In Smithfield, Lay Your Head Where George Washington Slept
Feb 04, 2014 | Eric Anderson, MD, and Nancy Anderson, RN
Photography by the authors
American towns that go back to the very beginnings of the New World will surely have evidence of those early days. So it’s no surprise to find antique shops in Smithfield, VA. We were talking about one last week whose owner also owns the B&B next door, Mansion On Main.
So if you want to come back to look at Betty Clark’s antiques tomorrow or even simply to enjoy those that you would live amongst as a guest then the Maison is, indeed, one of your accommodation choices. However, it has only four rooms so you might want to check that it has space first. Rates per room about $120.
The Queen Anne Victorian Mansion (lovingly restored in the late 1990s) was built in 1889 for a prominent local lawyer and historian, Richard S. Thomas (1837-1915), who has been called “Virginian of Virginians”—no small honor when you consider how many from Virginia have had an impact on United States history.
Dawn Riddle, manager for the B&B, lives in Thomas’ original law office under the front parlor. The “first occupant of the lot” was George Purdie, the Scottish merchant who paid for the Revolutionary War telescope on display in the Old Courthouse and the Mansion was the first house in the Historic District to be restored to “authentic Painted Lady splendor.”
“Smithfield’s Waterfront Hotel” constructed in 1986 gives visitors another choice for accommodations. The original structure had 15 rooms in the Inn but 22 luxury rooms were added in the Lodge in 1994. Romantics might particularly want to look at the two suites in the Lighthouse, an exact replica of a working Chesapeake Bay Light (actually modeled after Hooper Strait Light in Maryland). The Lighthouse rooms, at about $270 a night, are the most expensive.
The Smithfield Station restaurant has an impressive reputation. We ate great meals there twice: once for lunch and another for dinner. We asked our waitress Danielle how she liked living in Smithfield.
“Love it,” she says, “It’s quaint, charming, easily walked with multiple things to do all on Main Street—and most attractions are free! This used to be a one stoplight town (the stop was on Highway 10) and people would come here to get away. They still do.”
The Station’s clientele can be upscale, no surprise when you see some of the boats that are tied down. We talk to Brian Pack, one of the two sons of owners Ron and Tina Pack.
“Our marina is often full of million dollar boats,” he says. “During the last Richmond Power Boat Line we had 108 boats—more than $30 million—docked here.”
Despite pride in his guests, Brian seems unassuming. His parents had gone sailing with friends in Upper Chesapeake Bay in 1983 and realized this location on the Pagan River in Smithfield offered as much as the fancy communities they were cruising past. As a child Brian washed dishes in the Smithfield Inn. The basement of the Inn had been used as part of the Underground Railroad for slaves to escape the South and evidence of that was still around them.