Boxwoods and the Battle of Lewisburg

As seen on the Charleston Gazette.

Gazing out the upstairs window, I see a beautiful backyard that creates a secluded spot right off the main thoroughfare of town. Surrounded by trees and borders of perennials, it’s the kind of place where long lingering evenings happen.

A weathered teak bench framed by boxwoods is a focal point of the design, but there is so much more to this beautiful garden. In May of 1862, as gardens across the county were beginning to bloom, the Battle of Lewisburg raged.

Historian and author Richard L. Armstrong of Bath County, Virginia, has detailed this history in his book “The Battle of Lewisburg: May 23, 1862.” His research includes photos, maps and an easy-to-follow timeline. As you think of the garden and the battle, keep in mind that in 1862 Lewisburg was still part of Virginia. West Virginia did not become a state until a year later, on June 20, 1863.

This historic space is just one of the gardens open to the public on Saturday, June 9, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. as part of the 36th Lewisburg Home and Garden Tour. Three homes and one garden in Lewisburg, plus two homes in White Sulphur Springs will be featured. As an added bonus, Armstrong will be on hand during the tour, signing copies of his book and chatting with fellow history lovers.

Although I am lucky enough to have spent many happy hours in this historic Lewisburg garden, there are others I am excited to see for the first time. The federal-style home, Augusta on the Great Levels, is located on a lot that was formally part of the 1700s land grant known as the “Great Levels.” This home, built in 1835, features the original handcrafted staircase, and you can just imagine the history as you make your way to the front entrance on a wide brick walkway accented with shrubs and pink roses.

The Maison Marcel is now a bed and breakfast. This is another garden where boxwoods are featured. When stepping inside, visitors will be treated to an interior designed by Carlton Varney, decorator of The Greenbrier hotel. Expect to see dramatic carpets, wallpapers, plus a historic mural. Fashion lovers should note this home appeared in the January 2018 issue of Vogue magazine.

Not to be outdone, the White Sulphur Springs home Camp Penny, which was previously the Bethune School for the African-American children of the area, is open for the tour. One of these students was Katherine Coleman Johnson who went on to a career with NASA, and is the central character of the book and movie “Hidden Figures.”

No longer a school, this private residence is home to a talented artist who has personalized the home while being respectful of its history. A former student of the school will serve as a docent during the house tour.

Complimentary tea and cookies will be offered at the General Lewis Inn, a town landmark built in the early 1800s by John H. Withrow. I encourage you to take a moment and walk through the back gardens, which continue to evolve and include a nod to history with updated accents. This stop provides a nice respite and time to reflect on the gardens and homes of the tour. It will also allow me time to make notes about what ideas I want to bring back to my little house on a big hill.

Yes, Lewisburg is a town I love, with people I love. The history, the gardens and the charm of a small town all beckon me to visit often.

If you are interested in this biennial home and garden tour, tickets are $25 and can be purchased by calling the Greenbrier Valley Visitors Center at 304-645-1000 or at any of the tour stops on June 9 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.