Foxes on the Fence 2023 Recap

Written by Willow Podraza | Photos by Callie Broaddus

Last month, the streets of Middleburg underwent a stunning transformation. The return of the beloved annual event Foxes on the Fence brought a menagerie of butterflies, marine life, bunnies, and more to East Washington Street. As the installation wrapped on May 13, two artists shared what the event meant to them.

Foxes on the Fence is a celebration that brings together artists, residents, and businesses in a shared vision of promoting the arts and beautifying Middleburg. The installations are not only admired but also auctioned off, with the proceeds supporting various projects that beautify the town and promote the arts. This commitment to community and to nurturing the local arts scene is what attracts so many artists year after year. Lydia M.E. Schraeder, a returning artist, explains, “I love participating in Foxes on the Fence because it’s a positive and public-facing event that encourages the arts. In Roger Scruton’s ‘Beauty’ he says ‘art moves us because it is beautiful, and it is beautiful in part because it means something. It can be meaningful without being beautiful; but to be beautiful it must be meaningful.’ I think this perfectly captures why I continue to donate my art to this cause- because it’s meaningful.” 

Schraeder’s entry “The Call Home ” is a meditation on the community that raised her and on the meaning she as an artist finds in home. This year, Schraeder was sponsored by The Red Fox Inn and took the opportunity to express the depth of what the Inn symbolizes to her- home. She says, “Middleburg is my own glimpse of Heaven… painting Hunt Country is one of the greatest honors of my life… This particular painting for the Foxes on the Fence depicts the roads I ran and walked throughout my years in Virginia- through childhood and into adulthood… that have made such an incredible impression on my life.”

Another returning artist, Margaret Caroll has been participating in Foxes on the Fence since its inception in 2017. Her first entry was a landscape-adorned fox, and since then she has strived to embrace more creativity in her art. This year, her Beatrix Potter-esque hare did just that. Her entry was composed of “three little paintings in one” in which bunnies dine in their burrow, hedgehogs do their laundry, and a duck strolls through the garden with a smartly suited fox. Like Schraeder, Caroll finds Middleburg to be a well of artistic inspiration. She describes her entry as “a peek into the lives of those who live under Middleburg.” “There is so much going on in the town, but there is also so much happening underneath the town as well,” says Carroll. 

However, Caroll sees Foxes on the Fence as more than just an art installation. She emphasizes the event’s ability to draw in artists of all ages and is continually impressed by the contributions of young artists. She believes the “whole community embraces the youth pulse” and recognizes the importance of nurturing and showcasing young talent. In her opinion, it is the young artists who infuse the annual event with a sense of freshness. Malena Beach’s fourth-grade class and their “Kaleidoscope Hound” are just one example of some of Middleburg’s youngest artists embracing the opportunity to contribute their creativity. Their abstract design was the result of a group effort, in which each student painted their own swatch of color, epitomizing the community-minded spirit that lies at the heart of the event and makes Foxes on the Fence such a meaningful event for artists and residents.

More 2023 Foxes on the Fence entries:

Posted on June 1, 2023.

Tulip Hill: A Stunning Estate on the Middleburg Town Line

2169 Logans Mill, The Plains, VA 20198
Offered at $7,985,000
4 BD | 4/2 BA | 9,745 SQFT | 175 AC
MLS# VAFQ2008500

Welcome to Tulip Hill! A stunning estate located on the border of the Middleburg town line. This beautiful property is just a stone’s throw away (2 miles) from the historic downtown area, making it the perfect location for those who want to enjoy the charm of Middleburg while still enjoying the privacy and tranquility of a sprawling estate. 

Drive up the serene driveway and enter the expansive property, situated on 175+ acres of picturesque rolling hills with stunning mountain views. This newly constructed, contemporary masterpiece boasts over 9,700+ square feet of luxurious living space, featuring four spacious bedrooms each with its own ensuite bathroom, a five-car garage (three attached, two detached), and private pool.  

As you enter this stunning home, you’ll be greeted by the spacious and open floor plan that is perfect for entertaining. The home features radiant floor heating ensuring that you and your guests stay cozy and comfortable all year long. 

The guest wing, featuring its own living space, bedroom, and full bath, provides a perfect retreat for your family and friends. An immaculate wet bar sits between the living spaces offering a perfect spot to indulge in a nightcap or provides access to refreshments when entertaining guests. 

At the heart of the home, the kitchen is a chef’s dream, featuring top-of-the-line appliances. Divided into two parts, the main kitchen is accompanied by a prep kitchen. In the main kitchen, you’ll find a Wolf warming drawer, a Wolf hood, a Gaggenau cooktop, and a Wolf two-burner range, all designed to help you create delicious culinary masterpieces. The Liebherr fridge (36-inch) and freezer (36-inch), separated by a Liebherr wine fridge (24-inch), provide ample space for all your groceries and favorite vintages. The two Cove dishwashers make cleaning up after a dinner party a breeze. 

The main kitchen features a spacious walk-in pantry and a quartzite waterfall island as a showstopper centerpiece. And if that’s not enough, step into the prep kitchen, where you’ll find Wolf double ovens, a Wolf convection/steam oven, a Wolf microwave drawer, and a Samsung fridge and Samsung freezer side by side, all perfectly suited to prepare even the most intricate and elaborate meals. No detail has been overlooked in creating this incredible space. Get ready to cook up a storm and impress your guests with your culinary skills. 

The home is equipped with built-in Sonos speakers, both inside and outside, ensuring that you can enjoy your favorite music no matter where you are in the house. This stunning home also features all Anderson windows throughout, providing natural light and energy efficiency. The hallway windows are coated with 3M solar window film, keeping the home cool and comfortable while also protecting your furniture and decor from fading. The standing seam metal roof not only looks sleek and modern but also provides durability and energy efficiency. 

Step outside and enjoy your privately owned heated pool, nestled within the stunning landscape. The pool is perfect for enjoying a relaxing swim, entertaining guests, or just lounging in the sun. The outdoor kitchen features a Sedona Outdoor by Lynx grill, perfect for cooking up a delicious meal. And after a day in the pool or cooking up a storm, rinse off in the outdoor shower. 

In addition to the stunning home, this property offers 175+ acres of land featuring rolling hills, a tranquil pond, and stunning mountain views. The possibilities for outdoor recreation and relaxation are endless on this expansive property. Finally, this home features a fully renovated 2023 well with 30 gallons per minute and a newly installed septic system. The whole house generator provides peace of mind in case of any unexpected power outages. 

With all these amazing features and more, Tulip Hill truly is a must-see. Don’t miss your chance to own this stunning contemporary home and breathtaking property.

See this link for a video tour.
See this link for a 3D tour with floor plans.

Listed by

Peter Pejacsevich | Principal Broker + Managing Partner
[email protected]
Licensed in VA
Middleburg Real Estate


Scott Buzzelli | Associate Broker + Partner
[email protected]
Licensed in VA
Middleburg Real Estate

Local History: Robert F. O’Neill’s “Small but Important Riots”

Written by Heidi Baumstark

Everyone knows that horses take center stage in Virginia’s Hunt Country. 

But not everyone knows about another “stage” our four-legged friends premiered in during the summer of 1863: war.

In “Small but Important Riots: The Cavalry Battles of Aldie, Middleburg, and Upperville,” author Robert F. O’Neill unpacks the details of three cavalry battles in Loudoun County that were part of the Gettysburg Campaign. These battles broke out along an approximate 12-mile stretch of Ashby’s Gap Turnpike (today’s John Mosby Highway) when mounted soldiers clashed in summer 1863 — Aldie (June 17), Middleburg (June 19), and Upperville (June 21).

All three conflicts resulted in Union victories, but Confederate general J.E.B. Stuart maintained an upper hand, sparring with Union commander Alfred Pleasonton as a delay tactic to prevent him from gaining intelligence on Robert E. Lee’s movements. By preventing Federal forces from passing through local mountain gaps, Stuart’s cavalry allowed Lee’s troops to travel north unhindered. 

After all, it’s the cavalry (horse-mounted soldiers) who are the most mobile operating in roles of reconnaissance, screening, and skirmishing. “Cavalry protects the infantry,” explains O’Neill. “That’s one of their jobs. The other is to find the enemy.”

These three clashes took place between the famous battles of Brandy Station in Culpeper County, June 9, 1863 (the largest predominantly cavalry engagement of the entire Civil War, resulting in a Confederate victory), and Gettysburg, July 1–3, 1863, a win for the North. O’Neill points out, “These three cavalry battles were overshadowed by Gettysburg, [which] happened just 10 days later.”

About O’Neill

O’Neill lives in Virginia’s Northern Neck and comes from a distinguished career in law enforcement. His parents instilled a strong interest in reading and history, which led to his study of the Civil War, specifically the Union cavalry in the crucial year of 1863. On his mother’s side, O’Neill has two ancestors who fought in the war. 

O’Neill’s original edition of “Small but Important Riots” was released in 1993, but after gaining access to previously unpublished documents, O’Neill published a second edition in 2023 with an updated narrative and added information from recently discovered letters, diaries, and soldier records. “I think I cited 13 newspapers in the 1993 edition, but with today’s access to digital databases changing the way research is done, I cited 89 newspapers in this 2023 edition,” he says. After 30 years of searching the National Archives for records pertaining to the Civil War, O’Neill’s findings have significantly advanced the understanding of these three cavalry battles. 

The origin of O’Neill’s book title comes from U.S. Infantry Captain John W. Ames, who was in the area on June 21, 1863. From Aldie, he heard cavalry fighting around Upperville (about 12 miles west of Aldie), and listened to the battle throughout the day, later explaining that the cavalry was fighting “small but important riots.”

“Though Ames is away from the firing,” O’Neill says, “they heard cannon and found out it was the cavalry fighting…. There were a series of skirmishes during that day [June 21, 1863] that surrounded Upperville itself; Goose Creek Bridge is one of those areas.”

The Three Cavalry Battles

According to published records, Pleasonton’s superiors — President Lincoln, U.S. Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, and army commander Joseph Hooker — ordered Pleasonton to search for Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia who was heading into the Shenandoah Valley, north toward the Potomac River, and into Pennsylvania. “Hooker’s objective was to save Washington — the capital — from attack,” O’Neill explains. “Hooker was to send his cavalry out to look for Lee. But, Pleasanton disobeyed Hooker’s orders; I found documents that prove this.”

As cavalry commander, Stuart had the whole width of the Loudoun Valley to keep Federal forces away from Lee. Pleasanton was not to take his cavalry into the Loudoun Valley, but he did. And when Pleasonton and Stuart run into each other, that’s what leads to these three cavalry battles in June 1863.

Stuart was in the little mill village of Aldie when fighting broke out on Wednesday, June 17, at a sharp curve on Snickersville Turnpike. A stone monument commemorating the 1st Massachusetts Cavalry stands nearby, honoring those who fought at the Battle of Aldie. “It was erected by survivors of the 1st Massachusetts Cavalry; they suffered many heavy losses there,” O’Neill says.

An aspect of the Battle of Middleburg that has always been a mystery was its exact location. On June 17, French-American Union soldier Alfred Napoléon Duffié led his regiment into the Loudoun Valley, where they would ultimately perish. Having found a letter referring to the death of one of Duffié’s officers, O’Neill’s book at long last reveals the circumstances of their defeat. “Based on the information in that letter and further research, I was able to pinpoint where that battle was fought,” he explains. “Duffié, coming into Middleburg on the night of the 17th, was attacked, driven out of town, and retreated south. On the morning of the 18th he’s attacked again; that’s when his officer was killed. Duffié was coming into Middleburg via The Plains Road.”

Severe fighting broke out about one mile west of the village of Middleburg, near a cluster of 19th-century stone buildings still standing at what is now Mt. Defiance Historic Park. On Friday, June 19, the Battle of Middleburg enveloped the area around the blacksmith shop at the intersection of the old Zulla roadbed and John Mosby Highway. The Union’s 1st Maine Cavalry were fighting dismounted from their horses, and the outnumbered Confederates were almost overrun. A stone monument dedicated to the bravery of the 1st Maine Cavalry stands on the grounds of Mt. Defiance, and in the old Zulla roadbed stands a 12-pound Napoleon howitzer cannon that Confederates used as a defensive position. 

Stacked stone walls, still visible today, bordering Mt. Defiance provided cover for Union and Confederate soldiers along both sides of the old turnpike. In the evening of June 19, a storm rolled in, ending the Battle of Middleburg, which resulted in about 400 casualties. Churches became hospitals, including Aldie’s Mt. Zion Church, where graffiti by soldiers can still be seen on the walls. 

The Battle of Upperville occurred on the afternoon of Sunday, June 21, ending five days of cavalry engagements along Ashby’s Gap Turnpike including the area of the Goose Creek Bridge, which spans the waters of Goose Creek in four arches. Northern and Southern cavalry brigades totaling about 6,000 men with horse artillery clashed that afternoon in Upperville across the Ayrshire and Kirkby farms, between Trappe and Greengarden roads.

“That fight has been interpreted several different ways over the years,” O’Neill adds. “The owner of Kirkby Farm allowed me to walk the property and I was able to sort out that battle, as well.” Kirkby Farm was also the site of the Battle of Unison, which occurred months earlier, November 1–3, 1862. The farm is now permanently protected by a conservation easement with the Old Dominion Land Conservancy located in Purcellville.

By the night of June 21, almost a week’s worth of fighting resulted in fatigued and injured mounts, dwindling supplies, and high casualties on both sides. Just 10 days later, the Battle of Gettysburg (July 1–3, 1863) would break out. 

160 Years Later

In commemoration of the 160th anniversary of these three cavalry battles, NOVA Parks is teaming up with the Virginia Piedmont Heritage Area to provide a weekend program June 17 to 18. The weekend will include a family-friendly living history program at Mt. Zion Church in Aldie and guided tours at Mt. Defiance, and an all-day bus tour on June 17 will be led by VPHA Historian Emeritus Rich Gillespie. 

On June 18, O’Neill will present a talk on his second edition of “Small but Important Riots” at Buchanan Hall in Upperville. The event concludes with a book signing and a beer and wine reception. 

NOVA Parks Site Manager Tracy Gillespie, who invited O’Neill to speak, adds, “Bob’s book is extraordinary. He has shared a lifetime of learning through this narrative, which has been described as a ‘tactical study’ of the cavalry battles, but it’s so much more than that. It’s storytelling at its best!”

“Thirty years ago, there was no parkland there; it was all private property,” O’Neill points out. “But now we have Mt. Defiance Park and lots of other land placed in easements by folks who live out there.”

Reflecting on his research, O’Neill concludes, “Years ago, I met the late John Divine,” a nationally recognized authority on the Civil War and a native of the early 18th-century village of Waterford in Loudoun. “In 1980, John took me to the Route 50 corridor and explained what he understood about those battles. He suggested I try to write a book on it. I had never set out to do that, but one thing led to another. And I did. I hope that in 10 years someone else will take the story even further.”

Thanks to O’Neill and his dedication to research, we can learn more about these important cavalry battles and their role in the Civil War. And thanks to dedicated preservation efforts by NOVA Parks and other organizations, we can witness the fields and drive the roads where cavalrymen — and their proven steeds — changed history.

More information about the June 17 bus tour (10 a.m. to 5 p.m.) beginning at Mt. Zion Historic Park (40309 John Mosby Highway, Aldie, Virginia) and the June 18 (2 to 4 p.m.) lecture by O’Neill at Buchanan Hall in Upperville can be found at VPHA’s website at piedmontheritage.org. Information on O’Neill’s book and his other publications and articles in historical magazines can be found at smallbutimportantriots.com. ML

Published in the May 2023 issue of Middleburg Life.

Windy Hill at 40!

Written by Dulcy B. Hooper
Photos by Richard Hooper

Two weeks ago, Salamander Resort & Spa was the site of a well-deserved — and well-attended! — celebration of Middleburg’s Windy Hill Foundation. A full crowd of over 300 volunteers, staff, board members, and partner organizations attended the May 4 event, sharing stories of their involvement with Windy Hill and praising its mission: that of providing affordable housing, programs, and services that make a difference in the lives of residents. Fittingly, Windy Hill at 40 had over 40 sponsors, and was pleased to announce a generous $50,000 match contribution made by a local donor.

“Windy Hill creates a better community for everyone,” said Eloise Repeczky, executive director of Windy Hill Foundation. Windy Hill currently has 310 units, with 116 of those units located in Middleburg, The Plains, and Marshall. Slightly over 16% of Windy Hill residents in the local area are seniors and 37.2% are children.

Windy Hill started with one woman’s vision to improve the living conditions of her neighbors.  From her living room, Irene “Rene” Llewellyn began what would become the Windy Hill Foundation. At that time, the community was comprised of 15 families, some in homes with dirt floors. Residents shared six outhouses and two cold water spigots. All household water had to be carried home in buckets or jugs.

Windy Hill Foundation provides safe and affordable housing to low-income individuals, families, older adults, and adults with disabilities in Loudoun and Fauquier counties and encourages self-improvement and self-sufficiency among residents. In 2019, Windy Hill Foundation provided 310 units of housing in both Loudoun and Fauquier counties. The foundation also supports no-cost on-site programs and services for residents. 

Specific resident programs include after-school academic and social programs for children, including tutoring programs during the school year, family programming, and personal enrichment, social, and health programs for both younger and older adult residents. Windy Hill Foundation commits more than $200,000 annually to these programs, with help from many generous individual and organizational donors and grantors from Middleburg, Marshall, and The Plains, as well as the greater Washington, D.C., area. The goal of the Resident Services programming is to help residents to overcome some of the barriers — affordable housing, childcare, financial management, employment — that are making it difficult for them to move themselves and their families from affordable to market rate housing.

For more information about Windy Hill Foundation, contact Eloise Repeczky at (540) 687-3997 or by email at [email protected]. To make a donation to Windy Hill at 40, visit windyhillfoundation.com/volunteer/online-donation/2023-windy-hill-at-40-event-donation-page

Posted on May 19, 2023.

A view of the farmer's market during the 2016 season.

The Middleburg Community Farmers Market Opens for the 2023 Season

MIDDLEBURG, VA — The Town of Middleburg is pleased to announce that the Middleburg Community Farmers Market will open for the season on Saturday, May 20, from 9 a.m. to noon. The market is located at the Middleburg Community Charter School (101 N. Madison Street). The Middleburg Community Farmers Market will be open from 9 a.m. to noon every Saturday from May 20 through October 28, 2023.

Local vendors will offer many unique products at the Middleburg Community Farmers Market this year. Vendors for the 2023 season include The Pork Stork, C. Hess Orchards, Hidden Creek Farm, Cobbler View Farm, and Country Cottage Bakes.

During the 2023 season, local purveyors will offer homemade pickles, jams, jellies, honey, pork, grass-fed beef, fresh cut flowers, various baked goods, and a variety of seasonal fruits and vegetables.

The 2023 season of the Middleburg Community Farmers Market will also feature the Children’s Entrepreneur Market. Sponsored by the Middleburg Community Charter School, this special kid-only section of the farmers market will allow Loudoun County students ages 5-18 to exhibit their small businesses and craft products on the third Saturday of the month from May to October. Parents can visit the following link to sign up: Children’s Entrepreneur Market.

Middleburg Community Farmers Market is still accepting vendors for the 2023 season. Prospective vendors may visit middleburgva.gov/297/Farmers-Market for operating guidelines, terms of agreement, and an application. Contact Market Manager Kim Shelly at 703-598-5467 or [email protected] for additional information.

Please check the Middleburg Community Farmers Market website for additional information. Dogs on a leash are always welcome!

Posted on: May 19, 2023

Premier Promotional Products is Ready to Place Your Logo Where it Counts

Written by Lia Hobel | Photos by Kaitlin Hill

Picture this: you have a company event coming up and need branded giveaways to hand out. Your first thought might be to shop online. And when you do, you quickly realize that options are limited and offer no guarantee for the quality of what you’re about to purchase. 

Online ordering can be impersonal and oftentimes deceptive. Luckily for Hunt Country residents and beyond, there’s a local promotional marketing company that has a physical showroom and friendly service in Middleburg. 

Just off South Madison Street, Premier Promotional Products is a woman-owned company that offers personable interaction and honest feedback about products and logo designs. “We consider ourselves a branch of our clients,” shares Margaret vonGersdorff, president of PPP, speaking from the showroom floor that’s equipped with a variety of apparel and accessory options for customers to touch and peruse. The showroom opened in 2020 after being at the Village of Leesburg since 2004. VonGersdorff says she has never looked back regarding the decision to move to Middleburg. “The people that we meet here just fit and we love the town,” she adds. 

With 25 years of experience in the marketing space, vonGersdorff jokingly describes her team as the “logo police,” especially when it comes to color. VonGersdorff has many of the Pantone color chart codes down by memory. She and her two team members, Pamela Taylor and Kaitlyn Ahalt, work daily to make clients happy with their color selection, logo design, and placement. “When you go to an event or you’re giving something out, you want to be [proud] to say, ‘That’s my item. That’s my company name.’ And if you don’t have the right product that reflects on your company, you’re going to be sorry,” explains vonGersdorff. 

The PPP team frequents shows, both nationally and regionally, to see all products firsthand and stay ahead of trends. It’s there that they’re able to meet with manufacturers to touch and experience the products before the samples hit their Middleburg showroom floor. “We’ve been in this business so long that we know which [suppliers] are going to get a product shipment on time,” Ahalt notes, adding that the team can easily “weed out” the products that don’t meet a standard level of quality. 

VonGersdorff gives the common example of an event T-shirt. She boils it down to whether you want to give out a T-shirt someone wants to wear or one that a person would likely wash their car with because it’s uncomfortable. “We can help guide you, because if you’re looking online and you see a $7 T-shirt and a $10 T-shirt and say ‘we’ll get the $7 dollar one’ — do you really want the one that’s going to be itchy and hard or do you want that soft ring-spun cotton,” noting that they know the textile terminology and can provide a client options to touch and feel in-store. 

Oftentimes, customers are quick to gravitate toward pens and mugs when selecting products for a company event. However, vonGersdorff encourages customers to think outside the box. The goal of the PPP team is to find the most suitable option that will maximize the client’s visibility while honoring the customer’s criteria. “We take pride in saying, ‘Let’s pause for a minute. Give me your audience. Give me your goal,’” she explains. Some of the latest trends have included the Stanley Mugs and Under Armour apparel that clients can customize. 

Whether you have a small family reunion, need a customized flag for your boat, want to personalize your tailgate, or are gearing up for a major corporate event, the PPP team will happily handle it all. Clients are welcome to see samples and share ideas of what they want to achieve through their branded merchandise. From there, the PPP team will give their honest input and provide options. They’ll offer digital proofs and ask for multiple sign-offs before completing the order. Whether it’s one time or ten times of going back and forth, the PPP team is willing to make as many edits as required to the logo design until the client says it’s perfect. “We want our customers to shine. When they’re happy, we’re happy. We’re all shining together,” vonGersdorff beams. 

Walk-ins are welcome to the showroom, and visitors are guaranteed to be greeted by one of the three ladies that proudly represent Premier Promotional Products. With clients locally and nationally, the establishment remains a community marketing merchandise destination. 

Interested to learn more? On Friday, May 12, PPP will host an open house from 1 to 4 p.m. for anyone to come preview new spring and summer products. ML

Premier Promotional Products
15 South Madison Street
Middleburg, VA 20117

Published in the May 2023 issue of Middleburg Life.

Meet Your Neighbors: Megan, Drew, and Tilley Robitaille of Tilley’s Pet Supplies

Written by Carlo Massimo | Photos by Callie Broaddus

The walls of Tilley’s Pet Supplies are new. The paint, a comforting sage green, looks like it just dried; the metal of the freezers, filled with raw and gently-cooked dog food and liters of goat milk, is still shining. A framed black-and-white portrait of a horse watches over the register. The doors at Tilley’s Pet Supplies have only been open for a few weeks, and the store seems, impossibly, like it has both just opened and been there for decades.

Anyone who has ever met Megan Robitaille and her husband, Drew, will understand. The Robitailles don’t like to sit still. On Thursday, February 9 of this year, Megan noticed that the pet shop on East Washington in Middleburg, once the much-beloved Wylie Wagg and then a succession of other pet stores, had a liquidation sign out front. By Monday, Megan and Drew were in talks with the landlord; they were going to buy the shop. Neither of them had run a pet shop before, but of course that didn’t matter.

Megan is a lifelong Northern Virginian. Born in Warrenton, she grew up riding with the Casanova hunt and stayed local after graduate school. That’s about the only constant in her life. By her own admission, Megan doesn’t like straight lines or well-trodden paths. “My whole life has been like that,” she says, “going one direction and then suddenly in another.” At one point she had a bakery; at other times she taught at the elementary level and worked retail. 

Drew, born in New Hampshire, has been here since 2008. Like Megan, he grew up in an atmosphere of dogs and horses. He started riding as a 2-year-old and trained for show jumping until age 24. His grandparents bred and showed huskies, and his aunt took medals at the Westminster Kennel Club show twice. His family had a feed store, but Drew’s first business venture was as a photographer. These days he has given up show jumping for triathlon training, which has him out of bed every morning at four. 

There’s a third partner in this business, too: Tilley the corgi, one of the Robitailles’ four dogs. Tilley was a nice name for a store, Megan explains. “We have another dog named Bourbon,” she says, “which would have probably given people the wrong idea.” (“I wouldn’t have minded,” Drew adds.) Tilley and Bourbon are only a small part of the Robitailles’ vast herd of animals. At home they keep bees, 40 chickens, and tortoises, and are considering a Highland cow. Until 2019 they raised cattle on a small farm, which the pandemic forced them to sell.

For years this restless, energetic couple was without an outlet. That changed in February. Megan didn’t initially realize that the shop she was looking at, with the liquidation sign in front, had once been Wylie Wagg. She had visited once in 2004, just out of college, to buy food for her corgi. Wylie Wagg’s owners opened her eyes to what dog food could, or should, be. Up until then, she laughs, “I was feeding my dog crap.”

Megan and Drew explicitly modeled their shop on Wylie Wagg. They wanted to provide the best and most varied food for dogs and cats, and avoid the dreary atmosphere of most corporate pet supply stores. “Pet owners in Middleburg are generally conscientious and intelligent,” says Megan. “They’re readers. They know how to shop, and they love to try something new. This is like Christmas for them.”

Walk along the aisles of Tilley’s and you’ll see what she means. Every imaginable kind of pet food is on the shelves or in the freezers, from diet or hairball control dry food to extravagances like turducken dog food and — for German cats, presumably — Hasenpfeffer in dainty tins. Pumpkins and goat milk are popular remedies at the moment, in high demand, and customers generally know their way around the medicine shelves as well as the food selection. Their food meets all price points and is always holistic and authentic. Most of it, Drew notes with some pride, is human grade — just in case.

Megan insists that Tilley’s Pet Supplies could never have worked in a community without Middleburg’s farm-to-table culture. Even more, a shop like Tilley’s could not exist without the infectious energy of the Robitailles. Their ownership of the property only began on the first of March, and they opened for business on the 31st. In Drew’s words, they “gutted the place,” having painted, met with suppliers, mastered the point-of-sale system, hired staff, and learned, for the first time, how to run a pet supply store — and all this with children and animals and athletic training to keep up with. What’s their secret? Cassie Craft the manager and her six years of experience, according to the Robitailles. (Cassie is an artist as well; several of her paintings are displayed around Tilley’s.) 

It’s no surprise that Megan and Drew are already working on the next phase of Tilley’s. So far, the only products they sell for animals other than cats and dogs are a limited selection of horse treats and other odds and ends. This is going to change, as customers have been asking about rabbit and turtle feed. There’s been some discussion about offering grooming services, as well, but that poses logistical questions. However, Megan has plans to use some of the space in the back as a pet bakery (“a barkery,” she laughs), drawing on her years as a baker to make dog biscuits and cat treats. 

Tilley’s is open seven days a week. For more information, call 540-687-5033. ML

Tilley’s Pet Supplies
5B East Washington Street
Middleburg, VA 20117
[email protected]

Published in the May 2023 issue of Middleburg Life.

What a Time to Be Alive! Renowned Oceanographer and Ocean Advocate Dr. Sylvia Earle Speaks at Foxcroft School

MIDDLEBURG, VA — Dr. Sylvia Earle, renowned oceanographer and the 56th Alison Harrison Goodyear 1929 Fellow to speak at Foxcroft School, found her love of water and the ocean very early in life.

“I got knocked over by a wave when I was three,” she shared with Foxcroft students during her recent visit to the School’s campus. “The wave took me underwater, and at first it was a little scary, but then I realized it was fun, and I’ve been submerging ever since.” As a pioneering oceanographer, explorer, author, and conservationist with more than 7,000 hours spent underwater, that is no exaggeration.

Dubbed the “First Hero for the Planet” by Time Magazine and a “Living Legend” by the Library of Congress, Dr. Earle is the president and chairman of Mission Blue, an Explorer in Residence at the National Geographic Society, founder of Deep Ocean Exploration and Research Inc. (DOER), chair of the Advisory Council for the Harte Research Institute, and the first woman to become chief scientist of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). She is also the subject of the Emmy Award-winning Netflix documentary “Mission Blue” and has received more than 100 national and international honors and awards.

Ever the optimist and pragmatist, Dr. Earle wove her thoughts on the current climate and what can be done throughout her presentation, including this moving observation, “Earth is a biogeochemical miracle, and what we do to the rest of life on Earth determines what will happen to us. Again, I think we’re so lucky to see it, to understand we are one little piece of this amazing fabric of life, and we’ve been doing damage to that fabric, but you can also solve the problems. We could not do it a century ago, even 50 years ago. You can. You’ve come along at a moment when the technology exists, and the knowledge exists to really shape a future where we have a future.”

She also spoke with students about her early years as a botanist and two pivotal opportunities that helped solidify her career trajectory. The first was an opportunity to spend six weeks at sea studying seaweed and fish. Ultimately realizing she would be one woman among 70 men, she said it really wasn’t a problem. “I was focused on what I was there to do as a botanist. I was there as a professional.”

The second was an opportunity to live underwater for two weeks. “They didn’t expect women to apply, but some of us did. They allowed five of us to be chosen, but they couldn’t tolerate the idea that men and women could live [together] underwater. So they made a women’s team, and that created big headlines. 

“When people say ‘you can’t do that’ for whatever reason (you’re a girl, or you’re too young, or too old),” she advised students, “don’t let anybody for whatever reason steal your dreams, whatever your dreams are.”

In addition to speaking with the Foxcroft community, Dr. Earle visited the AP Biology and AP Chemistry classes and enjoyed lunch with several students interested in oceanography and ocean conservation. Later that evening, the local community was invited to campus to hear her speak.

A leader in STEM education for girls, Foxcroft recently announced an extraordinary gift for the Mars STEAM Wing to enhance its program to encourage girls to pursue studies in STEAM fields. The School offers an innovative curriculum that addresses challenges facing tomorrow’s workforce and provides relevant and stimulating learning experiences. A signature program at the school, the STEM initiative emphasizes inquiry-based labs, using technology with confidence and ease, and hands-on problem-solving that extends well beyond the classroom.

The Alison Harrison Goodyear ’29 Fellowship program, offered through the generosity of the family and friends of Alison Harrison Goodyear, Foxcroft Class of 1929, brings distinguished speakers and provocative performers to Foxcroft to deliver a keynote address and conduct small group seminars with students. 

Fellowship recipients during the program’s 56-year history include such remarkable voices as Maya Angelou, James Baker III, Doris Kearns Goodwin, David McCullough, Sally Ride, Barbara Walters, tech entrepreneur Sheena Allen, National Geographic “Adventurer of the Year” Jennifer Pharr Davis, “Hello Fears” founder Michelle Poler, NPR’s Morning Edition host Rachel Martin, GenHERation founder Katlyn Grasso, The Social Institute founder Laura Tierney, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Dr. Marcia Chatelain, Former Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James, and Haitian-American director and global philanthropist Claudine Oriol.

Photos courtesy of Christine McCrehin.

Posted on: April 25, 2023

“Metronome” at the Byrne Gallery

The Byrne Gallery in Middleburg is proud to announce its show for the month of May, “Metronome,” featuring paintings by Andy Hill and sculptures by Richard Binder. The form and structure of Hill’s colorful acrylic paintings and Binder’s stainless steel sculptures evoke the rhythms and cadences of music to the viewer.

This show will be on display from May 3 to June 4. There will be a special reception for the artists on Saturday, May 13, from 4 to 7 p.m. Both the show and reception are free and open to the public, and all are welcome to attend.

Andy Hill

Andy Hill is a D.C.-based artist who creates “art that opposes indifference.” He greatly values his creative process and, much like the music that inspires him, he views his finished works as completed performances. In his canvases, the artist seeks to elicit an emotional response from the viewer, whether negative or positive. This reaction to his work is of utmost importance to him, rather than no reaction at all.

Hill’s art strikes a balance between nostalgia and contemporary aesthetics by combining neon colors with neutrals, and metallics on tan and white backgrounds. The works included in Hill’s latest series, “The Metronome Collection,” form a front of symmetry from afar and can be distilled down to a detailed cadence when viewed up close. Most of his paintings for this exhibition are done on larger canvases which are influenced by his love of music and time spent in the music industry. “The Metronome Collection” is designed with a fluidity that carries the viewer through the paintings.

Richard Binder

I create sculpture using steel as my medium because it has the benefit of permanence, which is very important to me. In my previous profession as a physician, I had hundreds of my patients die, so you can understand why this sense of permanence resonates with me. “Life is transient; Steel has permanence!”

My work continues to evolve as I learn to manipulate steel in new and expressive ways. Many of my pieces are geometric forms; others are forms that are static; while still others appear to have a sense of motion or movement, often rising up into the free space above. They reflect the different dimensions of my own life as an engineer, a physician, and now a sculptor.

My hope is that my sculptures give meaning to those who view them, that they bring beauty into their vision of them, and that they make the viewer smile and feel better about the future.

Visit the Byrne Gallery to see “Metronome” on display for May 2023. The Byrne Gallery is located at 7 West Washington Street in Middleburg, Virginia. Gallery hours are Monday and Tuesday by appointment only, Wednesday through Saturday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday noon to 5 p.m. Contact the Byrne Gallery for more information at (540) 687-6986, [email protected], or visit thebyrnegallery.com.

Remembering Jim Poston, Middleburg’s Photographer

Written by Heidi Baumstark

They say a picture paints a thousand words. 

If so, then the late Middleburg photographer Jim Poston has uttered millions through the thousands of shots snapped over the course of his illustrious career behind the camera and in the community.

A Middleburg native, Poston was born September 5, 1944, and passed away at the age of 78 on February 24, 2023. One step inside his Middleburg home, and it is evident what drove him. The images covering his walls include Middleburg Life covers, photos of local theater and musical groups, camps for special needs children, car and motorcycle races, and, of course, equestrian affairs, including a few photos of Jackie Kennedy on her favorite horse.

For years, Poston was the official photographer for the Middleburg Christmas Parade. and His iconic capture of the Middleburg Hunt trotting down a snowy Washington Street with riders in brilliant red hunting attire, surrounded by hounds can be spotted throughout the village, forever immortalizing his talent. 

Poston is survived by his wife Cathy Bernache, his son and daughter, four grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren. 

Growing Up in Middleburg

Poston grew up in a cottage on Foxcroft School property where his father worked as a chauffeur. As a schoolboy, he attended Middleburg Elementary School (currently Middleburg Community Charter School) on N. Madison Street. In 1956, he and his father, Herman Poston, moved to W. Marshall Street, the same house he would later share with his wife of almost 34 years, Cathy, and raise his two children Karen and Jamie. Herman operated the old Humble Esso gas station located on E. Washington Street, and young “Jimmy” worked there as a teen. “Jimmy’s dad and friends would gather in the evenings after closing time and jam at the gas station playing bluegrass and old-time country music with his dad on the fiddle and friends on bass, banjo, and guitar,” Bernache says. “That was Middleburg back then. Jimmy had many musician friends — music was a big part of his life.”

His father also owned the building which housed the Hamburger Hut in town where he and Jimmy would have dinner every evening. “I remember it, too,” Bernache shares. “It was on the corner of Pendleton and Washington streets across from the Safeway.” The Middleburg Safeway was just one of the many Safeways where Poston worked, and he attended its grand opening in November 1966. Ten years later he and Bernache met. It was Valentine’s Day 1976. The couple married on New Year’s Eve in 1989. 

Photography Calls

Poston’s initial interest in photography can perhaps be credited to his grandmother, who gave him a Kodak camera when he was very young. That early introduction would pay off 40 years later. In 1998, Madelyn Marzani, then editor of Middleburg Life, walked into the Safeway and asked a cashier if he knew a photographer. The cashier pointed at Poston. The rest is history. 

Because of Marzani, his photography portfolio grew. His success allowed him to retire from Safeway in 2000 and start his own full-time business: Jim Poston Photography. His photographs have been published far and wide in publications including Middleburg Eccentric, Washington Life, Chase, Virginian Sportsman, and various motorcycle magazines. To keep current, he would read several photography magazines a month and was a frequent customer of McClanahan Camera’s in Warrenton. 

Marzani was one of his early photography mentors, but perhaps his most influential one was the late Howard Allen, known in the 1960s as the “Kennedy photographer.” In Allen’s studio, adjacent to The Fun Shop, the two photographers frequently collaborated on projects. Poston also worked with the late Audrey Windsor Bergner, a local author who composed several hardcover picture books featuring Hunt Country estates. Many of those photos were taken by Poston.  

Over his long career, his photo lens captured a variety of scenes: weddings, community events, real estate, Middleburg Spring Races, local hunts, polo matches, The Middleburg Players, Loudoun Ballet, performances by special needs children, and multiple events at Middleburg Community Center, The Hill School, Wakefield, Highland, Middleburg Montessori, and Notre Dame (now called Middleburg Academy). He also worked with the late Eura Lewis to chronicle historical photos for the future Middleburg Museum. His work is one of the most comprehensive documentations of Middleburg, from past to present.

Beyond scenes of Middleburg, “Motorcycles and cars were really his thing,” Bernache shares. In the early days, Poston raced his bike with friends on the local dirt tracks outside of Winchester. Later, he photographed races — both cars and motorcycles — from Summit Point, West Virginia, to Daytona’s Speedway in Florida. He loved classic sports cars and had several Jaguar E-Types of his own.  

Community Memories of Jim

Middleburg’s Town Council member Cindy Pearson has known Poston since childhood. “I grew up in Middleburg and we went to school together. My brother and Jimmy used to pal around together. Jimmy taught me photography and took me along to events and asked me to cover for him; some of my photos were in Middleburg Life. I like to say that I went to the University of Jim Poston.”

The last time Pearson saw Poston was in October 2022 at the 1000 Miglia, an Italian car rally in town. “There he stood, grinning from ear-to-ear with camera in-hand.” Pearson adds, “He always had that little smile. I can just picture him now, smiling up a storm.” 

Tom Sweitzer, co-founder of Middleburg’s A Place To Be — an award-winning therapeutic arts organization creating community through music therapy — has decades of memories of his friend of 30 years. In a touching tribute on Facebook, Sweitzer describes Poston, in his signature purple hat, as a “photographer that clicked every picture with his heart.” He adds that Poston was “in the shadows of every event, play, parade, and music event. He must have taken photos of 50 of my shows between 1995 to 2015. He was a kind and quiet soul. Some of his pictures won awards, but he did it to fulfill his mission in this world — to capture something beyond what an eye at the moment can grasp.”

Sweitzer noted that he saw Poston around Christmas with his purple hat on. “His sweet smile made me smile. I remember thinking to myself, I should really sit with him and catch up. Too late.”

Barbara Grove, former owner of the Harley-Davidson dealership in Winchester, remembers the many events Poston did with her and the special needs kids’ camp that she sponsored every summer. Bernache adds, “Jim would join Barbara at this big motorcycle rally out to Front Royal and welcome the kids. Anything with kids in need — that’s what gave him the greatest joy.”

Grove says, “Jim had a few loves in his life, and motorcycles were one of them. One day, Jim and I rode our motorcycles to Sky Meadows Park and he took a picture of me on my motorcycle that turned into a mural for the wall in my dealership. People have asked me where that photo was taken. That’s what Jim’s photography did — it made you look and admire.”

Middleburg native Howard Armfield is another close friend of Poston’s. “We met when we were 12 or 13; Jim was a couple years older than me when he moved into town behind the Safeway. As teenage boys we were interested in cars and worked on them with other friends in town. He was widely known because of all the photography he did for so many organizations. And he took pictures of several of the historical houses in town.” 

Patti Thomas, good friend and previous broker and owner of Thomas and Talbot, has known Poston since 1989. “My late husband, Phillip Thomas, and Jimmy were a fixture. My husband would say, ‘Quick, we’ve got a puffy cloud day; perfect for pictures.’ And they’d get in the car, Jimmy carrying all his camera gear, taking photos for our real estate brochures.” 

Of his work for Middleburg Life, Thomas adds, “It was like a social diary where everyone could see what was going on. The charities, races — he’d be behind the jumps, a true gentleman paparazzi. He’d capture these sweet candid shots. And he loved his Jaguars and motorcycles.” 

Martha Cotter, a resident of Middleburg, worked with American Children of SCORE, a local children’s music ensemble that performed for 15 years from 1992 to 2007 at Middleburg Community Center and other locations. “Jim was so supportive of children’s music. Going back from his dad playing fiddle at the Esso to these performances, he loved music and took such care to make sure he’d capture the children looking their best.” Cotter would go to his house and they would sit at his desk, going through all the photos. The photos would then get into Middleburg Life and he’d make the photos available to parents. As a result of this ensemble, a music school was later launched: The Community School of the Piedmont, where Cotter serves as executive director. 

“Jim was so supportive of children’s groups and those with special needs,” Cotter recalls. “We thought the world of him.” 

Jim’s Legacy Lives On

He loved this town. He loved to sit outside with his beloved cats and reminisce with friends stopping by. No one was a stranger. His door was always open. He took time to watch each sunset and the various wildlife that visited his backyard. Things like that were important to him. Bernache adds, “Referring to his backyard, he’d say, ‘I’ve had 70 years of enjoyment of that view.’ His children grew up here and had the advantage of walking out that same door and seeing all this nature.” 

His son, James “Jamie” Poston, carries on the tradition of working at the Middleburg Safeway. His daughter, Karen Hoosier, is a horsewoman dedicated to the rescue and rehab of horses in need. “He was so proud of his whole family,” Bernache shares, “and his granddaughter, Taylor Lester, who has become a talented professional photographer in her own right.”

In his last years, his interests focused on working with kids, special Middleburg events, motorcycles, and cars. “He would drop anything to do work for the kids. Kids and motorcycles — that was his joy,” explains Bernache. “He was just really genuine. Really humble, and generous like his father before him.” 

Poston captured the lives of so many, both through his lens, and with his wall-to-wall kindness and undeniable warmth. While he will certainly be sorely missed, he will always live on in the hearts of those who knew him and in the images he so brilliantly captured. ML

A Place To Be will honor Jim Poston and his photography work as part of their annual summer musical June 30 at 7 p.m., July 1 at 2 p.m., and July 2 at 2 p.m. at The Hill School in Middleburg. Visit aplacetobeva.org for more information.

Published in the April 2023 issue of Middleburg Life.