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Celebration in Hartland: Old Farm Winery’s First Anniversary

Story by Bill Kent
Photos by Michael Butcher

We’ve all seen it, somewhere in our lives: that house on the hill.

Jon Hickox first saw Longfield Manor when he was a teenager. It stood on a rise along what he and his friends called the “cut-through” connecting Evergreen Mills Road with Route 50.

He would look at the house on his way to carpentry jobs or farm work. As one of eight children born to a Navy captain, he worked for everything, up to and including a business degree at George Mason, his first jobs as a contractor, and then, a residential and commercial developer.

He would see that same house during hunting season, when, after a long day in the woods, he would gift his kill to families who lived along the road. He was intrigued to know that the farm itself dates back to the 1700s and that much of the land had once belonged to Hunt Country legend Randolph “Randy” Rouse, former Master of the Fairfax Hunt.

Newly renovated Longfield Manor is ready for special events.

“Every time I saw that house, I imagined that whoever lived there was happy in some way. Don’t get me wrong —I had a great childhood growing up in Burke Centre in Fairfax. I’ve seen plenty of great places to live. I’ve even built some. But this house was special.”

Twenty-five years later Hickox bought the house and the surrounding 35 acres. “I had put a bug in the ear of the developers that we should essentially get rid of the golf course community concept and put in a winery, kind of like farm-to-table but grape-to-glass. After I closed on the deal I drove out again [and] stood right where I was when I first saw the house. [I] said to myself, ‘I have to turn this into something amazing.’”

I don’t see us as making wine. I see us making happiness.

– Hickox

It’s been nearly a year since Hickox opened Old Farm Winery at Hartland. It is his fourth Virginia vineyard, second winery, and the first in Loudoun County and, perhaps, in the entire state, to not merely grow grapes, but act as an event center and community focal point for the Hartland community, an 800-acre Aldie luxury residential development.

For Hickox and his staff of eight, it has been a year of successes, lessons, and “moments so special that, for me at least, there’s so much more in being part of a community.” He continues, “It isn’t enough to put a good wine in a bottle and sell it at a fair price. I don’t see us as making wine. I see us making happiness.”

As he did when building houses, Hickox has done every job at Old Farm Winery from planting the vines, to working the tasting room, to restoring the farm’s main house.

His favorite job? “The crush. That’s spending twelve hours to harvest grapes, crush them all, send the juice to tanks, then cleaning everything up. It is extremely intense. To work with a team and to endure the great physical non-stop efforts all working towards a common goal in such a setting is an amazing experience. It’s like running a marathon but nobody can finish alone.”

All that crushing happens at The Winery at Bull Run, Hickox’s first foray into wine making. Currently celebrating its tenth year, Bull Run was born when the 2008 recession doomed another developer’s Centreville residential project. Hickox bought the land and decided that the region may not need more houses as much as a more attractive use of the countryside. 

“I like wine but I don’t have a complex palate. What I enjoy is getting out into the open areas with my family and experiencing the history, the scenery, the flavor, and character of a place. You can do that with wine. It was enough to get me interested.”

He planted grapes, sited the tasting room to take advantage of the landscape, hired an expert winemaker, and promoted the winery to both nearby Washington, D.C. residents and Hunt Country locals. 

He wasn’t sure if the winery was going to succeed until one day when he visited it anonymously on a summer weekend. “I saw that one woman was sitting by herself and seemed very sad. I asked very discreetly of the tasting room staff if there was anything we could do. They had heard she was going through a difficult breakup, so we left well enough alone. An hour later, I saw her talking to someone and her mood had changed a little.”

A month later Hickox heard that the two he saw chatting had become engaged at the winery. A week after that she came right up to Hickox and asked him if he owned the winery. “I said I did, was there anything wrong? She said nothing was wrong — in fact, so many good things had happened to her here, she wanted to ask me if she could have her wedding here. Of course, I said ‘yes.’ That was one of our first, and, as far as I’m concerned, best weddings at Bull Run.”

And it was proof for Hickox that wineries are more than just places to make, taste, and buy wine. “We have the opportunity to become part of people’s lives. Those people are a community, whether they’re from out of state or the next town over. From then on, I knew that putting a winery into a community could be a great thing.”

He admits the challenge of opening a vineyard during the pandemic “…was scary at times. I had to reassure my bankers that the pandemic restrictions would end and that people would one day want to go into an enclosed building and eat and drink. We had supply chain problems for what we needed to build the tasting room and restore the farmhouse. At one point the price of lumber went up 280 percent.”

“We have the opportunity to become part of people’s lives. Those people are a community, whether they’re from out of state or the next town over.”

– Hickox

Throughout his renovations, Hickox was careful to keep the simple, modest lines of the farmhouse. Inside, the rooms are slowly being renovated into meeting rooms and office spaces with a bridal suite taking up much of the second floor.

Hickox wanted to be a good neighbor to those coming into the Hartland development so he planted his vines to give open views to the nearby homeowners, and put some distance between them and the areas of the winery where festivities occur. Two older structures dating back to the 1700s will be converted into wine making and storage areas. A “family-friendly” area is located on a rise above the tasting area. 

The outdoor bar has a great view of the vines with Longfield Manor in the background.

His wife suggested that he offer a Hunt Country-themed wine. Created by Bull Run Winery winemaker Ashton Lough (with a tip of the hat to Randy Rouse), the mildly sweet white “Tally Ho” has been this year’s best seller. “Our Tally-Ho, a white Virginia blend with Vidal Blanc, Traminette, and Seyval Blanc has been our flagship white. [It’s] named after a foxhunting term and our very rich foxhunting history in Loudoun County,” CJ Evans, the tasting room manager at Old Farm, explains. The winery also offers a hard cider — an unusual touch that reflects the regional roots. 

 “Then it was all about putting our place on the map. Ours isn’t like the wineries on major roads. People have to know where we are and want to find us.” 

A lineup of Old Farm favorites including the rosé, hard cider, and Tally-Ho.

He sought a balance between themed nights for the neighbors and weekend events that would draw visitors from further away. Movie nights, trivia nights and wine pairings with cookies and barbecue gave way to weekend gatherings for Jeep owners, and six charitable fundraisers for causes ranging from breast cancer research to environmental preservation. “We reached out locally to find out what our community wanted to support and offered our facilities as a way of supporting them.” Evans adds, “We had a Lū’au-themed event with a pig roast, and fun and games for all.  It was the first time …where I saw the promise in the space we are fortunate to have here.”

On Valentine’s Day, the winery offered a special contest for military personnel and first responders: a drawing in which the winner got a free wedding at the winery.

And it was at that August wedding of Army officer Nicholas Andrew Greene and Jordyn Emma Buckingham, that Hickox felt that Old Farm Winery was going to be a success.

“I walked around and, believe me, I was as nervous as a bride’s father. This was the most important moment in this couple’s life and everything had to go right.”

Did it? “Yes, it did, for them. For me, I walked around and I was surrounded by people who were having a good time. Even the ones that cry at weddings — it was all good. We made some happiness that day.” ML

This article first appeared in the October 2022 issue.

Land Trust of Virginia Announces New Easement

12 Building Lots erased, Scenic Rural Viewshed Preserved

Contact:  Sally Price, Executive Director
540-687-8441
Sally@landtrustva.org

MIDDLEBURG, Va., Oct. 10, 2022 – The Land Trust of Virginia (LTV) is pleased to announce a conservation easement on Brian and Kalie Lasley’s property in Rectortown, Fauquier County. This 37.5-acre property ensures the scenic viewshed along Crenshaw Road will remain for future generations.

“I grew up in L.A. so I know what urban sprawl looks like when there is no type of plan in place,” said Kalie. “We’ve watched the development creep out to this area and know that will continue to happen unless something is done. That is part of the reason why we moved to this area, to be a part of a community that is and will remain, rural and so now we have played a part by ensuring that this land will not become a housing development.”

The Lasley’s property includes nearly 1,000 feet of frontage on Crenshaw Road and is located within the Cromwell’s Run Rural Historic District. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places and Virginia Landmarks Register in 2008, this district comprises of over 14,000 acres of rolling farmland centered along Atoka Road. During the Civil War it saw significant activity due to its close association with Confederate Colonel John S. Mosby and his infamous Rangers. Though beef and dairy cattle are still raised there, horses have become an important basis of the economy, and the predominance of foxhunting within the district since the early 20th century has earned the area its sobriquet as Virginia’s “Hunt Country.”

Courtesy of Land Trust of Virginia.

Additional natural resources now protected include about 27 acres of “Prime Farmland Soils” or “Farmland Soils of Statewide Importance” and nine acres of forest. 

“The Lasley’s have been wonderful supporters of LTV for many years and their property is a beautiful piece of rural Fauquier County,” said LTV Executive Director, Sally Price. “We are excited to record an easement with this family that truly understands our work and wants to ensure the future of our open space.”

The Lasley’s easement is the 220th easement completed by the Land Trust of Virginia. For more information about their work, please visit http://www.landtrustva.org.

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About the Land Trust of Virginia

The Land Trust of Virginia is a nonprofit organization that partners with private landowners who voluntarily protect and preserve properties with significant historic, scenic, or ecological value. LTV has worked with 220 families, conserving a total of 26,145 acres in 24 counties in Virginia. While LTV charges landowners for their services, the fees charged only cover about 28% of LTV’s actual costs so fundraising is essential to our mission.

The Red Carpet Comes to Hunt Country: 10 Years of the Middleburg Film Festival

Written by Will Thompson

For the past 10 years, the Middleburg Film Festival has celebrated the best of film, connecting the Hunt Country community with the visual arts as a major stop on the path to the national awards circuit. Since its inception, the festival has become home to world and regional premieres, established itself as a recognized and celebrated destination for the arts, and  welcomed some of the world’s most talented actors, directors, and filmmaking professionals. 

This October will mark the festival’s 10th anniversary and attendees can anticipate more of what they have come to love over the past decade. As the air begins to crisp and the trees burst with fall colors, downtown Middleburg will be transformed to a hub for film in an event that Town & Country called “one of the most interesting (and influential) on the road winding toward the Academy Awards.” The four-day festival will feature carefully curated selections of films with opening night events on Thursday and screenings throughout the day on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. The festival’s 10th-anniversary selections will include some of this year’s most buzz-worthy blockbusters, powerful independent films, and captivating documentaries. The 2021 festival boasted 42 Oscar nominations among its selections including Best Picture nominee “Belfast,” Best Actress contender Olivia Coleman from “The Lost Daughter,” and Best Documentary Feature “Flee — a record that organizers have set out to beat during the 10th anniversary.

Kenneth Branagh addresses a crowd at the 2021 Middleburg Film Festival. Photo by Shannon Finney.

Complementing the many films, the festival will also feature Q&A sessions and conversations with many of its previous special guests – a list that has included names such as Kenneth Branagh, Dakota Johnson, Aldis Hodge, Emma Stone, and Viggo Mortensen – as well as artists who are new to the festival.

Dakota Johnson sits down for an interview with Variety awards editor, Clayton Davis, at the 2021 festival. Photo by Shannon Finney.

Attendees can expect to hear from the movie stars, visionaries, and artists who bring storied passion, humor, and drama to life on the silver screen during intimate “Fireside Chats” at festival venues, “Wine & Conversation” events at local vineyards and breweries, farm-to-table dinners, and parties that promise to mix some of Hollywood’s brightest stars with local festival patrons. Among the festival’s out-of-town attendees will be many composer and songwriter honorees who are coming together for a once-in-a-lifetime concert featuring selections of their most memorable work. 

“We couldn’t be more thrilled to be celebrating our 10th anniversary,” says Susan Koch, the festival’s executive director. “When Sheila Johnson founded the festival in 2013, it was with the mission to use the power of film to inspire, educate and engage our community and through this, increase our understanding of the world and one another – and our mission hasn’t changed since then. I think what makes the festival special is not only the quality of the films and conversations, but the sense of community that’s created.”

“We’re also committed to showcasing diverse voices and perspectives from all over the world,” Koch adds.

Sheila Johnson. Photo by Drew Xeron.

To prepare for the festival, the Town of Middleburg is planning a 10-day lead up to the event beginning on Monday, October 3 at Salamander Resort & Spa and ending on October 12 with a block party at Old Ox Brewery. “We’re very appreciative of all those who helped us along the way including our Board of Directors, Film Advisory Board, sponsors, the film community, and of course, the Town of Middleburg,” Koch says. 

The 2022 festival promises to bring the red carpet experience to Middleburg while giving Hunt Country community members the opportunity to be educated, inspired, and entertained by some of this year’s most powerful films and talented filmmakers.

The festival is scheduled for October 13 to 16 at venues in and around downtown Middleburg. Advance festival passes and individual tickets are on sale now on the festival’s website, middleburgfilm.org. ML

This article first appeared in the October 2022 issue.

New, Noteworthy, and Need-to-visit: Hunt Country Wineries and Vineyards Off the Beaten Path

With the cool autumn air comes a desire to embrace the season and gather with friends and family at one of the many vineyards or wineries throughout the Virginia wine region. Luckily, no matter what vintage or grape varietals you prefer, there’s something for everyone in Hunt Country.

We’ve rounded up local wineries and vineyards that are ripe for the picking to consider adding to your fall bucket list or upcoming wine tour. 

Three Creeks Winery

18548 Harmony Church Road
Hamilton, VA 20158

For a hidden gem just minutes from Leesburg, wine devotees should not overlook Three Creeks Winery on Harmony Church Road. Owners P.J. and John Lawrence are known for their hospitality and love getting to know their patrons, making it feel like a truly intimate experience. 

The adult-only winery offers vineyard views with outdoor seating in a serene setting. Grab a glass and have a seat near one of the creeks or head into the barn for a tasting to enjoy European-style wines in French varietals grown in Virginia’s soil. 

The winery offers six reds and four whites as well as a rosé made with grapes from a selection of Virginia vineyards. Two of the reds include grapes from the state of Washington and Northern California. The 2019 Sur-Lie Viognier, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sur-Lie Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, and Melange Rouge all received silver medals at the 2022 Governor’s Cup competition.

Endhardt Vineyards. Courtesy of Endhardt Vineyards.

Endhardt Vineyards

19600 Lincoln Road
Purcellville, VA 20132

Endhardt Vineyards is situated on 46 acres of idyllic rolling hills with 11 acres of vines. Located a few miles outside the village of Lincoln near Purcellville, owner Johannes (known as “Hannes”) Endhardt, and his wife, Sarah, opened the winery in 2021. “We are focused on creating memorable, high-quality Virginia wines while providing an incredible atmosphere to connect with family and friends,” Hannes says.

Guests will enjoy the beautiful vista overlooking grape vines while sampling  their wine selection. Hannes recommends a stainless steel 2021 Chardonnay that is finished on some very light oak. Another popular choice is the 2019 Bordeaux blend that has 50 percent Merlot, 25 percent Cab Franc and 25 percent Petit Verdot resulting in “beautiful notes of red currant and dark cherry with a light pepper finish.”

Hope Flower Farm and Winery

40905 Stumptown Road
Waterford, VA 20197

Picture meandering around a flower field bursting with color as you enjoy a house-made wine or cider. You can make this experience come to life with a visit to Hope Flower Farm and Winery!

October marks the height of dahlia season at Hope Flower Farm in Waterford — the perfect occasion to snip flowers and sip one of the farm’s seasonal drinks. The “cut your own” flowers at Hope’s harvest fields make it a sought-out destination for picnics, photo shoots, and outdoor gatherings. Guests can walk around the farm and see the gardens, the animals, and enjoy being surrounded by the floral beauty.

The farm features flower-inspired wines from around the world including a seasonally driven fall wine selection. In addition to wines, the farm also makes ciders including the “Jack Cat,” which is a hard apple cider with hints of hops. The newest addition to the menu is the farm’s Strawberry Lavender drink.

Purchased by Holly and Evan Chapple in July 2015, this historic 25-acre estate was the beginning of an exciting new chapter for Holly’s successful floral and event business, Holly Heider Chapple Flowers.

Holly was able to expand from her home-based studio of 23 years to the rural retreat that now serves as a gathering place to teach and mentor fellow floral designers.

The estate, once a working dairy farm, is named in honor of the Hope family that farmed the land for over 60 years. The farm includes a stone Quaker house built in 1820, three barns, a guesthouse, and a smaller barn which serves as a studio. 

Already known as a playground for floral design, Hope Flower Farm is gaining a well deserved reputation as a social spot for a glass of vino in a field of flowers. 

Bluemont Station Brewery & Winery. Courtesy of Bluemont Station Brewery & Winery.

Bluemont Station Brewery & Winery

18301 Whitehall Estate Lane
Bluemont, VA 20135 

For a total crowd-pleaser, set your sights on Bluemont Station Brewery & Winery, located at Whitehall Estate. Towering 100-year-old trees offer shade and tranquility on this 50-acre countryside escape. Their slogan, “Come together and visit often,” accurately captures the ambiance of this Loudoun newcomer. In addition to pours of your choice, guests have the opportunity to sample a wide variety of dining options. 

The property, a combination of rustic charm and southern elegance, has been owned by David Weinschel and Doug Armstrong since 1993. Previously Whitehall Estate,  it served solely as a wedding and events venue until March when it was transformed into a brewery and winery. “Being a wedding venue for years, people would come out, they would enjoy this beautiful property and then we’d never see them again,” says Doug, who is enthusiastic about the new operation. They’ve been growing Cabernet Franc grapes on the property for 10 years, in preparation.

The name “Bluemont Station” is a nod to Bluemont’s rail line past. The line went right across the front of the property, connecting Washington, D.C’s social elite to a mountain “cool air” retreat. While visiting Bluemont Station Brewery & Winery, guests can check out a vintage 1926 train caboose that has been restored and is now a centerpiece of the facility and its brand.

Hope Flower Farm and Winery. Courtesy of Hope Flower Farm and Winery.

October One Vineyard

7 Loudoun Street SW
Leesburg, VA 20175

Recently added to the Leesburg scene is a wine tasting room called One October, or O1V. The owners, Bob and Loree Rupy, opened the shop in August after years of experience growing grapes and making wine at their vineyard. In 2013, they planted their first grapes for the brand on their 30-acre Bluemont property. At first, the Rupys sold locally at farmers markets and events before expanding to the Leesburg brick-and-mortar facility.

One October is open Wednesday through Sunday. O1V wines include a Viognier, Albariño, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Cabernet Franc. Guests can either enjoy a flight or a glass on the outside patio or inside for a modernized, aesthetically pleasing atmosphere.

Eagle Tree Farm Vineyards

15100 Harrison Hill Lane
Leesburg, VA 20176

Venture off Highway 15 and take the gravel road less traveled to Eagle Tree Farm Vineyards which occupies a beautiful slice of rural Virginia. The family-owned, chef-driven winery and full-service restaurant sells estate-grown and vinified wines for your enjoyment.  

Eagle Tree is known for blueberry picking in the spring, but to wine enthusiasts and foodies, the place is much more. The picturesque grounds feature an outdoor pavilion with a wood-fired oven for pizzas and a nature trail. The property is open during the weekend and weekday evenings and is also family friendly.
Lori McKeever and Head Chef, Jeff Judge, are co-owners of the restaurant and vineyard. The restaurant is open year-round.  With Chardonnay, Viognier, Cab Franc, Talon, and Tannat, there’s something for everyone in your party. ML

This article originally appeared in the October 2022 issue.

History and Art Collide at Burwell-Morgan Mill

Written by Heidi Baumstark

In 1782, during the final stages of the Revolutionary War, two men struck out on a business venture – the Burwell-Morgan Mill – which became one of the most successful merchant mills in the colony of Virginia. Continuing a 200-plus-year legacy in the heart of the Shenandoah Valley, its wheels still turn today to produce freshly ground grain. 

The two founders – Nathaniel Burwell (1750-1814), a Tidewater planter and great grandson of former royal governor of Virginia, Robert “King” Carter, and Daniel Morgan (1736-1802), honored Revolutionary War hero and wagoneer – came together to initiate the project in the tiny hamlet of Millwood, just 23 minutes from Middleburg. 

Art Old and New

The mill itself is a piece of art. Its lower portions are built of rugged, native limestone, and a walk through the front door opens to 200-year-old scroll and block lettering on the rustic walls. The structure is listed on both the National Register of Historic Places and the Virginia Landmarks Register.

Twice a year, the mill transforms into an art venue for the Art at the Mill show. Fine art in various forms – paintings, metalwork, pottery, ceramics, woodwork, and sculptures – is on display and for sale from over 300 gifted artists near and far. The 2022 fall show will be held from October 1 to 16. Patron’s Night, a ticketed evening gala event that includes local eats and spirited beverages, will kick off the exhibit on September 30. 

Nathan Stalvey is the director of the Clarke County Historical Association (CCHA), the organization that owns the mill. Stalvey earned a Master of Arts in Public History and Museum Management and a Bachelor of Arts in History from the University of South Carolina where he worked as curator of traveling exhibits and graphic design at McKissick Museum.  

“Art at the Mill is our primary fundraiser,” Stalvey says. “Funds generated help keep the water wheel turning now and for future generations so they can understand the important history it plays in the story of Clarke County and the Commonwealth of Virginia.”

Kathy Campbell is a former CCHA board president and in the past has chaired the art show committee. She lives in neighboring Boyce and is an artist who taught art at Clarke County High School for 12 years. 

“The first [art] show was in 1990; it started as an idea to raise money for the mill’s restoration,” Campbell explains. “We have a little bit of everything in the art pieces: horses, barns, landscapes, foxes, nature scenes, abstract art. The jury works hard on picking different things to showcase. A whole team of people set up the show which includes hanging each piece (a puzzle in itself). This team is led by Snow Fielding who has been involved with the show in many capacities since the early days.”

Kathy Hudson of Berryville is on the CCHA board and currently chairs the art show committee. “We get local artists and many others from out of state,” she notes. Hudson came to Clarke County in 1985 from Pennsylvania. When she first spotted the mill, she remembers, “I was instantly enamored and taken with the area’s history.” She credits the mill as the reason she chose to stay in Virginia.

“Over the years, the caliber of the art [has been] amazing,” Hudson says. Local artist Gwen Casey-Higgins supports the art shows behind-the-scenes by responding to artists’ inquiries and handling all the advertising. “She’s my right-hand person; I’d be lost without her,” Hudson shares. 

The show is juried, requiring artists to submit photos of their work for possible inclusion. Art is displayed on the main and upper levels; extra wall units are installed for additional space to hang the multitude of pieces. “People make it an annual event to come here,” Hudson says. “Art is one way to bring people together.” 

The Mill’s History

The mill was built between 1782 and 1785 when the changing economy in Europe caused a sudden demand for grains. With Burwell’s 8,000 acres, he had the land, but he needed a partner. Enter Daniel Morgan. 

Before the war, Burwell was a 1774 graduate of the College of William and Mary. Morgan was from the north but his exact birthplace is unknown; he lacked a formal education and was a farmer. He became an experienced wagoneer who hauled freight to the eastern part of the Virginia Colony. Though Burwell and Morgan had very different starts in life, they shared one thing: their military service in the Revolutionary War (1775-1783).When Burwell chose Morgan as his business partner, he had already known of Morgan’s success in the military and as a businessman. Thus began a partnership between the Colonel and the General.

The lowest level of the four-story mill houses the mechanical gears including the huge wooden water wheel that is 20 feet in diameter and turns the French buhr stones on the main level for grain grinding. These gears rotate as a result of falling water provided by Spout Run.The wooden third and fourth stories were added in 1877.

“The mill’s number one purpose was to make money. This mill was used for mass production. Its [products] were put in hogshead [barrels] for export,” Stalvey shares. Flour produced here was sent to ports in Alexandria and Dumfries for shipment to Europe and the West Indies.

According to the 1969-1970 “Proceedings of the Clarke County Historical Association: The History of The Millwood Mill 1782-1785” booklet, the area “mushroomed into a thriving post-Revolutionary village with the large merchant mill as its economic heart, including also a tanyard, a fine extensive manufactory of leather, a boot and sow maker, a large store, a tailor, a blacksmith, a waggoner, one tavern, two distilleries, and a post office.” 

Carl Maples of Berryville has volunteered at the mill for 20 years. “The Buttery [Restaurant] across the street was originally the grog shop,” he confirms. “That’s where they stored barrels [of spirits].”  

On Saturday mornings, local volunteer millers and Stalvey stay busy grinding various grains including corn varieties, buckwheat, rye, nine-grain, and wheat, all of which are available for purchase at the mill. The mill also sells recipe books so customers can bake up a fresh batch of bread at home. According to Jess Foltz, wine manager at the Locke Store across the street, “The Buttery uses the mill’s rye flour in their sourdough breads.” 

In addition to owning the 18th-century mill, CCHA owns two more 19th-century structures on the property: the miller’s house and a tollhouse that allowed paying passengers through on what was then a section of the original U.S. Route 50. The meadow surrounding the mill is an inviting space with picnic tables dotted around Spout Run, a tributary of the Shenandoah River.   

Preservation for Future Generations

To walk around this mill is to witness the vision of Burwell and Morgan and appreciate the investment and hard work by many villagers to make it a success. As the nation was just breaking free from Britain, the mill was busy providing a valuable resource for those who lived here.

Stalvey points out, “Millwood sprung up around this mill and was a center of economic activity. In its heyday, the mill served as a local gathering place. And it continues to serve as an anchor for Millwood, bringing in people from all over. Making sure the mill is preserved and operational for present and future generations is at the very heart of CCHA’s mission.”

With regard to the art show, Hudson emphasizes, “It’s a labor of love for the mill and the community.”

Burwell-Morgan Mill is located at 15 Tannery Lane in Millwood. For tickets to Patron’s Night, (September 30, 6 – 9 p.m.) and more information on Art at the Mill (October 1 – 16, Saturdays 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. and Sunday through Friday, 12 p.m. – 5 p.m.), please visit: clarkehistory.org/art-mill.html. ML

This article first appeared in the September 2022 issue.

A Day in the Life of a Creighton Farms Family

Early on a summer morning, the Groupe family can be found relaxing on the back porch of their home in the Creighton Farms community, overlooking the golf course as they enjoy coffee and breakfast in the sunshine. Katie and Johnny Groupe have lived with their three children in Creighton Farms for the last two years in an atmosphere that Katie Groupe describes as “almost resort living without being at a resort.” Creighton Farms is a gated club community nestled in the rolling hills of horse country just outside of Aldie with abundant amenities including golf courses, tennis and pickleball courts, a pool, a social club, and year-round events and activities for children and adults alike.

Katie and Johnny Groupe.

“People see Creighton when they see the gates and they think it’s stuffy, and it couldn’t be farther from that,” Katie says. “It’s really laid back and enjoyable and stress free.” The Groupes were attracted to the slower country lifestyle in Loudoun County after living in Old Town, Alexandria. “When you’re in the city, it’s such a different mindset… from being in an urban environment to being out here where you can see the mountains and the rolling fields. And, I was always drawn to the Middleburg area,” Katie notes. “The view, the horse country, it’s just so peaceful to me, and also Johnny as well.”

Johnny, who is originally from the Northern Virginia area and runs a civil engineering company, is a long-time golfer and was drawn to the golf program at Creighton Farms. “I never knew about the [golf] community in Loudoun County so it was a pretty easy decision for us once we got to meet the members and our friends that we have now,” he says. He highlighted the golf tournament opportunities for adult and junior players, including charity tournaments.

Taking advantage of the driving range.

As parents of three young children, Katie and Johnny Groupe appreciate the safety of the community and the youth opportunities that are offered by Creighton Farms. Katie grew up in a similar community in Augusta, Georgia, and wanted the same environment for her family. “I know what it feels like to grow up in a community where you just feel safe, where you ride your golf carts around and meet your friends and ride your bikes everywhere. It’s just wonderful, so it felt like coming home when we started building here,” Katie remembers.

The Groupe kids.

Creighton Farms hosts plenty of events and activities for families including summer camps, holiday parades, and even weekly movie nights on Friday evenings. “You drop the kids downstairs and they show a movie while the adults can have a nice dinner upstairs and enjoy two hours for ourselves which is kind of like a little built-in babysitter,” Johnny says.

The Groupe’s children attend Loudoun Country Day School where Katie is an active member of the school board, but during the summer they have made the most of Creighton’s golf camps and visiting the club’s pool. Additionally, the club offers fine dining with weekend specials and plenty of family-friendly options. Katie recalls a time when she requested lemon pepper chicken fingers although they were not a listed menu option. “The chef [whipped] up his own lemon pepper seasoning. It was just wonderful. [It] makes you feel special.”

While all lots in Creighton Farms come with a club membership offer attached, it is optional, but most residents accept and embrace the social opportunities of the sports and activities. “I’d say 95% of the residents are members, so you get to know your neighbors very well,” Johnny explains.

The Groupe family relaxes by the golf course.

Katie says that the family has everything they need within the gates of the community or just a short drive away. “Living in here, we always laugh, we really don’t want to leave the gate,” she says. “It’s wholesome.”

The Groupes appreciate the relaxation and fun of Creighton Farms and encourage others to come experience it. “When the right lot and the right builder and the right house all came together, we jumped on the opportunity. We couldn’t see being anywhere else,” Johnny says. ML

This article first appeared in the September 2022 Issue.

“Shades of Autumn” at the Byrne Gallery

For Immediate Release:
September 22, 2022
The Byrne Gallery 
Middleburg, VA

The Byrne Gallery in Middleburg, Virginia, is proud to present Shades of Autumn, the latest series of plein air landscape and garden oil paintings by noted Virginia painter, Robert Thoren. This new exhibition for the month of October features impressionistic views that showcase the beauty of the Virginia countryside as well as scenes from Italy and France. Goose Creek and the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains are both represented in the splendor of the autumn season with color and majesty. The exhibition will be on display from October 5th – 30th, 2022. There will be a reception for the artist on Saturday, October 8th from 4:00 – 7:00, and a gallery talk on Saturday, October 15th, from 2:00-4:00. Drinks and refreshments will be provided. Both events and the exhibition are open to the public and all are invited to attend. 

Robert Thoren is an avid proponent and practitioner of plein air painting.  He has relished the opportunity to paint the Northern Virginia landscape, particularly the lush terrain of the Shenandoah Valley. Before moving to Virginia in 1993, Robert studied with teachers closely associated with the late Russian emigre impressionist Sergei Bongart.  Mr. Bongart’s work was often featured in exhibitions at the Frye Gallery in Seattle along with other noted artists and fellow emigres Nicolai Fechin and Leon Gaspard. 

Like Sergei Bongart, Robert Thoren paints in a sensual, impressionistic style emphasizing vivid color and employ fresh dramatic brushstrokes. His artistic goal is to suggest spontaneity while maintaining a firm mastery of drawing and painting techniques. In his many still lifes, Robert celebrates the Bongart school’s focus upon color and its ability to transform everyday objects into scenes of powerful emotion. Robert teaches both oil and acrylic landscape and still life painting through the Fairfax County Parks Authority.  He is an active member of the Washington Society of Landscape Painters.

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 by phone at (540) 687-6986, by email at byrnegallery@aol.com, or online at thebyrnegallery.com

10th Annual Middleburg Film Festival Announcements

Middleburg, VA, September 22, 2022The Middleburg Film Festival announced today a first
round of programming for its 10th year, which is returning with a selection of film screenings,
conversations and events October 13-16. Launching the four-day festival is WHITE, NOISE
from Academy Award-nominated writer/director Noah Baumbach. Based on Don DeLillo’s
novel of the same name, the black comedy stars Adam Driver as a renowned professor of Hitler
studies who along with his wife (Greta Gerwig) and children face an “airborne toxic event”
hanging over their town that threatens everyone’s lives. Don Cheadle, Jodie Turner-Smith, Sam
Nivola and Raffey Cassidy also star. Baumbach will be returning to MFF to accept the 10th
Anniversary Spotlight Filmmaker Award – he attended in 2019 with his Oscar nominated film
“Marriage Story.

GLASS ONION: A KNIVES OUT MYSTERY will screen on Friday, October 14 as the
Friday Centerpiece Film and will include a discussion with writer/director Ran Johnson where
he will receive the Distinguished Screenwriter Award. Additionally, Johnson and his film
editor Bob Ducsay will be presented with the inaugural Variety Creative Collaborators
Award and participate in a separate conversation that will not only focus on their current film
but take a look back at their previous collaborations including “Looper,” “Star Wars: The Last
Jedi,” and “Knives Out.” In “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery,” Daniel Craig returns as
detective Benoit Blanc who time travels to Greece to uncover a fresh mystery involving a new
cast of colorful suspects. Joining Craig are Edward Norton, Janelle Monae, Dave Bautista,
Kathryn Hahn, Leslie Odom Jr., Kate Hudson, Jessica Henwick and Madelyn Cline.
Screening as the festival’s Saturday Centerpiece film is Ray Romano’s directorial debut
SOMEWHERE IN QUEENS which he also wrote and stars in. The family dramedy and love
letter to New York’s largest borough is produced by MFF Advisory Board members Albert Berger and Ron Yerxa (“Nebraska,” “Little Miss Sunshine”) who will join Romano at the
festival to discuss their film following the evening screening on Saturday, October 15. Co-
written by Mark Stegemann, the film features an ensemble cast that also includes Laurie Metcalf,
Jacob Ward, Tony Lo Bianco, Sadie Stanley, Sebastian Maniscalco, and Jennifer Esposito.
The Friday Spotlight Film is THE WHALE, directed by Darren Aronofsky and based on
Samuel D. Hunter’s acclaimed stage play of the same name from which he adapted the
screenplay. Brendan Fraser turns out a remarkable performance as a reclusive English teacher
living with severe obesity who attempts to reconnect with his estranged teenage daughter for one
last chance at redemption. The film also stars Hong Chau, Sadie Sink, Ty Simpkins and
Samantha Morton. Fraser and Hunter will be on hand for a post screening conversation to discuss
their collaboration.

MFF will recognize Stephanie Hu with the Rising Star Award for her breakthrough
performance in EVERYTHING EVERYWHERE ALL AT ONCE opposite Michelle Yeoh.
She will participate in a conversation following a special screening of the film after which she
will be presented with the award. The box office hit film broke records by becoming A24’s first
film to surpass the $100 million benchmark

“We’re honored to be joined by so many artists and filmmakers, both new and returning, who are
coming to Middleburg to share their work with us as we celebrate our 10th year,” said MFF
Executive Director Susan Koch

Saturday afternoon will see the return of many of MFF’s previous Distinguished Composer and
Songwriter honorees who will each have a selection of their works performed by a 40-piece
orchestra. Joining the 10th Anniversary Concert celebration are songwriter Diane Warren,
composers Mark Isham, Marco Beltrami, Kris Bowers, Charles Fox and the 2022
Distinguished Composer Award recipient Michael Abels. Abels is known for his genre
defying scores for Jordan Peele’s “Get Out,” “Us” and this year’s “Nope.” He also composed the
upcoming LA Opera production Omar,” which is premiering October 22.

“Showcasing film music has been a signature event of our festival from the beginning. We’re
thrilled to celebrate our festival’s 10th year by bringing so many world renowned composers
back for an anniversary concert – and to also welcome this year’s talented composer honoree,
Michael Abels” said MFF Founder and Board Chair Sheila C. Johnson.
Festival ticket packages and passes are currently for sale at www.middleburgfilm.org, and
individual tickets will go on sale in early October.
The Coca-Cola Company returns as the Festival’s Presenting Sponsor. The Washington Post is
the Founding Media Sponsor.

Meet Your Neighbor: Cindy Thompson of the Community Shop

Written by Kaitlin Hill
Photos by Michael Butcher

“The whole idea was to make it for the community,” shares Cindy Thompson, owner of the aptly named Community Shop on S. Madison Street. Thompson, a practicing surgeon, opened the part-consignment, part-thrift shop at the end of 2019, as an escape from her day job and a way to give to local charities. For patrons, the stocked shelves and purposefully cluttered corners are a mesmerizing treasure hunt with a little bit of everything for everyone, making it well worth a visit. 

Thompson, an Ohio native, came to Middleburg for the same reason as many who settle here – horses. “I was always a horse lover,” shares Thompson. “My mother sent me to a YMCA camp where I learned to ride. It was Western.” While earning her undergraduate degree, she learned to ride English, and in medical school at the Medical College of Ohio, she was introduced to foxhunting. 

A desire to blend jumping and riding cross-country, a college friend, and her Irish heritage all culminated in a foxhunting trip abroad. She says, “I had this girlfriend in college who rode horses…and we’d go through this catalog of horse vacations. [The catalog] had foxhunting in Ireland and so I’m like ‘bingo.’” Though the college friend missed the trip, Thompson met plenty of like-minded equestrian enthusiasts, including her future husband.

“There was this really attractive guy at the bar, but he was with a girl,” Thompson explains. Thinking that particular romantic avenue was unavailable, Thompson instead made friends with a different Englishman she met the same trip. She says, “This English guy and I became friends, and we went foxhunting together. I didn’t know anything, I didn’t have the right clothes, and he lent me his shirt, his vest, his stock tie, everything.” 

Having forged a new friendship in the field, Thompson would visit her English pal three months later for another foxhunting excursion. She shares, “I went to England to visit my friend…and we go foxhunting down in the West Country.” She continues, “I came home…and the English guy calls me up and says, ‘Remember that guy from the bar in Ireland? He called me and wants your number.’” 

The couple connected, unsurprisingly, over their love of foxhunting. “He said, ‘If you want to foxhunt, you have to live where it is.’ So, he sent me the yellow pages of Northern Virginia and on a map, he circled Leesburg, Winchester, and Warrenton,” Thompson remembers. Thompson relocated from Ohio to Warrenton where she landed a job as a general surgery specialist. The couple married in 2001, and she joined her husband in Middleburg where they still live with their family.  

Though still a practicing surgeon in Warrenton, Thompson jumped at the chance to open the Community Shop when the retail space became available. She says, “I was going to do it when I retired…but then the space opened up and there was this opportunity.” 

She adds, “It’s just fun to have a shop, but I wanted to figure out how to accommodate the community.” The Community Shop invites both consignment and donation, and it is up to the patron to choose which they pursue. “You can bring your stuff in, and you don’t have to decide one way or the other. You could have some things you want to consign and the rest you want to donate.” 

As for what Thompson accepts for resale, “Whatever I think is good quality.” She adds, “It doesn’t necessarily have to be old; it could be new. It just has to be good quality, interesting, or unusual.” For Thompson, interesting and unusual could come in the form of artwork, clothing, jewelry, glassware, home accents, holiday décor, and even pet collars and catnip. 

Whatever it is, once sold she turns over a portion of the profits to local charities. “Middleburg Humane is our big one. But there is a horse rescue, a cat rescue…I have a couple churches, Potters House in the Plains. It really could be anything, as long as it’s local.” 

While Thompson’s work certainly benefits the community, it is also of benefit to her. She considers her days at the shop as “time off” and insists, “Why do something if it is not fun?” When asked what she likes most about running the shop, she offers a long list. “I like all of it,” she laughs. “I like talking to people when they come in, seeing what they bring in. It’s always exciting and a surprise to see what people bring and what people buy.” She adds, “I definitely like hunting for the stuff. It’s exciting to find something and see what you can sell it for. It’s like treasure hunting.” 

A sign in the front window indicates with a smiley face that the store is open Friday, Saturday, and Sunday “based on volunteer availability.” Thompson hopes to expand on those hours and the shop’s offerings when she retires from her post as a surgeon. She says, “I keep thinking when I retire, I’ll have a little more time. I’d like to add an online aspect.” When open, the Community Shop is certainly a must-visit. Stop by to browse Thompson’s impressive collection of “a little bit of everything,” make a donation, consign an item, or simply share a chat with this lovely Middleburg neighbor.

This article first appeared in the September 2022 Issue.

Remembering Marty Martin: Local Legend & Global Expert on Timber Rattlesnakes

“The plan is Catoctins tomorrow. I do not have high hopes even though a colleague saw 25 at my focal den in [redacted] on Wednesday when I was at a South Mtn, Pennsylvania site and got skunked…Forecast is for upper 30s tonight and I think it may push those Catoctin snakes under. However, if I don’t get out there it is just idle speculation. Having seen over 20,000 rattlesnakes plus about 1000 litters, figuring out exactly what is going on is more important to me than seeing a pile of rattlesnakes.”— An excerpt from Marty Martin’s email to me and other field-ready friends on October 8, 2020

William Henry “Marty” Martin III was known as the world’s authority on Timber Rattlesnakes—a species of pit viper native to mountainous areas throughout the east coast and as far west as Texas. He unexpectedly passed away on August 3, surrounded by his wife and daughters, after receiving a bite from one of his captive rattlesnakes.

Born in Leesburg, VA on December 24, 1941, Martin discovered den sites, studied behavior, and monitored the populations of these often-vilified creatures with dogged consistency for decades. At 80 years old, he was still pursuing his research with an eye to the species’ future, documenting the impacts of habitat loss, climate change, and other human pressures on his study populations while trying to instill a love for venomous snakes in the next generation.

“Marty was a guest educator for our Herpetology camps for the past 23 years and inspired countless budding herpetologists,” says Michael Kieffer, the longtime Executive Director of the Bull Run Mountains Conservancy. “While his research firmly establishes his legacy as a conservationist for Timber Rattlesnakes in the Eastern U.S., his work with kids will have lasting benefits, inspiring conservationists of the future. He was a dear friend.”

Martin shows a Timber Rattlesnake to young naturalists at the Bull Run Mountains
Conservancy Herpetology Camp this June. Photo by Michael Kieffer.

Martin’s own journey as a naturalist began as a young boy; by the age of 13, he had already made his first mark on the scientific community, proving the existence of a Timber Rattlesnake population in the Bull Run Mountains. At 17, he was a founding member of the Virginia Herpetological Society. He put his scientific career on hold to join the military, fighting for his country in the Vietnam War as a paratrooper for the Army’s 101st Airborne Division and for his armed service division as a bantamweight boxer.But when this chapter in his life ended, Martin returned to study snakes—and he never stopped.

He received his biology degree from the University of South Florida before traveling the world to conduct independent research on venomous snakes in Africa and South America. His travels would become fodder for conversation later in life, and those who spent time in the field with Martin were treated to storybook-style tales—escaping a Colombian prison by traveling on foot through the rainforest to Ecuador, escaping the epicenter of the first Ebola outbreak in the dead of night, witnessing the start of a civil war in Somalia, narrowly avoiding a deadly plane crash, bringing Australian TV host Steve Irwin to one of his Shenandoah den sites for an episode of “The Crocodile Hunter,” receiving his first and second rattlesnake bites—the list goes on.

While the spirit of adventure and his passion for all venomous snakes took Martin around the world, it was his hometown habitat that comprised the bulk of his life’s work and made him known throughout the herpetological community as a leading expert on Timber Rattlesnakes. “A human of mythic proportions,” writes Joe Villari, Preserve Manager at VOF’s Bull Run Mountains Natural Area Preserve, in his touching personal tribute to Martin. “His love for snakes connected him with humanity, and he connected so many of us to the beauty and joy of rattle snakes.”

Martin continued to work independently, preferring his own strictly field-based research methods to a life in academia, and spent more than four decades visiting the same den sites over, and over, and over again. He learned to predict how weather patterns could influence snake behavior. He saw den sites diminish and ultimately disappear due to human disturbance. And he saw how climate change was altering even the most reliable den locations.

Much of Martin’s knowledge has been published; he contributed to rattlesnake conservation as a member of the Timber Rattlesnake task force for the International Union for the Conservation of Nature for 30 years, and in 2021, Martin co-authored the 475-page book, “The Timber Rattlesnake: Life History, Distribution, Status, and Conservation Action Plan,” with the Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation. But he recorded his raw data the old-fashioned way—in decades of small, spiral-bound notebooks—and researchers will likely continue to learn from the late great herpetologist long into the future.

While he will certainly be remembered for his contributions to science, those who knew him will never forget the deep reverence he held for nature and the passion that drove his work. BRMC founder Andrea Currier recalls turning to Martin at an evening event on a beautiful hilltop in Front Royal and remarking, “Isn’t this pretty perfect?” Martin replied, “Actually, no,” and explained, “There are no rattlesnakes here!”

“Marty’s happiness was intrinsically tied to the presence and well-being of venomous snake populations,” explains Villari, “especially his beloved timbers.”


A celebration of Marty Martin’s life will be held at Morgan’s Grove Park in Shepherdstown, WV on September 25th at 1 PM. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to the Catoctin Land Trust (catoctinlandtrust.org) or the Bull Run Mountains Conservancy (brmconservancy.org).

This article first appeared in the September 2022 Issue.

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