The Christmas holidays seem to come into our lives faster with each passing year. For most of us the calendar pages seem to flip directly from the 4th of July to December 25th with astonishing speed. Accompanying this annual phenomena is the amount of extra stress so many of us feel that is brought on by the typical season deadlines—gifts to buy, travel plans to make, events to go to and much more.
The annual Urbanna Christmas House Tour, held the first Saturday of every December, provides a lovely respite from the typical holiday hoops so many of us jump through by taking folks back to the sweet old-fashioned times when things were simpler, slower and more traditional. Along the main thoroughfare of Virginia Street, annual decorations are carefully unpacked and hung, candles are twinkling in storefront windows, and the sound of carols and Christmas bells can be heard throughout the village for the delight of adults and children alike. Weather permitting, shop doors will be open to tempt visitors inside with mulled cider and freshly made ginger cookies. For so many residents and visitors, the Christmas House Tour offers a way to relax for the day in Virginia’s most beautiful waterfront community and take in all the old-fashioned pleasures of the season in the perfect old-fashioned town...without all the fret.
This year, the Tour includes five distinctive homes to walk through, including “Rosegill Plantation”, “Ashton on Erium Hill”, the Kenneth & JoAnn Moore house, formerly known as the “Joseph and Clara Tyler Thrift House,” “Atherston Hall Bed & Breakfast”, “The Montague House” and “The James Mills Scottish Factor Store”. Docents at each home will be able to describe some of the features, history, special furnishings, and interesting stories that have been carefully passed along and are unique to the character of each of the houses.
On the day of the Tour, shuttle transportation will be available at the Urbanna United Methodist Church on Cross Street. Tour tickets may be purchased at the church for $25.00 each. Box lunches are also available for purchase at the church. There is plenty of parking and complimentary shuttle transportation between houses is on a regular schedule so that visitors may have ample time to spend at each location.
On Friday, December 5 from 11am until 2pm, Rosegill Plantation will be open for a “Sneak Preview” of this very famous Virginia mansion. The Preview includes a luncheon, refreshments, libations, and a fashion show. This is something brand new to the Tour and shouldn’t be missed. Thinking
of a special gift for that someone who has everything? How about a ticket for the Sneak Preview! Only a limited number of seats are available, so purchase your tickets early. The $40.00 ticket price includes the following day’s Tour admission. A ticket to the Rosegill Preview is a great gift idea for the person who has everything.
James Mills Scottish Factor Store
The James Mills Scottish Factor Store, also known as the
Old Tobacco Warehouse, is one of only two such remaining structures of its kind in the United States where history buffs may learn of the colonial trade pattern of Virginia-grown tobacco for various items imported from Europe. During the 18th century in an era when paper money and coins were almost non-existent, tobacco growers brought their crop to
the factor store where they could trade it for goods from
Europe. The building, which is undergoing restoration, is
set in an undisturbed colonial setting just yards from the
Urbanna, Virginia waterfront on the Rappahannock River.
The James Mills Scottish Factors Store and its high profile
treasure, the 1755 Mitchell Map drawn by local physician
John Mitchell in 1755, are the historic treasures of not only
the Town of Urbanna, but the entire Commonwealth of
Virginia. The map was purchased in 1980 as part of the town’s tri-centennial celebration and has been recently restored.
It may be viewed at the Factor Store which is now being
used as the Welcome Center for Urbanna.
The Old Thrift House
The Old Thrift House: Constructed in the late 1930’s by
Joseph Tyler Thrift and his wife Clara, the house was originally built as a garage used to store oil delivery trucks for the family business. Clara Thrift was well known for the outdoor Christmas decorations she created in memory of her son,
Tyler. Visitors from miles around used to drive to Urbanna
to see the Thrift home at Christmas as the decorations had become so popular. In 1998 the home was purchased by
Mr. & Mrs. Ken Moore and subsequently went through a
total renovation. Mr. Moore died in 2012 but Mrs. Moore (JoAnn) maintains the beautiful home and gardens she and
her husband loved, and is continuing to preserve the story
and history of the residence.
Atherston Hall Bed & Breakfast
Atherston Hall: Originally the home was built in 1880 for a local schooner captain, Captain James H. Bohannon, commander of the ‘Legonia’, an ocean schooner. That same year, Captain Bohannon married ‘the girl next door’, Virginia Parrish. In the heart of Historic Urbanna, Atherston Hall is tucked one block away from the waterfront and the docks and beaches of the Chesapeake. Amid the charming Colonial and Victorian homes of Prince George Street in the village, the Inn has been the favorite destination for many guests over the years.
Owners and Hosts, Bill and Judith Dickinson, have maintained the 19th century charm and decor of the home that includes
5 guest rooms and 4 bathrooms and exquisite gardens.
The Montague House
Also known as the Old Customs House, The Montague House is a historic home located on the hill of Virginia Street close to the historic harbor of Urbanna. The house was built around 1758, and is a three bay rectangular plan brick structure built into the side of a steep hill with 1 1/2-stories on the west up-hill facade, and 2 1/2-stories on the east side. The house was renovated in the 1930s. Also on the property are a contributing brick wall and a formal boxwood garden site, which includes a garden building. Andrew Jackson Montague purchased the property in 1934. It is considered by many historians to be one of the oldest remaining buildings in the village historic district and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2008.
Historic Rosegill Plantation
Rosegill is a 860-acre waterfront property located on the south shore of the Rappahannock River and Urbanna Creek across from the town of Urbanna, Virginia. Included on the estate are two lakes, a private airstrip, a hangar, barns and a boat house. It is widely regarded as one of the most beautiful waterfront properties in Virginia. The three main houses date from 1650, when they were built by Ralph Wormeley, a colonial governor of Virginia. Thus the houses are about 100 years older than most of Williamsburg. Rosegill must have been established between 1650-1654. Rosegill must have been an elaborate complex in the lifetime of Mr. Wormeley. In 1686 a French Huguenot immigrant, M. Duval, described it “at least twenty houses along the plateau above the river.” That the library was one of the finest in all Virginia is evident from the estate inventory. The mansion served for two years as the residence of another Colonial Governor, Lord Howard of Effingham.