virginia

Collector’s Dinner in Middleburg Brings Together International Crowd

Written by Victoria Peace
Photos courtesy of Teresa Taylor

On Saturday, May 14, Teresa Taylor hosted a Collector’s Dinner in her Middleburg home. Guests of the networking event included local Hunt Country art collectors, international art enthusiasts, and representatives from the Trotter & Sholer gallery in New York City. “Art is a passion of mine and few things are more enjoyable than celebrating the love of art with others who share the same,” Taylor said. “I wanted to bring together a fun and diverse mix of friends who may not have otherwise come together to mingle and discuss art.”

For dinner, the 27 attendees enjoyed a specialty cocktail and a four-course Thai-inspired meal prepared by Chef Cathal Armstrong. Armstrong is the owner of the acclaimed D.C. restaurant Kaliwa which is known for its innovative Southeast Asian cuisine. Table décor included pieces from artist Derek Weisberg, and artist Ezra Cohen’s work was featured in the interior of Taylor’s home.

As the evening progressed, Taylor’s guests enjoyed a view of the sun sinking over the rolling hills of the Salamander Resort & Spa. “The evening was beautiful,” Taylor emphasized. “It’s amazing how art can spark a memorable evening.”

In the future, Taylor is hoping to host another Collector’s event. She is looking forward to creating more connections between those involved in the art scene in Hunt Country, New York City, and abroad. ML

What’s Old is New Again at Another Blue Moon

Written by Shayda Windle
Photos by Callie Broaddus 

If Hunt Country is anything, it most certainly is not a place lacking in things to do or see. In addition to pastoral views of the Blue Ridge and Bull Run Mountains, famed foxhunts, and steeplechase races, there is also a vibrant shopping district in the town of Middleburg that keeps visitors coming back for more. With its tree-lined brick sidewalks and 18th-century buildings, historic Middleburg has rows of lively restaurants and boutiques that attract people from all over. This intriguing mix of old and new can be found at Another Blue Moon, a luxury consignment shop in the heart of town. The unique secondhand store offers an assortment of antique and vintage furniture, decorative accessories, collectibles, and home goods.

What started out as a pop-up founded by six friends in 2018 has evolved into the brick-and-mortar retail store you see today on Washington Street. The store is co-owned by longtime friends Kerry Dale and Jennifer Andrews. As people began cleaning out their homes and looking to recycle possessions during the pandemic, Dale and Andrews saw an opportunity to continue the venture. At Another Blue Moon, you’ll find beautiful furniture, vintage mirrors, lamps, tables, rugs, tea sets, and so much more. What makes this boutique so special is that most items come from local homes and friends of the owners. So, when you buy a piece from Another Blue Moon, you’re not only supporting the local economy — you’re also giving back to the community of contributors who have decided to consign their goods here. You’re buying something special from another person’s sanctuary and continuing that treasure’s story.

“We take things that we know customers are looking for and are complementary to our design style and inventory.”

-Dale

Dale says, “Because of our community and the nature of it, and as the real estate market has exploded, our business has grown too. We added space this year and now have barn space in the basement of the Middleburg Professional Center.” During the pandemic, Dale adds, “Instagram saved us. We would take photos and post them to social media. People would claim their goods online then come pick them up in-store.” Andrews chimes in, “Instagram not only provides an outlet for home shopping and dreaming, but continues to offer comic relief even today. What else could make you laugh about a needlepoint pillow, a Herend cat, or a shapely French chest? We learn something every day about the business and there’s always a fresh challenge around the corner.”

Left: A stack of books perfect for a home office. Center: Dale surrounded by the shop’s many treasures. Righ: Hunt Country accents are in no short supply.

“Many times, people will send me twenty pictures of what they want to consign, but we must curate what we take,” Dale explains. “We take things that we know customers are looking for and are complementary to our design style and inventory. We carry anything from antiques to contemporary to transitional and more traditional goods.” Another Blue Moon also considers whether items are on-trend, the condition they are in, and seasonality as they curate their collection. They will generally hold items for about 90 days, but Dale says they try very hard to sell with a quicker turnaround.

“If you don’t love what you do, then why do it?”

-Andrews 

It’s clear how much these two women enjoy the process of building a business together, and their passion for “finding a new life for something that still has life in it” is even more inspiring. But perhaps Andrews puts it best. She says with a laugh, “I feel like I’m in an episode of the Beverly Hillbillies, driving through Loudoun with a van full of old furniture to drop off at a barn. If you don’t love what you do, then why do it?” ML

Another Blue Moon is open Thursday, Friday, and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and by appointment. Be sure to stop by the basement area of the Middleburg Professional Center on 119 The Plains Road for more from Another Blue Moon. You can also check them out on Instagram @anotherbluemoon to see what’s available now. New inventory is added regularly.

This article first appeared in the June 2022 Issue.

Aldie’s Little River Inn Celebrates 40 Years of Hospitality

Written by Diane Helentjaris
Photos by Gracie Withers

In the late 1970s, Tucker Withers ran two antique shops: one in Aldie and one in Maryland, the latter managed by his mother. As a reprieve from work, he often played poker on Tuesday nights. One evening around the card table with his buddies: a sheriff, a landscape architect, and a banker, the banker mentioned a piece of Aldie property which was coming up for sale. By Friday, Withers owned it. 

Withers telephoned his mother to share the news of his acquisition: a historic brick two-story house and outbuildings. Her response floored him: “I never told you this, but your father was from Aldie.” Withers’ parents had divorced when he was three. He grew up in Bethesda, Maryland, and did not know much about his paternal family history. Now he would not only discover it, but live it as well.

The epitome of small world connections, his great uncle had once owned the very same brick house Withers purchased. Withers later discovered his great-grandparents once lived in the property’s log cabin. All the older villagers knew his family. Years ago, he was given a family photograph by Sarah Love Douglass. Sarah and her husband James Edward Douglass owned and ran the Aldie Mill before donating it in 1981 to the Virginia Outdoors Foundation. “Your great grandmother was the nicest person,” she always shared with Withers.

In February of 1982, Withers decided to turn the property into an inn. Little River Inn opened four months later and his career as an innkeeper began. Affable by nature, the role of host suited him. In fact, Withers even taught hospitality at Northern Virginia Community College and would tell students, “The first thing is you have to like to get up early. You have to like people 24 hours a day, not just from eight to five. You get calls early in the day and late at night…by nature, you have to like people.”

Withers’ wife Mary Ann works at the inn alongside him. They met when Mary Ann, a former special education teacher, spent the summer waitressing at the iconic Coach Stop restaurant in Middleburg. And their three children, now adults, all worked at the inn growing up.

Little River Inn offers bed and breakfast-style stays in three buildings: the two-story house, the small Patent House, and the log cabin. Rooms are, as would be expected from a long-time antique dealer like Withers, furnished with period pieces and decor. The main brick house was built in 1810 by Rezin Willcoxon. 

The Patent House is the oldest building in Aldie dating somewhere between 1750 and 1760. The name refers to the building’s purpose. Patent Houses were built to claim and hold on to land received as a grant (or patent). Their minimum size was sixteen by twenty feet, which is roughly the size of the Aldie Patent House. Little River Inn accommodates a range of needs — from honeymooners who want to snuggle into their own private space to a family wishing to take over the second floor of the brick house.

Withers would like people to know that the Little River Inn is “…just like going home. It’s easy. It’s comfortable. It’s where you get good food and good company. [There is] just so much personality to the place, the town is just so welcoming.” 

As innkeeper, Withers is also the chef and is proud of his breakfasts. The menu rotates and includes specialties like eggs benedict with cottage-fried potatoes and eggs and mushrooms with tarragon cream sauce in a ham cup on an English muffin. After trying his banana bread, one customer declared, “I never thought anyone made banana bread as good as my mother.” Withers is quick to add that he also bakes blueberry and poppyseed muffins. 

“[There is] no microwave at the Little River Inn. Everything is made from scratch.” If someone asks him to nuke their cooled coffee in the microwave, Withers insists on making a fresh pot. He also refuses to carry a cell phone or use a computer. He communicates in person, by telephone, or with little notes left on tables. Mary Ann responds to emails, handles the website, and otherwise picks up the technology slack.

Few bed and breakfasts last 40 years. Mary Ann believes the longevity of the Little River Inn is partially due to the fact that the Withers family has maintained a separate, private home in the village apart from the commercial enterprise. They are always reachable but don’t live with their guests, even though she’s quick to emphasize their visitors are “as nice as they can be.” 

Affection for their guests is certainly part of the Withers family recipe for success. Withers believes the “best thing [about the inn] is the people who stay here.” He continues, “They really become our friends. One man stayed every Monday and Tuesday for twenty years. He was a landscape architect. Some have come each year for 40 years. One couple first came in 1982 and still comes back…That is the best part of it all. We have, over many years, [built] relationships with many nice people.” Early on, a couple honeymooned at the bed and breakfast. “They were so nice,” Mary Ann emphasizes. Withers called them up when they went home to Kentucky and offered them a job. They drove back to Virginia and helped manage the inn for 12 years.

Looking forward, Withers has no plans to change. And when asked if he would do it again, he says,  “Oh, yeah — in a heartbeat. We enjoy it so much.” He adds, “Don’t know if the kids will take it over. Don’t know how long [it will go on].” Luckily, his children and a growing group of grandchildren all live within twenty minutes of the inn. “[I don’t] know what will happen but for now I am sticking with running the Little River Inn.” ML

For more information on this historic inn, visit aldie.com or call 703-327-6742. Little River Inn is located at 39307 John Mosby Highway (Rt. 50), Aldie, Virginia 20105.

This article first appeared in the June 2022 Issue.

A National Campaign and Local Effort for Greener Horseshows 

Written by Kaitlin Hill 

More than historic, the site of the Upperville Colt & Horse show is undeniably green. The sloping lawns, towering hundred-plus year-old trees, and the familiar evergreen paint on nearly every structure all contribute to a feeling of being one with nature upon entering the gates of the showground. And in recent years, there have been efforts to make Upperville even greener by operating the show with environmental impact in mind, led by a national campaign called Green is the New Blue and aided by local efforts supporting the cause. 

Founded by amateur equestrian Stephanie Riggio Bulger, Green is the New Blue (GNB) partners with horse shows across the country to reduce the impact of equestrian events can on the planet. Emily Cleland of GNB shares, “With year-round horse show circuits available to us, we are such a transient population. And in the effort to get from show to show, we just don’t realize the amount of waste we produce, especially in the form of plastics: supplement tubs, shavings bags, twine, water bottles… just for one horse and rider, it really adds up.” 

As the oldest horse show in the nation, it seems appropriate that Upperville was also Green is the New Blue’s original partner. Cleland says, “Upperville was actually our very first horse show partner!” She adds, “Its management team has made such a commitment to the future with their forward-thinking approaches to sustainability.” 

Caitlin Lane, executive director of Upperville Horse Shows, LLC notes, “We have been working with Green is the New Blue for a few years to develop a sustainability program. We’ve been brainstorming with them on how to expand the program and get more people involved, more sponsors.” 

For this year’s show, the team at UCHS and GNB connected with Maria Eldredge and Anne McIntosh of Middleburg Real Estate and Atoka Properties. Lane shares, “In talking with Middleburg Real Estate, we put forward the idea that we wanted to add these hydration stations and it would be something new this year.” 

Coincidentally, Eldredge explains, “Middleburg Real Estate had just come up with a new program where, as agents, if we wanted to sponsor something we could, and we’re trying to do more locally.” A single-use to reusable convert herself, Eldredge jumped the idea of sponsoring the hydration stations and partnered with McIntosh and Middleburg Real Estate to cover the $10,000 project. She says, “Instead of selling thousands of [single-use] plastic bottles, there will be tents set up with bamboo cups. You can refill your water bottle and there will be bigger jugs of water.” 

This latest initiative is one of many that Upperville has adopted to reduce its environmental impact. Lane says, “We are doing wider facility recycling. We’ve been able to recycle the shavings bags which is a big source of plastic for us. We are trying to work on where the manure goes after an event, how it can be reused.” She adds, “We’re really looking at how we can be more sustainable. It’s deliberate choices on what products we can use and how we can set things up to reduce our footprint…Ideally, we are helping spread [the idea] to other events across the country.” 

Cleland adds, “We want to see horse shows and facilities adopt initiatives that are reasonably actionable in their geographic areas. There’s no ‘one size fits all’ — some municipalities simply don’t have recycling programs for show organizers to utilize, for instance. Some facilities have the means to tackle issues like erosion and water runoff that other facilities don’t. That said, recently we’ve been inspired by the horse shows like UCHS that have substantially cut their use of single-use plastics by committing to water refill stations with compostable cups. That choice alone produces exponentially less plastic waste.”

In addition to national campaigns and locally sponsored programs, an impact can be made on an individual level too. Cleland says, “Make a habit out of bringing your own refillable water bottle to horse shows and everywhere you go! Be vocal! Let your horse show organizers and venue managers know that sustainable practices are important to you.” 

As horses, trainers, and spectators show up June 6 through 12 to enjoy the 169th Upperville Colt & Horse Show, they will take part in the new green legacy of this historic event, as Cleland says, “to preserve our planet for generations of equestrians to come.” ML

This article first appeared in the June 2022 Issue.

Why They Hunt

WHY THEY HUNT 

A look into the Virginia bird hunting scene 

Written by Kaitlin Hill 

The phrase “bird hunting” likely, and appropriately, summons mental images of orange vests, double-barrel shotguns, and Boykin Spaniels in pursuit of pheasants. What may seem counterintuitive is the symbiotic relationship between hunting and conservation. However, a conversation about Upland Hunting with Piedmont-based hunters Kathy Theis, Teresa Condon, and Annie Bishop reveals a profound respect for and desired perpetuation of the circle of life, a dedication to their dogs, a razor-sharp focus on safety, and an appreciation of nature’s beauty. 

Distinct from the umbrella term of bird hunting, Upland Hunting focuses on a more narrow set of species. “Bird hunting is a broader term for any winged-bird,” Kathy Theis, a hunt guide at Rose Hill Game Preserve in Culpepper says. “You have duck, goose, grouse, or even woodcock hunting … Upland Hunting historically is just three specific species.” 

“Upland hunting is pursuing pheasant, quail, partridge, and the like, while walking through the countryside with your pointing dog and your shotgun,” Teresa Condon, local hunting enthusiast, says. “And, the birds are hidden in the ground cover.”

Teresa Condon with her English setter Dougal. Photo by Kaitlin Hill.

The distinction in the types of birds and where they can be found is important, as it influences the breeds of dog appropriate to this style and the role they will play during the hunt. “The dogs hunt by scent,” Theis says. “They smell the bird and then, depending on the type of dog, they either point or they flush the bird.” Most of them aptly named, pointers can include English setters, German shorthaired pointers, German wirehaired pointers, English pointers, and Brittany spaniels. And flushers are often cocker spaniels, springer spaniels, and Boykin spaniels, according to Theis. 

Regardless of the breed of dog, something true of all bird hunting is that powerful bond between person and pup. “Honestly, the main reason I hunt at all is for the dogs,” Annie Bishop, another local bird hunter, says. “For me, so much of it is watching the dogs work and seeing how their natural instincts and training have prepared them. And, when they are going through the brush or the marsh and bringing back a bird, they are about as happy as they’ve ever been.”

“We love our dogs,” Condon says. “They live in our homes, they come hunting with us, they are part of the family, and part of our hunting livelihood.” 

“We respect our birds. Our hunting, our love for hunting has fed our family…”— Condon

That love of animals described by Condon extends, perhaps surprisingly, to the birds that are hunted. “We respect our birds,” she says. “Our hunting, our love for hunting has fed our family. We eat what we shoot, and my children have been raised on quail, pheasant, and dove. They have learned to appreciate that.” Among Condon’s favorite recipes are pheasant pie, bacon-wrapped dove, and duck breast prepared like jalapeño poppers with cream cheese and jalapeños stuffed inside. 

Respect is a major factor in a bird hunter’s treatment of the environment too. All three women agree that conservation is a key aspect of the Upland, and more broadly, the bird hunting community’s goals. “Conservation is absolutely essential,” Theis says. “Without the environment, we would not have the game to hunt of course.” 

While Condon notes, “We’re great proponents of conservation, to keep the land open for all wildlife … Conservation is everything for a hunter and that is why there are many organizations like Ducks Unlimited and Pheasants Unlimited that are constantly fighting off development to keep the land as an open space.” 

“One of the main drivers for me is making sure that we preserve the land, so that the wildlife thrives,” Bishop says.

A large part of preservation is, unsurprisingly, preserves. Preserves like Rose Hill Game Preserve, Primland Resort, Sundance Kennel and Hunting Preserve and Sundance Preserve (all in the Piedmont region) maintain huge swaths of land that might otherwise be threatened with suburban sprawl. 


Annie Bishop. Photo by Georgina Preston.

In addition, preserves offer beginners the opportunity to learn the ins and outs of upland hunting safely – a priority of all hunters. “Preserve hunting is definitely a good way to be introduced to the sport because it’s a little more controlled than wild bird hunting,” Theis says. “You know what you are getting into before you go out into the field.” 

Bishop, Condon, and Theis agree that familiarizing oneself with the sport, specifically the sporting equipment, is a must. “Start with being around a shotgun first,” Bishop says. “So much of this is about safety, so make sure you are comfortable.” 

“Safety is an absolute priority,” Condon says. She encourages anyone interested in bird hunting to “Go out and get some shooting lessons with clays, and then find a mentor to take you out bird hunting.” 

Once a new shooter feels safe around a shotgun, what gauge they use is “all up to personal preference” Bishop says. For upland hunting, participants commonly shoot with a 12 or 20 gauge shotgun, according to Theis. “But, there are a few select people who hunt with a 16 gauge or 28 gauge,” Condon says. “You have to have the right gun for the right person. And again, this should all be done before you go out hunting. And, of course, one must have the correct ammunition for the type of hunt you’re going to do.” 

With a season that runs from September to April, a bevy of local hunters, and preserves with guided instruction, now is the perfect time to try upland hunting. As Bishop says, “It’s about being outdoors…and understanding the beauty that surrounds us. It is a way to really enjoy where we live, because we are incredibly lucky to be where we are. We live in one of the most gorgeous places in the world.” ML

This article first appeared in the November 2021 Issue.

JK Community Farm and DC Central Kitchen Partner to Bring Fresh Produce to People Experiencing Hunger in DC

JK Community Farm and DC Central KitchenPartner to Bring Fresh Produce to People Experiencing Hunger in DC

STERLING, Va. (July 13, 2021)—Starting today, JK Community Farm, a 150-acre farm in Purcellville, Virginia, has partnered with DC Central Kitchen to expand its food distribution to reach those facing food insecurity in Washington, DC with healthy, organic produce and protein. As the nation’s largest nonprofit chemical-free community farm, it will donate close to 230,000 pounds of food in 2021 throughout the region with 40,000 pounds of food—the equivalent of 28,000 meals—going to DC Central Kitchen to combat hunger. 

“COVID challenged our efforts to keep up with demand, but we adapted our volunteer workforce and were able to increase yield to ensure more families had healthy meals on their plates,” explained Samantha Kuhn, executive director, JK Community Farm. “Our increased production is enabling us to grow our footprint, and we are excited that DC Central Kitchen is becoming a distribution partner to serve more with our healthy yield.”

Access to healthy, nutrient dense food is especially difficult to get in impoverished communities. The USDA reports strong correlations between food insecurity, and negative health outcomes including a higher probability of diet-related chronic disease – cancer, diabetes, arthritis, asthma, kidney disease, and COPD. In Northern Virginia and DC, 160,000 people face food insecurity, and a large number of these are children. 

An iconic nonprofit and social enterprise that combats hunger and poverty through job training and job creation, DC Central Kitchen will be picking up from the farm twice per month. The farm’s nutrient-dense food will be used in the kitchens at DC Central Kitchen which provide culinary job training and prepared meals to local shelters and emergency mobile feeding sites, as well as using the fresh produce in produce bags that they distribute across the city.  DC Central Kitchen will also send groups of volunteers to harvest food at the JK Community Farm for distribution at DC Central Kitchen. Last year alone, DC Central Kitchen served 3.8 million emergency meals and brought healthy groceries to over 200 locations.

“DC Central Kitchen fights hunger differently, and we believe in the power of healthy food to create change. That is why we look forward to partnering with JK Community Farm to bring more fresh, local produce to our community.  Since March of 2020 DCCK has distributed 3 million pounds of fresh produce to the community, and this partnership with JK Community Farm will help to continue to bring the benefits of fresh produce, volunteer opportunities, and food education to our partners,” said Amy Bachman, director of Procurement and Sustainability, DC Central Kitchen. 

The farm’s other partners include Loudoun Hunger Relief, Food for Others, and Arlington Food Assistance Center. To nearly double production this year, JK Community Farm is planting on 14 acres—up from eight, as well as continuing to grow in high tunnels, greenhouses, and raised beds. It produces a variety of vegetables, such as lettuce, arugula, kale, broccoli, radishes, onions, Swiss chard, spinach, cabbage, squash, zucchini, and protein.  The farm has also increased its volunteer workforce by 33 percent to meet its lofty goals.  Other changes at the farm this year include enhanced educational programming by incorporating a bee hotel, beneficial insect habitat, pollinator habitat, flowers, blue bird trail, and a sensory footpath. 

JK Community Farm, a 501(c)3 nonprofit started in 2018 with the support of JK Moving Services, seeks to have a lasting and healthy impact on struggling families within the Washington, DC metro region by growing and donating chemical-free, healthy produce and protein to those struggling with food insecurity. In addition to volunteer support, the farm relies on donations. The farm—which donates 100% of its yield—is efficient and can grow one pound of organic, healthy food for $1.18.  Every $35 donation ensures an additional two weeks of food for a person in need. www.jkcommunityfarm.org

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Shawn Flaherty, 703-554-3609

Meet Middleburg: Catherine Wycoff, Physical Therapist, Feldenkrais Practitioner

Story and photo by Kerry Phelps Dale

The thing about Catherine Wycoff is that although she is very friendly and accessible, she’s difficult to describe. She has so many talents and skills, so many degrees and certifications, that’s she’s hard to reduce down to something simple. One thing that rings true in her professional experience and current endeavors is that her main purpose seems to be helping people.

Every Friday, Catherine comes to her Middleburg studio on Federal Street to teach her Feldenkrais Method class. A few of her regulars sing her praises like a Baptist choir on Sunday. They have total faith in both Catherine and the Feldenkrais Method, which the founder, Moshe Feldenkrais, touted will “…make the impossible, possible; the possible, easy; and the easy, elegant.”

If that quote doesn’t bring you closer to understanding the method, try this—moving without pain through improving “kinesthetic sense”—the ability to sense, feel and coordinate easy, effective movement. It’s rewiring the brain to move more efficiently and easily. It is an effective approach used by athletes, people with special needs, seniors, and even musicians. Born and raised in Belgium, Catherine has lived and been educated all over the world. “My husband works for the state department, so I have lived a lot of places,” she says. An avid horsewoman, Catherine owns, rides and uses horses for therapy as well as providing rehabilitative therapy to horses. She lives in Lovettsville with her husband and has two children in college. She finds Middleburg to be a comforting reminder of small European towns and feels right at home with the town and countryside that reveres the horse.

Though the Feldenkrais Method is a bit elusive, the classes are not. The owner of Kinetic Balance invites you to join her for a Friday class at noon, at The Studio on West Federal Street.  “If you know what you do, you can do what you want,” she quotes Feldenkrais. “It has to do with awareness: Awareness is the key,” explains Catherine. For more information on the method, visit www.kineticbalance.com.

This article first appeared in the January 2019 issue of Middleburg Life. 

A Look Back at the 2018 International Gold Cup

Photos by John Scott Nelson Photography

Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these riders from the swift completion of their appointed rounds. While the International Gold Cup like the United States Postal Service has no official motto, the die hard Gold Cup fans could steal the postal workers motto for this October’s event.

Despite the not so cheery weather, fans donned their best hats and put on their smiling faces to brave the damp weather and enjoy what turned out to be an exciting day at Great Meadows on Saturday, Oct. 27.The lush green grass was a bit wet and made for some muddy boots, but the steeplechase races went on and the horses didn’t seem to mind. The day didn’t go to the dogs. However, the entertaining Terrier Races in the paddock did start the day and grabbed everyone’s attention. 

This article first appeared in the December 2018 Issue of Middleburg Life.

 

Virginia’s Largest Private Land Trust Protects Another 182.4 Acres in Albemarle County

Virginia’s Largest Private Land Trust | December 12, 2018

The Land Trust of Virginia, holding more conservation easements than any other private land trust in the Commonwealth, is pleased to announce that 182.4 acres of entirely forested land, located southeast of Batesville, Virginia, is forever protected through the landowner’s donation of a conservation easement.  Located in Albemarle County, Miran Forest has been protected with the intention of providing public access in perpetuity by the landowners, the American Environment Foundation.

The landowners have protected their property with the intention of providing public access in perpetuity for hiking and quiet enjoyment.  There is an existing public trail on the property, located along the forested steep western slopes of Long Arm Mountain.  The trail leads to the highest point on the property at the peak of the mountain, known locally as High Top.  From the peak, hikers can enjoy beautiful views of the surrounding valley floors and nearby mountains.  Craig Davis, head of the American Environment Foundation said, “Our primary interest in protecting the property is to allow the wildlife a safe habitat and for people to enjoy the quiet of this beautiful mountainside.”

This property is highly visible from the Appalachian National Scenic Trail as well as the Blue Ridge Parkway and portions of the Shenandoah National Park and George Washington National Forest, making it a highly valuable property to protect in perpetuity.  The recording of this easement further enhances the existing land protections in the area.  Directly adjacent to Miran Forest is a property consisting of 206 acres under conservation easement with the Virginia Outdoors Foundation.  Additionally, there are numerous other conservation easements in close proximity adding important protections to the Virginia countryside.

Located approximately 2.5 miles north is another property in conservation easement with the Land Trust of Virginia, the Miller School of Albemarle.  This 637.4-acre conservation easement was recorded in 2016 and will forever protect numerous natural resources, open space, and scenic views for all to enjoy, especially the students of the school.  This property could have been divided into 34 different properties.  Both conservation easements, over the Miller School and Miran Forest, have no division rights retained, meaning that neither can ever be divided for development.

While a lot of work is being done in Albemarle County, there is still a lot more to do to ensure that bucolic Virginia is protected for generations to come.  The Land Trust of Virginia invites landowners, interested in hearing more, to contact Sally Price at sally@landtrustva.org.

 

Hanging History: The Official White House Christmas Ornaments

Story by Kaitlin Hill | Photos by Randy Litzinger

The tradition of decorating Christmas trees can often turn into a walk down memory lane, with each ornament acting as a ghost of Christmases past. Since ornaments are often given as gifts, the markers of special occasions or, sometimes embarrassing, reminders of now-grown children’s elementary artistic pursuits, they hold their own unique histories and serve as jolly juggernauts of nostalgia. Add string lights, weaving ribbon or twinkling tinsel, and the finished fir can tell the intimate story of a family, a new couple or a set of lifelong friends.

As Americans, our shared history is boldly and beautifully told across the country, and right here in Middleburg, on towering trees and magnificent mantels that are bedecked in Official White House Christmas Ornaments. For local Nancy Novak McMahon, the ornaments are both patriotic and personal. She orders multiples each year and has the entire collection—all 37—which she displays every Christmas. She received her first as a gift from a co-worker after moving to Virginia from Chicago.

The first White House Christmas Ornament, a two-dimensional golden angel with outstretched wings and a festive horn, was released in 1981. It bears a simple inscription, “Christmas 1981. The White House.”

“I had a new co-worker who, the first Christmas that we worked together, as a kind of welcome to the Northern Virginia, Washington, D.C. area, gave me the White House Christmas Ornament, which I had never even known existed.” She continues, “I just thought it was the neatest thing and every year for eight or ten years, she always gave me an ornament as my Christmas present.” To Nancy, the ornament is special because of its ties to the Washington region and friends she made while living here.

Even since moving to Middleburg, McMahon carries on ritual by buying one for herself, and giving them as gifts, too. She even sends two as far as Holland, one to a close friend and the other to her friend’s in-laws, who recently downsized.

The White House Historical Association’s 2018 White House Christmas Ornament honors President Harry S. Truman. This ornament is designed to illustrate three significant changes made by him during his administration, one to the Presidential Seal, and two to the White House itself.

“They let me know, the ornaments made the cut…the [current] ornament is still up every year and has a place of honor in their new apartment.” They watch for McMahon’s package with the newly released ornament each year. She laughs, “It’s quite the tradition.”The ornaments started as part of an outreach initiative by the White House Historical Association (WHHA). Founded by Jacqueline Kennedy in 1961, the non-profit and purposefully non-partisan association was created as a means to educate Americans about the rich history of the White House. Twenty years and six presidents later, including her husband Ronald, former first lady Nancy Reagan launched the White House Ornaments as a continuation of Kennedy’s focus on historical preservation and education.

The first ornament was released in 1981, a two-dimensional golden angel with outstretched wings and a festive horn. It bears a simple inscription, “Christmas 1981. The White House.” Over the years, the ornaments became more elaborate, including colors, three-dimensional designs and even moving pieces.

In 1984, the fourth ornament is the first to depict a president’s face. Thomas Jefferson sits regally in a circle of gold, called “Jefferson’s Medal of Peace.” And in 1987, the first touches of color are added—evergreen wreaths with Christmas red ribbons adorn the “White House Doors.” The 1999 Lincoln-inspired collectible is a golden book inlaid with a pensive looking Honest Abe that even opens. The portrait was painted by George Healy and still hangs in the State Dining Room.

The 2007 White House Christmas ornament honors the first administration of President Grover Cleveland.

Not only do these annually revealed Christmas treasures showcase specific presidents, but they also capture moments in time and executive mansion memories that may have been forgotten. The 2016 edition is a gleaming red and gold miniature representation of the fire trucks that responded to the 1929 Christmas Eve blaze at the White House during a children’s gathering. Herbert Hoover, who was president at the time, invited the same children back the following year and presented them all with toy versions of the red engine as a keepsake.Each year, a new designer is selected to conceptualize the ornament. Stewart McLaurin, president of the White House Historical Association says, “Over the years we have used various sources of design. We have had a competition among professional designers, a competition among design school students and we have used the design team at the manufacturer of our ornaments in Rhode Island.” He adds, “From time to time we even receive an unsolicited design.”

The process of choosing a design is collaborative. “We talk it through as a staff and with members of our board of directors and react to several designs,” McLaurin said. Sometimes the WHHA even asks artists to team up. “Occasionally, we will like a couple things from one design and a couple of things from another design and we will ask those designers to work together.”

As for selecting which president to feature each year, that decision was made long ago. “Fortunately for us, back in the Reagan administration when the idea was first presented to Mrs. Reagan to do a Christmas ornament, the decision was made then that we would feature a different president each year and we would do it sequentially.” He continues, “It started with Washington and we have now worked our way up to Harry Truman. That takes the politics out of it, that takes any favoritism out of it when we know that the next year, it’s the next president.”

The 2003 White House Christmas Ornament honors President Ulysses S. Grant and his family.

As McLaurin mentioned, 2018’s ornament honors Harry S. Truman, and highlights the renovations he made to the White House while in office. The front of this delicate white and gold ornament features the Truman Balcony added between 1947 and 1948. On the flipside, you’ll find The Blue Room, complete with an extravagantly decorated Christmas tree. Perhaps the most significant of Truman-era changes is seen in the Presidential Seal. Prior to Truman’s presidency, the American eagle’s gaze focused on instruments of war clutched in his left talon. Truman shifted the eagle’s focus to its right talon, which grasp olive branches of peace.Once a concept is selected, ChemArt, a veteran-owned small business—the same manufacturer that has produced every ornament from the start—is trusted to bring the vision to life. McLaurin says, “They have worked with us since the ornament started. They know us. They know the ornaments.”

Customers know the ornaments, too. And as McLaurin tells it, collectors are often eager to purchase the next in line. “There is a big excitement about what the ornament is going to be.” He adds, “Once you start collecting, you have the one the next year. Even more than that, once you start giving them as gifts, the recipient expects to receive one next year.”  Tracking down the ornaments is easily done, and if you happen to miss a year, don’t worry. The entire collection is available for order on the White House Historical Association’s website; shop.whitehousehistory.org.

The Christmas Sleigh in Middleburg is one of the only shops in Virginia to carry the entire collection. “We are the largest supplier of this ornament in Virginia. We carry the entire series and we have them in stock all the time,” said Linda Tripp Rausch, who owns the Christmas Sleigh with her husband, Dieter Rausch. They are one of the store’s most popular sellers, and it is not difficult to understand why. In fact, the store had to reorder before Thanksgiving. “People are getting something that is unique, it’s historic, it’s a collectible and the proceeds go to a cause,” McLaurin said.

Their philanthropic nature reflects the holiday season’s focus on giving, but moreover, the ornaments themselves are manifestations of the true American spirit. A spirit that is undeniably patriotic, built by veterans and loved by both sides of the aisle. They speak to the class, elegance and majesty associated with the White House, and remind us of those who have come before us to make this Christmas, and those that follow, possible.

 

Lighting up the Night for All to See

Photos by Randy Litzinger

Joyce Mullins, owner of Mullwyck Manor in Upperville, Virginia, shares her love of Christmas with her friends, her family and even strangers. Joyce graciously offered her home, Mullwyck Manor, as the backdrop for this month’s cover shot. Although her home already featured three Christmas trees and decorations in every room, she offered her den as the backdrop for our Hunt Country Christmas tree which was designed and decorated by Linda Tripp Rausch and Diane Spreadbury of the Christmas Sleigh in Middleburg.The Christmas tree features two complete sets of collectible White House Ornaments, a nod to our nation’s history and our close proximity to Washington, D.C. However, what’s under the tree makes it distinctly Hunt Country. Look closely. The hostess went room to room and gathered her personal treasures to help get that perfect Hunt Country feel. She even added two of her own wrapped gifts alongside the beautifully decorated ones Linda designed and brought for the shoot.

Mullins, along with her son, Rick, creates her own spectacular decoration display that takes a week to put up and tear down for friends, neighbors and strangers to enjoy each year. Most notably, Rick decorates their pond every Christmas with dazzling lights that can be seen from the road. She gives him full creative liberty with the pond. “He just goes wild,” she says.Each year, the Christmas light elf tries to up the ante as he knows passersby are excited to see the latest installment. “It’s to make people smile as they go to and from work. Even when I am putting it up, they beep and wave. They expect it.”

If you happen to drive through Upperville as the sun goes down, be sure to keep an eye out for Mullwyck Manor. This seasonal spectacle is one of the community’s favorite traditions and is not to be missed.

 

This article first appeared in the December 2018 issue of Middleburg Life.

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