Nestled in the heart of historic Westmoreland County lies the little-changed town of Montross, Virginia. Westmoreland County figured prominently during the colonial era of Virginia and is the birthplace of our nation’s first President, as well as U.S. President James Monroe and the great Lee family of Virginia. U.S. Congressman Rob Wittman and Virginia State Senator Richard Stuart both call Montross home.
Indeed the courthouse green and side streets beside and behind the courthouse have changed very little over the years. As one who has known the Inn at Montross aka the Montross Inn as an establishment for a little more than thirty years now, I have seen it go through many changes. If the grand old inn could only talk— we would surely know just how many changes she has seen and how many secrets have been kept by her throughout the ages.
I remember it well when there was a tavern/pub in the basement, when it was THE place to go back in the day, even though it was quite a drive from just about everywhere. The Inn also served as a place for special family meals and celebrations for all of the important events in life like graduation, anniversaries, rehearsal dinners and the like. Many of you reading this have made your own memories at the Inn and remember well how important it was to the area when there was little else around. Indeed many fond memories and good times have taken place here over the years since the Inn first served as a tavern, centuries ago. One can only wonder how many pints of ale, cups of coffee, meals and glasses of wine have been served in the pub or tavern over the centuries.
I have to say, right out of the gate, that the Inn at Montross has never looked better, at least not in my life and times.
If you haven’t seen the Inn in a while, you will be delightfully surprised by a visit. Truly a “little bit of sunshine has come to Montross”!
A Brief Historical Overview of the Inn at Montross
Many stories and versions of the history of the Inn have been told over the years in word and in print. For many years the old Inn was believed to have been the sight of John Minor’s Pub/Ordinary. Although Mr. Minor was licensed to operate an ordinary around 1685, recent research (by others) has revealed that John Minor’s pub may have been located elsewhere—and not on the site of the present day Inn. According to Cindy Brigman Syndergaard, “the present day Inn was built around 1800, on the site of an earlier tavern from the seventeenth century. An old brick wall in the basement/pub area is believed to date to the late 1600s”.
Westmoreland County’s early land records indicate that the present site of the Inn at Montross was originally part of a twelve-hundred acre property, owned by William Averet (who forfeited the tract due to his abandonment of it). The property was subsequently granted to Thomas Dios around 1664 as payment for transporting 24 people from England to Virginia. Around 1695, records show that one-hundred ten acres, known as “the Tavern Tract” was deeded to Patrick Spence. Eighty acres of the one-hundred ten acre tract was later deeded to John Spence.
Although the property has changed hands many times throughout the ages, it has continually fascinated us all and remains to this day as a prominent landmark in Montross.
There are few records to indicate who operated it as a tavern, when it was a tavern and what stood on the site prior to the construction of the current Inn around 1800. The grand old three story structure has endured the test of time, functioning as a Tavern, Hotel, Restaurant, private residence, boarding house, school and even apartments. Around 1975 it was remodeled and returned to use as an Inn and restaurant.
The Restoration of a Dream
Years ago, Cindy Brigman Syndergaard looked up and down the east coast for eighteen months, in search of the perfect place to call home. One day, years ago, she said her life was forever changed by what she found here. “I drove into Montross and saw cars parked at the courthouse, children playing in the yard of this old house and a couple of men working on a tractor nearby. It was small town America. I was drawn to this place and loved this house from the first time I saw it.”
Cindy moved to Montross and was managing partner at the Inn from November of 1997 thru July of 2004. She fell in love with the area, the people and the Inn itself. When the Inn was sold in 2005, Cindy returned to Atlanta and continued her work as a chef and caterer on a large scale for the corporate community. Cindy is a Culinary Arts graduate of the Arts Institute of Atlanta.
Over the last five years, Cindy continued to keep in touch with friends in Montross. One day last year, she said that she received a phone call from current partner and neighbor, Rod Parker, telling her that the Inn was going to be auctioned.
Rod Parker, of Parker Farms, purchased the Inn on the day of the auction and as a result of prior conversations with Rhys Weakley of Northern Neck Building Supply; they all became the new owners with the intent of restoring the grand old structure and returning it to service to the community as an Inn and Restaurant. They are joined in the partnership by their wives Beth Parker and Nancy Carver Weakley. Cindy and Ken Syndergaard also came on board as managing partners, who will live on the third floor of the grand old Inn.
The Restoration and Renovation Begin
A monumental restoration, complete renovation and much needed expansion has taken place at the Inn. New windows, moldings, a state-of-the-art commercial kitchen, wonderfully appointed guest rooms and so much more have elegantly transformed the Inn to a welcoming and comfortable place.
The best of the old is combined with the new in a painstaking labor of love that has yielded astounding results. The sunny disposition and welcoming exterior of the grand old Inn has retained its trademark and classic Colonial good looks with the addition of a long overdue facelift that has elevated the façade of the inn to stand shoulder to shoulder with comparable Inns in Virginia. The new exterior color was chosen by partners Nancy Carver Weakley and Beth Parker. The interiors have been lovingly decorated and coordinated by Nancy and Beth, whose panache for color and textiles is evident. Once inside the front door you are suddenly aware that the Inn at Montross has it all!
A grand fireplace in the tavern room off of the main center hall provides the perfect compliment for cocktails and a little bit of piano music before dinner. Beth is a teaching pianist. The well appointed and beautifully restored interior beckons you to stay awhile and chat with the staff and Innkeeper Cindy Brigman Syndergaard whose enthusiasm is contagious. Her love for people and her passion for food are evident from the moment she greets you and shakes your hand.
The dining room at the Inn is elegant, at the very least, with beautifully starched white table cloths in a well set dining space that is reminiscent of a fine dining establishment in the big city. I almost had to pinch myself to make sure I was actually in Montross and not at a fine restaurant in Richmond, Fredericksburg or Williamsburg. The atmosphere and well orchestrated ambiance of the Inn makes you feel welcomed and special from the moment you walk-in. The Inn and restaurant features artwork by local artists.
Finally, the five guest rooms, located on the second floor are lovely indeed. Original heart pine floors remain. The Carver Library, named in honor of Nancy Carver Weakley’s family whose name is synonymous with the Coca-Cola bottling company in Montross, is also on the second floor level. The library offers a nice compliment to the lodging area. Each room has its own private bath, heating and air, as well as a queen sized bed and other furnishings that create a comfortable and homey feel. The Inn, which celebrated its grand opening on April 8, 2011, awaits you. Room reservations are recommended however walk-ins are always welcome. Rooms are available at $149.00 per night with breakfast provided. Dinner is also available for an additional fee.
Something for Everyone
The Inn’s “Thank You” and “Staff Training” night dinner was a wonderful celebration for the partners who have each brought their own unique perspective to the Inn and for the contractors who invested so much of their time, talents and heart in making the Inn what it is today. The contractors and guests dined first at the Inn on April 2, 2011.
For months the Inn at Montross has been fine tuning the various items on their menu. The menu appeals to those with gourmet tastes or simple palettes. There is something for everyone at the Inn! Standard Entrée items include your choice of a starch side with the vegetable of the day. As a full ABC Licensed establishment, a cocktail, beer and wine list is also available. The Inn at Montross features fine wines from the surrounding areas, for a true taste of the Northern Neck.
A Sampling of the Menu Offered at the Inn’s Restaurant
Starters—Shrimp and Garlic Risotto, Carpaccio, Antipasto or Spiced Curried Pork Satay and roasted vegetable Shish Kebab.
Entrée Items—Beef Wellington, Asian Style Crab Cakes, Prime New Zealand Lamb Chops, Smoked Paprika Rotisserie Chicken, Filet Mignon, 24-oz. Porterhouse, 16 oz T-Bone, Roasted Chicken Breast or Apple Cider Center
Cut Pork Chop.
Starch Sides—House Breaded Onion Rings, Hand Cut Steak Fries, Deep Fried Panko Crusted Portabella Planks, Griddled Potatoes Anna, Creamy Spinach Risotto, House Mac and Cheese, The Inn’s own Kettle Chips or a Jumbo Russet Baked Potato.
Soup Du Jour is offered, as well as an assortment of salads.
Lighter Fare—Blackened Chicken Wrap, Angus Burger, the Monte Cristo (hot ham, turkey and swiss), the Crab Cristo sandwich, Sausage and Bacon Burger, Club Skewer, Taco Salad Bowl and Flat Bread Pizza. All served with house cut fries or the Inn’s Kettle Chips.
Great Food and Good Times
If all this has got you thinking about great food, a family celebration, anniversary, dinner for two or a romantic getaway—come on down to the Inn at Montross for a memorable good time. A great dining experience and good food is long remembered. It is a complete delight to the senses. Where in the Northern Neck of Virginia can such a place be found? It can be found in Montross, at The Inn —where good taste has never tasted so good!
The Inn at Montross is located at 21 Polk Street in Montross and has a seating capacity of 60. It is now open on Fridays and Saturdays for dinner and on Sundays for brunch. The culinary staff is also available for catering your special event. Special thanks to Cindy Brigman Syndergaard who shared her enthusiasm for the goals and vision of the Inn at Montross. For more information contact the Inn at 804-493-8624. They can also be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. There is also a facebook page for upcoming events, feedback and items of interest to you. It was a pleasure and an honor to see the new Inn at Montross and to write this article on the past, present and vision for the future at this historic establishment.
Karin Andrews can be reached at email@example.com or by your letters to the editor at The House and Home Magazine.