1920, doorknobs made from crystal and cut glass were widely manufactured and sold. Glass doorknobs remained popular until Americans' preferences reverted back to metals in the 1950s. Today, the use of art glass in doorknobs is an expensive design choice when compared with the mass produced variety that you can purchase at the hardware store.


Most of the antique and vintage glass knobs manufactured were clear, and colored glass was used less frequently. Cobalt blue was a popular color, along with a lighter robin's egg blue. Green, violet, red, vaseline glass and white milk glass were made more sparingly.


If you're shopping for a bit of history for your home, you can find antique and vintage glass doorknobs starting at around $20 per pair for the more common 12-sided clear glass models. Cut crystal balls are the most expensive as they are the most difficult to find. Prices for these sets can be as much as $500. As with any antique or collectible, the more rare a style or color is, the more you can expect to pay. Cobalt, red and Vaseline glass knobs are the most prized colors for antique and vintage knobs. Condition is also a consideration as you will find some with chipped or broken glass, which is nearly impossible to repair.


Historically, glass knobs had 6, 8 or 12 facets. The available shapes ranged from globes to ovals, and you could clearly see the particular star, pinprick or bullet designs that were made into the base of the glass knob. Today's reproductions are made from lead crystal and, though they are beautiful, you will see a difference if you look at the old and new, side by side. (taken from here HISTORY OF GLASS DOOR KNOBS)

Quimper and My Past

Last Saturday I had the chance to visit some very nice antique stores in Abingdon, Virginia. At one of the stores, I happened to spy these lovely pieces of quimper. I have had a secret love affair with quimper for many, many years.

Seeing these whimsical french country inspired pieces brought back a flood of memories from my younger days, before I was married, but while I was still attending college (the late 70s). I think it was some time between 1976 and 1977 I decided that I would put a set of my lovely quimper on hold at a local upscale department store. For a month, or maybe a bit longer, I debated with myself as whether to purchase them or not. I would visit the quimper, hold them oh so lovingly, and dream of the dinners I would serve on them. And of course, I also picked out a set of country-inspired sterling silverware that would be paired with MY lovely dinner pieces. It was probably a month later, I decided against purchasing the quimper. I can not recall why I didn't purchase the quimper but, I did purchase the sterling silverware set. Inquiring minds care to know what happened to my beautiful sterling silverware? I gave it to my sister-in-law who resides in southeastern Kentucky about twenty years ago.
Quimper (pronounce kem-pair), a town located in northwester France in the province of Brittany, has been a pottery town since the days when the area was a part of the Roman Empire.

Most Americans are familiar with pieces of this design, or something very similar, as they were heavily imported during the years between World War I and World War II. During the period between World War I and World War II, many new designs were produced, and Quimper tablewares were vigorously exported. In America, they were sold by high-end retailers such as Tiffany's and Shreve, Crump, and Low, where wealthy Americans looking for a chic, country ambience were eager customers (isn't this still what we are looking for).

In order for a piece to be considered a true example of Quimper pottery, it need only to have been made in the town of Quimper. For more about the interesting history of the town and the pottery QUIMPER.

22 July 2009

Brenda Starr-Girl Reporter

While browsing about in Abingdon this past weekend with Di from The Blue Ridge Gal , I came across this Brenda Starr book in one of the many antique stores we visited.

Yes, I got to meet Di and Ms. Di is the best. I so enjoyed her company and, having her share the two hour journey coming and going with me. I will have to admit, I miss not having someone to tag along with me on my trips into the wilds of Virginia. Hoping we can have more adventures in the future. Thanks Di! And, the mirror is perfect as your current header.

I did snag a few items which I will share with you in another post. But, I thought I would share the Brenda Starr book with all of you. It caught my eye.

Brenda Starr was of course, a woman ahead of the times; here's a little bit of history about her and the comic strip:

Brenda Starr is a comic strip about a glamorous, adventurous reporter. Created by Dale Messick for the Chicago Tribune Syndicate, it initially encountered resistance from Tribune editor Joseph Medill Patterson, because its creator and main character were both women(go figure). Although set in Chicago, in its early years it was the only syndicate strip not to appear in the Tribune itself. When the strip debuted June 30, 1940, it was relegated to a supplement, but soon appeared in the Sunday paper. A daily strip was added in 1945.

Brenda has always been a modern woman, noted for her exotic adventures and steamy romances. Dale Messick and later artists concentrated on keeping Brenda contemporary in clothing and hairstyles. Before Messick retired, Brenda finally married the mysterious Basil St. John, whose eye patch and black orchid serum have been a regular plot element. Brenda had Basil's baby, shortly thereafter. It was a girl named Starr Twinkle St. John

21 July 2009

The Barter Theatre Building-Abingdon, Virginia

Let's take a trip down the road to Abingdon, Virginia. Abingdon is located approximately 132 miles southwest of Roanoke and is a hop-skip-jump from the Tennessee border. It is about as far west as you can go in Virginia.

The Barter Theatre building, now housing The State Theatre of Virginia, was constructed in 1831 as a new location for Sinking Springs Presbyterian Church. The earliest theatrical event known to occur here was a production of the Virginian on January 14, 1876, the proceeds of which were used for building repairs.

In 1890, the Sons of Temperance transferred the building's title to the Town of Abingdon , to be used as a town hall for the benefit of the citizenry.In addition to offices, the town used the building as a fire hall – hence the fire alarm on the roof that sounded as needed at any time, day or night. When the fire siren sounded during a Barter performance, the actors were instructed to freeze their position on stage and to resume the action when the alarm concluded. The alarm remained on the building until 1994 when the fire department went to a system of electronic communications to alert fire fighters.

Many of the interior furnishings in the theatre are from the Empire Theatre of New York City. Robert Porterfield learned that this New York City theatre, constructed in 1875, was slated for destruction. Porterfield had one weekend in which to carry away furnishings and equipment for use at Barter. He came away with $75,000 worth of seats, lighting fixtures, carpeting, paintings, and tapestries.

The lighting system at the Empire, designed and installed by Thomas Edison, was used at Barter Theatre through the mid 1970's. Barter Theatre Stage II was constructed in 1829, as a Methodist church. Only the main building of the church was not destroyed by fire in 1914; it was later used by the Martha Washington College as a gymnasium and a storage area.
In 1961, the building was renovated by Barter Theatre as a small theatre, with major improvements made in 1973 and again in 1985, when additions included a lobby and the Jessie Ball DuPont Memorial Theatre Garden.

The unique performance space features 167 seats around a thrust stage, with patrons only a few feet away from the performers. Barter Stage II is favored by actors and audiences for its intimate setting.

In 1963, President Kennedy praised Robert Porterfield, the founder of Barter Theatre. We are a theatre of character. Rex Partington succeeded Porterfield after his death in 1971. A Barter actor in the 1950's, Partington returned as chief administrator from 1972 to 1992. Richard Rose was named Producing Artistic Director in 1992.Today, Barter has a reputation as a theatre where many famous actors first performed before they went on to achieve fame and fortune. Barter's best known alumni include: Gregory Peck, Patricia Neal, Ernest Borgnine, Hume Cronyn, Ned Beatty, Gary Collins, David Birney, and Larry Linville.


16 July 2009

Blowin' In The Wind

How many roads most a man walk down
Before you call him a man ?
How many seas must a white dove sail
Before she sleeps in the sand ?
Yes, how many times must the cannon balls fly
Before they're forever banned ?
The answer my friend is blowin' in the wind
The answer is blowin' in the wind.

Yes, how many years can a mountain exist
Before it's washed to the sea ?
Yes, how many years can some people exist
Before they're allowed to be free ?
Yes, how many times can a man turn his head
Pretending he just doesn't see ?
The answer my friend is blowin' in the wind
The answer is blowin' in the wind.

Yes, how many times must a man look up
Before he can see the sky ?
Yes, how many ears must one man have
Before he can hear people cry ?
Yes, how many deaths will it take till he knows
That too many people have died ?
The answer my friend is blowin' in the wind
The answer is blowin' in the wind.
Bob Dylan~

06 July 2009

The Fruits of Summer 2009 from Botetourt County Virginia

If you want to be happy forever, make a garden - Chinese Proverb

01 July 2009

Those Lazy Summer Days on the Maury River: Lexington, Virginia

Very hot and still the air was, very smooth the gliding river, motionless the sleeping shadows.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow