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A Conservation Win for the Community Brings New Life to Blackthorne Inn

A Conservation Win for the Community Brings New Life to Blackthorne Inn

Written by Heidi BaumstarkFeatured photo by Roger Lancaster

Beauty demands a double take. A second look. It can even be jaw-dropping.

Beauty awakens the soul to act. And action was certainly taken surrounding the preservation of a historic property in Upperville: Blackthorne Inn and Restaurant.

Located in northwestern Fauquier County’s agricultural district between Upperville and Paris — about 10 miles west of the Town of Middleburg — this parcel of land is a beauty to behold. No longer an inn and restaurant, it is now in the private ownership of husband and wife Sumit Bhatnagar and Anjana Ghosh, who purchased it in April 2022. 

Previously, the property grabbed the attention of developers. In July 2016, Charlottesville-based Easton Porter Group (EPG) purchased the 50-plus-acre property with plans to transform it into a country resort, expanding the restaurant and adding 20 cabins in the back, a spa, plus a 20,000-square-foot hillside events barn. 

When word got out about EPG’s plans, many in the community were not in favor of it. Citizens for Fauquier County (CFFC) was among the organizations that raised concerns about the development project. Kevin Ramundo serves as CFFC’s president and lives near the historic Blackthorne Inn. He shares, “I’ve gotten to be friends with the new owners, who live in Great Falls; this will be their country home.” 


Originally, the property was known as Greystone House. In 1775, Lord Thomas Fairfax deeded the land over to a young George Washington, then the official land surveyor of Culpeper County. A copy of the handwritten deed still hangs prominently in the original portion of the stone house, and a plaque in front of the house includes text about “Gentleman George.”

A 1984 illustration of Blackthorne Inn, then known as the 1763 Inn. Courtesy of Anjana Ghosh.

Over the years, the site would experience a few name changes. In 1984, the property was known as the 1763 Inn, named for the year the original stone section was built. It was renamed the Blackthorne Inn and Restaurant in April 2007, when ownership changed hands to the O’Connor family. In 2016, EPG acquired it with plans to renovate the 18th-century stone portion and expand it into a resort. Essentially, it would have been a commercial operation in an agricultural zoned area at least two to three times the scale of what the Fauquier Board of Supervisors approved for the previous owner. 

CFFC spent considerable time analyzing the zoning and special exception provisions and met with county officials to discuss its analysis. Other nonprofits joined the effort in opposing the proposed project, including Goose Creek Association, Piedmont Environmental Council, and Virginia Piedmont Heritage Area Association. Two applications were prepared by the developer, but with strong resistance by conservation groups and concerned citizens, neither were approved. EPG decided to abandon its plans. This opened the door for current owners Bhatnagar and Ghosh to purchase it.

Archival images courtesy of Anjana Ghosh.

“This is an example of how the conservation community came together in a multi-year effort to oppose the resort plans for this property,” Ramundo adds, who, along with the CFFC Board of Directors, remains committed to upholding the organization’s mission to protect Fauquier’s future. 

New Vision

“It wasn’t just on a whim,” Ghosh says of the decision to buy Blackthorne; in fact, for years, the couple had been on the hunt for property. Inspiration sparked while visiting a Loudoun County winery. In 2009, Bhatnagar’s business, GreenBrilliance, installed solar panels at Sunset Hills Vineyard in Purcellville. Ghosh remembers, “I was so impressed by the vineyard’s beauty and surrounding land, I thought, ‘We should have our own farm.’”  

Over the years, the couple continued to visit wineries and remained on the lookout for land. Then Ghosh came across an article on Blackthorne Inn that described the historic property. “I said we have to go; so, in December 2021, we called a realtor asking to see it. We fell in love with it.”

Construction is well underway at Blackthorne.

“We are immigrants from India,” Ghosh continues, “and we and our three children will be part of this house. It made us so happy to hear about its history.” Ghosh, who is busy running a consulting business, said they started coming here every day from their main residence in Great Falls, creating a vision for it, imagining what it could be.

Ramundo adds, “I’ve been inside the property with Anjana and it’s clear they’re investing in making it the place they want it to be. It’s a great conservation story. They don’t always turn out well and this was such a clear success reflecting the efforts of a lot of people, a supportive Fauquier County supervisor, and the collaboration of a number of conservation organizations.” 

Ramundo, who completed his corporate career at Raytheon in 2016 and later that year began his involvement with CFFC, shares, “This issue with Blackthorne was happening in my backyard. I thought I could help here. It just turned out that my second career is now in conservation; it’s been a happy confluence of circumstances that allowed me to lead the effort.”

During renovation, Ghosh says that locals have dropped by and told stories about the history here. “I want to preserve the sanctity of the old house,” she says. “The more I learn, the more I understand the importance of its preservation.”

The property has surprises, like this sweet gazebo set over a pond. Photos by Roger Lancaster.

The existing barn will board horses. “My dad was in the Indian army,” Ghosh adds, “and he took care of a regiment with horses; he was also a great polo player. He taught us riding when I was 4 years old, and my sister is a member of a hunt club in India. My father cultivated a passion for the environment and the community. It feels like that’s coming back full circle.”

Ghosh is grateful for her new neighbors who share a vision of preservation. “We feel so connected with the people around us. If we can make a little difference in preservation, we’ll just be blessed.” 

Renovations should be completed by September 2024, and they plan to place the property under a conservation easement. “We’re never going to subdivide this property,” Ghosh confirms, “and, yes, eventually, we’ll have solar panels.”

Archival image courtesy of Anjana Ghosh. 

So, what will be its new name? “We’ve renamed it The Hunt,” Ghosh notes. “We’ve been hunting for a farm — and we’re in Hunt Country — so the name fits.” For one couple, their hunt is over, and their new life at The Hunt is just beginning. At last, they have found their rural beauty and have protected a slice of beautiful Fauquier County at the same time. ML

More information about Citizens for Fauquier County can be found at

Published in the April 2024 issue of Middleburg Life.

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