Fire House Gallery To Close

The Berryville Main Street board has decided to close the Fire House Gallery retail shop so the organization-legally known as Downtown Berryville Inc. – can focus all its attention on promoting and supporting downtown businesses and the Town. The gallery, located at 23 E. Main St., will close on September 30.

The Fire House Gallery opened on January 9, 2010, as an economic development project featuring distinctive handmade arts and crafts from local and regional artist to enrich the local culture.

It was able to provide incubator spaces that were rented to start-up business owners who needed space to launch their businesses.

The Town of Berryville owns the historic, two-story former fire station building and has rented it to Downtown Berryville Inc. Town Manager Keith Dalton said Downtown Berryville has expressed interest in utilizing the second-floor space for its Berryville Main Street office. The Town will find a new tenant for the former gallery space.

Berryville Main Street president Nathan Stalvey said by closing the gallery, board members and Berryville Main Street volunteers can put all its energy and resources into projects and events, with the continued support of the Town of Berryville.

Events include the hugely popular Berryville Main Street Summer’s End Cruise-In in late August, the Berryville Main Street Yard Sale on the second Saturday in April and September, and Berryville Main Street Music in the Park on Friday nights throughout the summer. Berryville Main Street also organizes

a decorated parking meter contest during the winter holiday season and a Christmas tree lighting event. It supports the annual Christmas parade along Main Street.

Residents formed Downtown Berryville, Inc., a 501© (3) non-profit organization to promote the town much like a Chamber of Commerce might. The following year, the Berryville Historic District was listed in the National Register, and the town became a designated Virginia Main Street community in

1992. That’s when Downtown Berryville, Inc. adopted the Berryville Main Street moniker.

“The Berryville Main Street board appreciates all the volunteers and staff who worked in the gallery over the years,”Stalvey said. “We are also grateful for the many local artists and craftspeople who kept the gallery filled with their extraordinary work.”

The Town of Berryville is one of more than 2,400 American communities in the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Main Street Program, and it is one of only 29 Virginia towns with the designation. Nearby, Harrisonburg and Luray also have Main Street designations.

The Virginia Main Street program, managed by the Virginia Department of housing and Community Development, aids in providing assistance and training to communities so they can increase the economic vitality in downtown commercial districts by focusing on their unique heritage and attributes.

Stalvey and the board want to assure the community, “Downtown Berryville Inc. is not going out of business. By closing the gallery, we won’t have to worry about running a business while trying to promote other businesses.”

Clarke County Historical Association Bids Farewell to Mary Morris

Longtime archivist retires after three decades

By Rebecca Maynard

Clarke County Historical Association (CCHA) archivist Mary Thomason Morris has retired after more than 30 years, but her infectious enthusiasm for preserving local history has not diminished. She has been with the organization since 1987, during which time she has seen incredible changes.

“One thing I love to focus on is how the dissemination of information has changed from 1987 to today,” she said. “When I look back, when I came on board, there was no computer and I was working on index cards. Everything had to be written out unless I typed it on the typewriter, and there was no way to get information out about what we had unless people came in.”

“Today, it’s all online and accessible through the Google index,” Morris said, noting that people as far away as Dublin, Ireland, have accessed the information she has archived.The CCHA archive, found at, contains church and burial records, historical photographs, newspaper files, maps, drawings, and other materials. A large portion of their archives is available to search online, and the search function is intended to be user-friendly even for those who are not computer literate.“K.I.S.S.,” Morris quipped when referring to the ease of the search function. “Keep it simple, stupid.”

In the late 1980s, Morris worked for the CCHA, Handley Library, and the Warren Heritage Society in Front Royal all at the same time before the CCHA became her sole employer in 1990.

“It was good that I was able to tap into all three of those county histories, because Warren and Clarke are the last two daughters of Frederick County,” she said, explaining that Clarke County was founded in 1836 and a number of planters from the Tidewater area sent their sons and enslaved people to the county.“

One of the first people I had contact me was a lady from Georgia who said she knew her great-grandfather was in Virginia during the Civil War,” Morris said. The man had deserted and was sent back to a different regiment, but after July 1864, the family never knew what became of him.

Morris wondered whether he had been killed in Berryville’s Battle of Cool Springs. She was able to verify her hunch thanks to a book with the list of names in the Confederate section in Mt. Hebron Cemetery in Winchester. “I was able to write these folks to tell them, after 130 some years, and they were able to put a marker on his gravesite beside his wife saying where he died and his death date, after generations of no one knowing,” she said.“

At that time, I was still working with pencil and paper,” she recalled. “To me, watching the progression from then to now is the biggest thing, to see things go from boxes on a shelf that maybe no one would look at for 50 years, and now they’re catalogued and indexed online.”

Local history doesn’t have to be grand or of great interest to those outside Clarke County for it to be important, Morris believes. “History can be people enduring their lives, for good or for bad,” she said. One of her goals in her 30 years with CCHA was to make sure that everyone in the county, regardless of circumstances or family history, was included.

“Mountain people, small farmers, people who came here after 1900, their history is as much Clarke as the Tidewater planters,” she explained.Morris also hopes that young people realize the importance of genealogy and local history and over the years enjoyed having fourth graders visit the CCHA office, where she would show them photographs on microfilm. On one occasion, she showed the children a photograph of a basketball player. “One little boy looked at me and said, ‘There’s my daddy!’ He figured out that his father and he were both history, and that people make history every day,” she said.

“Think of kids getting out of  high school today, how many wars they’ve been through,” Morris said. “They don’t think they make history, but they do. Children are like trees: They need roots before they can stretch to the sun, and having a sense of belonging to a place are the main roots for a child, knowing that they are part of the history of a place.”

“Mary is so dedicated,” said CCHA director Nathan Stalvey. “Every historical association needs someone like her, who loves what she does. She’s inspiring, but she’s humble.”

“As for proud moments, my highest is when I passed the miller’s class and became a legal, bona fide grinding miller for the Burwell-Morgan Mill,” Morris said. ”You wear many hats in a small organization, including sometimes potty cleaner!”

Morris received CCHA’s Professional Achievement Award in 2004, and was awarded the Heritage Hero Award by the Mosby Heritage Area Association in 2016. She also helped Clermont Farm in Berryville catalog its collection and created a database of more than 3,000 people associated with the property over the years.

“Mary has never, ever been about attention grabbing,” Stalvey said. “She genuinely just loves what she does and people see that. It reflects back and that’s why people love to listen to her stories.”

Morris is stepping down for health reasons, but has been involved in the interviewing and hiring of her replacement, whom she plans to help become acclimated to the position. She also hopes to remain involved with CCHA on a volunteer basis.

“It’s all going to depend on health, but over the years I’ve said there’s a plank in the office for them to carry me out, because I always figured I’d never leave,” she joked. “I’m keeping the plank around. I can’t give up the CCHA and I can’t give up learning. If I stop trying to help, I stop living.”

Clarke County Historical Association is hosting a retirement party for Mary Morris Sunday, July 21, at 2pm, at the CCHA headquarters at 32 E. Main Street, Berryville, VA 22611.

Conservation Groups Meet At Cool Spring

Nearly 30 area conservation groups and land trusts met June 20 at Shenandoah University’s Cool Spring Campus for a summit of the Blue Ridge Conservation Alliance. They gathered to explore more cooperation and collaboration to protect what is considered one of the most threatened mountain landscapes in the Eastern Seaboard, the Blue Ridge and surrounding area from Front Royal, Va., to the Potomac River in Harpers Ferry, W.Va. 

The Blue Ridge Conservation Alliance, or BRCA, is a network of partners working to protect the natural, scenic, and historic values of this landscape, and to conserve land, safeguard watersheds, and preserve the historic landscape along the Appalachian Trail corridor and the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers. Its steering committee includes representatives from Appalachian Trail Conservancy, Friends of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Land Trust of Virginia, Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy, Piedmont Environmental Council, Virginia Working Landscapes, and Berryville-based The Downstream Project.

Guest speakers at the event included Trail Conservancy (ATC) staff members working on two initiatives with direct impact in Clarke County. Dennis Shaffer, ATC’s director of landscape conservation, described how partnerships like BRCA are collaborating along the trail’s 2,180-mile corridor to conserve land and become more connected with the towns within the trail’s view-shed — Berryville, for example, is a recognized Appalachian Trail Town. Anne Baker, ATC landscape partnership manager, invited local groups to tap into Wild East, a promotional campaign that highlights the role of the Appalachian Trail as a vital natural corridor for wildlife, plants, and quality of life for people. 

Dan Holmes, policy director for Piedmont Environmental Council, gave a presentation on utility-scale solar energy farms cropping up in the Shenandoah Valley. He urged partners to work with local planning agencies to develop ordinances that protect agricultural lands and scenic values while enabling expansion of solar energy. Learn more about BRCA at

The Berryville Beat

Dispatches from the Berryville Town Council

As 2019 dawns, there is a lot going on in the Town of Berryville. The Town Council is hard at work on several initiatives as we draw closer to the annual budget season.In addition to our monthly Town Council meeting, the council also has five council committees. The committees serve as a time for members to review initiatives, programs and more, and provide a recommendation to the full council at a future meeting. As always, all Town Council business and committee meetings are open to the public, and we always welcome your input.

Personnel, Appointments & Policy is chaired by Recorder Jay Arnold, and includes Mayor Patricia Dickinson and Council Member Erecka Gibson. Streets & Utilities is chaired by Council Member Diane Harrison, and includes Mayor Dickinson. Public Safety is chaired by Council Member Donna McDonald, and includes Council Member Harrison and Mayor Dickinson. Budget & Finance is chaired by Council Member Gibson, and includes Council Member Kara Rodriguez and Mayor Dickinson. Community Development is chaired by Council Member Rodriguez, and includes Council Members Harrison and McDonald.

The Personnel Committee is looking to allow an additional line of communication for Facebook followers, as the Town Council will be reviewing a social media policy that could establish Facebook pages for the Town of Berryville and the Berryville Police Department. This policy would also outline social media guidelines for town employees and elected town officials. Policies will be adopted to meet the legal requirements of archiving all content. 

At January’s Streets & Utilities Committee, members discussed the results of the surveys submitted by citizens as it related to stormwater issues, or non issues, they were having at their property. We found a number of situations that were new due to 2018’s wet weather, but also a number who have had a history of issues in basements and yards. These homes have experienced an increase in the water this past year. We looked at three areas to have the town manager look into having engineered: the Jackson Pond, the Town Run, and homes abutting the Battlefield Estates development and including impact to Walnut Street if changes were made. This will be presented to council in February to release funding from the monies already in the stormwater fund.

The Public Safety Committee is in the process of reviewing Chapter 20 of the town code, which focuses on special event regulations on town property and public spaces. The objective of the review is to first formulate a policy that incorporates the interests and safety of the event sponsors, as well as members of the public in the use of public space. The regulations and processes within the policy, once reviewed by legal counsel, will then be incorporated into the town code. The committee is simultaneously reviewing Chapter 8 of the town code in the same fashion. Chapter 8 concerns regulations associated with garbage and recycling. Further, we anticipate changes to the town trash collection program, particularly in regards to recycling. At our next council meeting, February 12, the council will be considering whether to eliminate glass collection from our 
recycling program. 

The Budget & Finance Committee, like the rest of the council, is anticipating the arrival of budget season, as we prepare to review the fiscal year 2020 budget, which will take effect July 1. The committee’s next meeting, Thursday, February 28, at 10:30am, will be the first work session on the town manager’s proposed budget. The full council will have its first budget work session Tuesday, March 12, ahead of our regularly scheduled monthly meeting. In January, the committee also continued its review of online payment options for water and sewer bills, something we hope to implement in the future.

Finally, the Community Development Committee went over potential changes to the website, as the council has previously indicated a desire to revamp the website. We received a briefing on the logistics, pricing and timeline for such an update, and took a look at website updates that have worked for 
other municipalities. 

This monthly column is authored by the members of the Berryville Town Council. For more information on town government, including meetings, agendas, and contact information for the Town Council and town staff, visit

Residents Get Easier Access For Trash Disposal

Clarke County Convenience Center saves residents the drive time

Clarke residents in the northeastern part of the county who have been carrying their household trash 25 miles or more to dispose of it at Frederick County facilities are excited about a new Clarke County facility that is much closer 
to home.

The Clarke County Convenience Center at 90 Quarry Road (Rt. 612), about four miles from the Loudoun County line, opened to the public on Saturday, January 12.

The convenience center is for Clarke County residents only. Initially, convenience center hours are 7am to 6pm on Saturdays, and 10am to 3pm on Sundays. If demand is great enough, the county will revise the schedule, opening the facility on one or two weekdays.

The convenience center accepts bagged only household trash, and its recycling containers accept paper, cardboard, aluminum, and plastic (#1 and #2). It will not recycle plastics #3 through #7, and it will not accept glass, because glass is no longer in demand as a 
recyclable material.

A county-owned and operated convenience center for household trash has been a priority for the Board of Supervisors since 1999, but finding a suitable location proved challenging. In 2015, Stuart M. Perry Quarry Inc., generously offered two acres in the northeast corner of its 149-acre property that fronts Harry Byrd Highway (Va. 7) and Quarry Road. Clarke Supervisors accepted, and added the project to the capital budget in 2015, setting aside funds toward the project every year.

“The Board is pleased to open this facility. We know it’s been a high priority for our constituents for many years, and we’re glad it’s come to fruition,” said Chairman David Weiss, who represents the Buckmarsh District. “The county is fortunate to have Stuart M. Perry Quarry Inc. as a neighbor and partner. The company provided an ideal piece of land, and saved the county a significant amount 
of money.”

An attendant will be on-site whenever the convenience center is open to assist residents and maintain the site. Winchester Amish Connection manufactured the attendant’s booth building.

Originally set to open in fall 2018, record-breaking rainfall throughout the summer and fall greatly delayed construction. Even its mid-May groundbreaking was delayed by seven-straight days of rain. Construction began on May 21, 2018. 

Only Berryville and Boyce residents have regular trash service. Other Clarke County residents pay for private trash pickup, or they use Frederick County convenience centers located at Double Tollgate (4201 Stonewall Jackson Hwy.), Stephenson (235 Hot Run Dr.), and Greenwood (801 Greenwood Rd., Winchester). Residents in southern Clarke County use the Warren County convenience center at Shenandoah Farms (47 Blue Mountain Rd., Front Royal). Clarke residents also use the Frederick County Regional Landfill at 280 Landfill Rd. in Winchester.

Now, Clarke residents — particularly those in the Buckmarsh and Millwood districts of the county — can dispose of their trash without taking it for long car rides.—Cathy Kuehner

Life and Times in the Hawthorne Building

By Betsy Arnette
When Melinda Kramer purchased the Hawthorne Building from the York family in 2006, Mrs. York told her, “You’re buying a very special building because it was built in three centuries.”
The Hawthorne Building sits at the northwest corner of Buckmarsh Street and West Main Street in downtown Berryville. An imposing Federal-style brick building, it was built in three phases. The earliest portion of the building is the rear half that fronts onto Buckmarsh Street. Distinguished from the newer sections by its smaller windows and rubble stone foundation, this section is presumed to have been built around 1795.
According to Mrs. York, the portion of the building that faces West Main Street was built in 1816. Treadwell Smith purchased the building at public auction in 1830 and operated an “ordinary,” or tavern, offering food and lodging to travelers. After Treadwell died in 1872, his son Charles inherited the building. The historic photo (courtesy of the Clarke County Historical Association) was taken around 1900 with members of Charles’ family on the front steps.
In 1887, Dr. Alfred Tucker rented the building and established his medical office and a small hospital there. A Clarke County native who attended medical school in Georgia and New York, Dr. Tucker returned to Berryville after receiving his medical degree. Dr. Tucker died in 1915.
In 1919, Archibald Cummins purchased the building from Charles Smith’s heirs. A year or so later, Cummins built the last addition to the building, on the back and adjacent to the original portion. Sometime before 1958, the front steps of the building were removed and a new interior staircase was built, leading from the street level to the main level of the building.
A mining engineer from Pittsburgh, Archibald and his bride, Anna, had honeymooned in Berryville in 1902, staying at the Crow’s Nest on Church Street. Anna was from Lynchburg and wanted to settle in Virginia. In 1903, Archibald purchased Audley, the plantation that had been the home of Nellie Custis, the adopted granddaughter of George Washington. They lived there until 1921, when Archibald sold Audley to Bernard and Montfort Jones, who turned the estate into a thoroughbred horse breeding and training center. Archibald built Anna a new home, Caryswood, on a hill overlooking the Shenandoah River.
Archibald Cummins was a generous philanthropist. After purchasing the Hawthorne Building in 1919, he hired Clarke County’s first public health nurse and opened a clinic in what then became known as the Cummins Clinic Building. He also brought a doctor up from Norfolk twice a year to perform tonsillectomies on Clarke County children. In those days, removing tonsils was commonly thought to prevent or reduce infection.
Cummins later decided that the county needed a library, so he hired a librarian and established the “Hawthorne Library” in 1929, named after his favorite author, Nathaniel Hawthorne. The library’s books came from his own personal collection.  The Hawthorne Library remained Clarke County’s only public library until the new high school, now Johnson-Williams Middle School, opened in 1954 and the books were transferred there.
Some years earlier, on a trip to Florida, Archibald had met a young man named Frank Tappan, and convinced him to come work for him at Audley. He paid for Frank to attend the University of Virginia for both his bachelor’s degree and his medical degree. After he graduated, Frank and his wife Alice moved into one of the upper-floor apartments of the Hawthorne Building, with Frank’s medical offices on the first floor. When Archibald died in 1933, he willed the building to Tappan. In recognition of Archibald’s kindness, Frank and Alice gave their daughter the middle name of Cummins and called her “Cummie.” When Cummie was growing up, the Tappans owned a home on the mountain, but often lived at the Hawthorne Building during
the winter.
During World War II, the Hawthorne Building served as an informal bus station. According to Cummie, her father never locked the building and often he would arrive in the morning to find that soldiers who were waiting for the bus had taken shelter inside.
In 1953, Dr. Robert “Bob” York joined Dr. Tappan’s practice in the Hawthorne Building. Five years later, Bob and Cummie married. For the first two years of their marriage, the Yorks lived in the Hawthorne Building while they renovated the former McDonald School for Boys at 314 South Church Street. Dr. York retired from practicing medicine in 1994 and, in 2006, the Yorks sold the Hawthorne Building to
Melinda Kramer.
Melinda completed an extensive renovation of the building shortly after buying it. Today, the Hawthorne Building contains four offices and seven apartments. Fully leased, the building is currently for sale. According to realtor Gillian Greenfield, there is an offer pending on the building.

From Heartbreak to Change: Clarke County Graduate featured in Starbucks “Upstanders”

By Karolyn Mosher
It was an image seen by millions of people around the world, and one the world would not forget. Alan Kurdi was just three years old when he lost his life trying to flee Syria with his family in 2015. Images of his lifeless body that washed ashore on a beach in Turkey shocked everyone who saw it. Mary Poole, a 1999 graduate of Clarke County High School, was breastfeeding her nine-month-old son and scrolling through the web on her phone when images of Kurdi hit home. She said her heart broke and “as a mom nothing affected me like this photo did,” so she decided to do something.
First, she donated $20 to the United Nations refugee program, but felt that wasn’t enough. She began asking questions to members of her community, friends, and local officials if helping refugees was something they could do. She had meetings at Town Hall to openly discuss with community members about their reservations in becoming a host city. Soon, she co-founded Soft Landing Missoula, which is a non-profit in Missoula, Montana, where she currently resides with her husband Dan, a wildland firefighter, and their two children Jack and Grace. The foundation was created to help families escape war-torn countries. According to the Soft Landing website, the goal of the organization is “to be a welcoming, supportive and informed community that can assist refugees to integrate
and thrive.”
When Mary first started to ask questions about helping refugees in Missoula, she didn’t realize that it was a controversial topic or know government policies on relocation. She said she wanted to start a discussion within her community to see what they could do to help. She created Soft Landing Missoula to ask her community, “Is this something that we can do?”
Last year, The Starbucks Channel created an original series called “Upstanders” that was viewed by 80 million people worldwide. According to their website, the series is “a collection of short stories celebrating ordinary people doing extraordinary things to create positive change in their communities.” In its second season, the show recognizes 11 people from across the nation for their courageous and humanitarian efforts. Mary Poole was one of them. Her story is featured in an eight-minute episode.
In the episode, Mary says that her decision to help, “wasn’t based on a political battle.” She just wanted to “help a couple of people.” When she first started making phone calls to see if creating a relocation program was possible, she discovered that Montana was one of two states that had none. She met with local and state officials to see if it was possible to help those wanting to relocate to Montana. After hard work, policies were changed to allow the first family to relocate
to Missoula.
When asked about those who oppose relocation she says that it was never about changing people’s minds but about opening up a discussion. She says that there are some “really tough questions” about relocation. She says, “It’s important to sit down together and share stories and discuss the issues.” She has made good friends out of these discussions.
In “Upstanders,” Mary, who studied nursing and later
became an arborist, is being recognized because she had no background in government policies, and yet is making a difference one family at a time. Missoula is now home to 30 families from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Iraq, Eritrea, and Syria. 200 volunteers have donated their time to help these families adjust to their new life.
For Mary, change is about listening to each other. Her parents, Cathy and Leon Warner who are still Berryville residents, are proud of her accomplishments. Her mother Cathy said in a phone interview, “millions of people saw the images of Alan Kurdi, but how many did something?” Mary has been getting a lot of media attention but stays down to earth. In “Upstanders” she says, “It takes tiny steps to make change, but I think anyone can do it.”
You can watch Mary’s story “From War to Montana,” at
upstanders and on Amazon Prime. You can also learn more at

Berryville Baptist Church Celebrates 245 Years

Story and Photos By Betsy Arnett

Berryville Baptist Church recently held an anniversary celebration to recognize the church’s 245 years of history in Clarke County.
When the church was founded in 1772, Virginia was a British colony under the rule of King George II.  Clarke County was part of the five-million-acre Northern Neck Proprietary owned by Thomas Fairfax, the Sixth Baron Fairfax of Cameron. The Town of Berryville was a rough settlement known as Battle Town.  And because the Church of England was the official state church, members of the new Church of
Christ in Buckmarsh were called “dissenters.”
The current Berryville Baptist Church building on Academy Street was completed in 1884 and is the third building that the congregation has occupied. The first church building was located north of the future town of Berryville.  An historical highway marker on the west side of Highway 340 marks the approximate location of the Buckmarsh church and its cemetery. The church’s second pastor was James Ireland who, prior to the Revolution, had been jailed in Culpeper County for preaching without a license. Ireland served the Buckmarsh Church from 1788 until his death in 1806 and is buried in an unmarked grave in the Old Buckmarsh Cemetery.
The congregation moved into the growing town of Berryville in the 1840s. They constructed a new brick church at the corner of Academy and Buckmarsh streets and established a cemetery on the west side of the church. During the Civil War, the church building was damaged, which led to the construction of the present church on the other side of the cemetery.
One unique feature of Berryville Baptist Church is the location of the sanctuary on the second floor. Spiral staircases on either side of the first floor entry lead to the sanctuary. Church legend holds that the previous church had been used as a stable during the Civil War and, when the new church was built, church leaders wanted to ensure that horses could never get into the sanctuary. According to church historian Dr. Dan Allen, churches were often used as stables during the war, but there is no evidence that Berryville Baptist Church was.
“I don’t know if the horse story is true or not,” says Dr. Allen. “But it makes a nice story.”

Retreat at Cool Spring

By Betsy Arnett

Heading east from Berryville on Route 7, right after crossing the Shenandoah River, turn left and drive north on Parker Lane. This narrow road winds through the woods along the Shenandoah, the river on one side and the western slope of the Blue Ridge on the other, for a mere one and a half miles before ending in front of a gracious white mansion known as The Retreat. Built in 1799 by Thomas Parker, The Retreat was the center of a 1,100 acre estate that remained in Parker family until 1872.  Today, thanks to the efforts of Suzanne Eblen and her husband, Pat, the house once again offers visitors a respite from a busy world as a vacation rental.

“It is shockingly calm here,” Suzanne says about the property. “Coming over the mountain from Loudoun County, I always feel like I’m going away on vacation.”

The house is surrounded by Shenandoah University’s 195-acre River Campus. Site of the Union Army’s staging area and artillery placements during the July 1864 Battle of Cool Spring, the land was developed into a golf course in the 1950s.  In 2013, after the golf course went bankrupt, the Civil War Trust purchased the property and conveyed it to Shenandoah University, ensuring its preservation as open space.

The Eblens purchased the house in January 2014. A girlfriend brought Suzanne to see The Retreat when it went on the market in May 2012, but at that time, the asking price put the property out of her range.

“I kept my eye on it, though,” Suzanne recalls. “A few days before Christmas 2013, I saw online that it had gone to short sale. We made an offer and closed the deal less than a month later.”

The previous owner, Scot Lessler, purchased the property in 2005 and began to restore it, but the scope of work needed – and the economic downturn – proved to be the project’s undoing.

“Honestly, if Scot hadn’t done the heavy lifting on the restoration, I couldn’t have afforded to finish it,” Suzanne says. Lessler replaced the roof, repaired the foundation, installed HVAC ducts, and began stripping centuries of paint and varnish from the floors and woodwork.

The Eblens spent a year completing the house’s restoration. When they purchased it, the house had crumbling walls, no functioning bathrooms and no kitchen at all. Today, the house boasts five bedrooms, plus a sleeping attic that can accommodate four. It is available for whole-house rentals year-round through the Vacation Rentals By Owner website (

Suzanne has furnished the house with a decidedly European flair, a style familiar to fans of her antique store and interior design business, The Old Lucketts Store, in Loudoun County. The subtle, monochromatic palette of the furnishings contributes to the house’s serenity.

She left the woodwork – which legend attributes to Hessian mercenaries placed in the charge of Daniel Morgan after the Revolutionary War – bare, stripped of paint by the previous owner.  The “pickled pine” look fits with the European aesthetic of the furnishings.

“I didn’t want to make it a museum, where people would be afraid to touch things and not feel comfortable,” Suzanne explains. “I want to honor the house’s total history. Leaving the woodwork the way it was when we bought it is part of that history.”

After opening in early 2015, The Retreat at Cool Spring quickly garnered a series of five-star reviews on the VRBO website. Words like “tranquil,” “relaxing,” and “quiet” appear frequently in the reviews, proving that The Retreat is living up to its name.

“When guests arrive, they are on their own,” says Jocelyn Zarcyzinski, The Retreat’s housekeeper. “It’s really lovely to be here, and guests appreciate that.”

The Retreat at Cool Spring is not Suzanne’s only Clarke County venture. This May, she will be bringing her Lucketts Spring Market to the Clarke County Fairgrounds.

Suzanne Eblen opened the Old Lucketts Store in 1996 and started the Spring Market a few years later.  She and her husband moved to Northern Virginia from Los Angeles in 1990. She was amazed by how much less expensive vintage furniture was in Virginia than in California. She began visiting auction houses and estate sales, reselling her purchases at “epic” barn sales on their farm outside Lovettsville.

“I always set a limit on how much I would spend at a sale,” Suzanne says. “It’s easy to get caught up in the bidding and pay too much for an item. I would look at something and ask myself, what would be a good price if I were buying it retail?”

Her vintage furniture and interior design business grew from there, starting with a booth in a Brunswick antique mall and culminating with the purchase of the abandoned general store on Route 15 north of Leesburg that became The Old Lucketts Store.

“We bought the store in March, I had a baby that spring, and we opened in August,” Suzanne remembers with a laugh. Today, The Old Lucketts Store has an international reputation for “vintage hip” furniture and décor.

The Lucketts Spring Market enjoys a similar reputation. Initially held on the grounds of the Lucketts Community Center, the market outgrew that site and has now outgrown its current location on Old Lucketts Store property. Last summer, Suzanne began looking for a new location and knew she had found it as soon as she saw the Clarke County Fairgrounds.

“Everyone in Clarke County has been so welcoming,” Suzanne says about moving the Spring Market to Berryville. “This year’s market is going to be spectacular.”

Over 130 vendors are signed up already and Suzanne is hoping to hit 200. She has a full line up of workshops, live music, food vendor and even a beer garden planned. The Lucketts Spring Market will be May 19, 20 and 21, 2017. All the details are on the website at