“Home Among the Hills,” the 2023 Home Tour sponsored by the Greenbrier Historical Society, will happen on Saturday, June 10, 2023.
Lucky me – I was offered a sneak peek of the sites and history that would be shared during the tour. So much history!
This year’s sites are located in Muddy Creek Valley of Greenbrier County. My tour guides for the day were Alderson resident and Greenbrier Historical Society’s Secretary Margaret Hambrick and Society Board Member Sissy Isaac.
We started the day (and you should, too) at Fruits of Labor Café in Alderson. It’s a fun spot to grab a lite breakfast or lunch. Full disclosure – we did both, bookending our tour with breakfast and lunch. While you are there, notice the town’s lion mascot in several art installations around town and ask about its history. Here’s a hint: it involves a long-ago circus, a traveling salesman, and the town bridge.
After a shot of caffeine and sugar, we were off. Margaret was our driver and very familiar with the country roads that twist and turn through the woods, and she had a story for every home we passed along the way. If you are the driver on Saturday, don’t get distracted by the beautiful scenery, these roads are often one lane, and you need to be alert while traveling.
Our first stop was the circa 1795 home of James Jarrett, known as Fairhill. Upon approach, you are in awe of the tiered-stone front garden. They were filled with hellebores for my visit, but I expect other blooms to appear as the temperatures warm. Fairhill is a family home. The kitchen and sitting room have electricity and the comforts needed for modern living, including wi-fi but no television. The integration of these conveniences is seamless. They were designed with care and respect for the home’s history.
The owner refers to a hyphen or doorway that takes you into the past. This part of the house is as it was in the late 1700s – Candle lit and pared back to the original way of life. This family is a purist in keeping it real. They even removed the electricity installed during the brief time a non-family member owned the property.
I heard stories of magical candlelight dinners in the dining room and of a bride arriving by horse-drawn carriage to be married on the front porch overlooking the tiers of blooms and the valley below.
We continue deeper into Muddy Valley to visit the Jarret Clay House circa 1860. The front porch of this family home was once the gathering spot for local musicians. They would cross the mountain and travel along the stream with their instruments to celebrate the weekend. Others would dance, some would court the ladies, and all enjoyed an evening under the stars after a week of hard work.
Traveling along Kitchen Creek, we pass cattle and turkey buzzards on fenceposts with their massive wings spread, soaking up the sunshine. Although this sight is unnerving, it is how they dry their wings and warm their bodies.
On tour day, there will be seven View Spots along the roads. These spots offer an opportunity to pull over and observe sites from the comfort of your car.
The recently renovated Blue Sulphur Springs is the star of the tour. The ten years in the making renovation preserves the history of this spring and what was once a bustling area with a hotel and a steady stream of visitors.
The Blue Sulphur Springs pavilion will have a dramatic presentation by Major Vass, the resort’s manager in the 1840s, at 11:00 am and 2:00 pm on tour Saturday. The family-friendly event will also feature docents who will talk about the history of the Blue Sulphur Springs resort, food for purchase, and portable toilets. The Arbuckle Fort Archaeological Site will have a reconstructed Native American habitat; displays of Native American artifacts; tours to the fort site by the archaeologists who excavated it; artifacts from the fort site; and information about the Blaker’s Mill community. The Tahoe Antique Tractor Club will display early tractors and other farm machinery.
All locations are accessible off I-64 and then Route 12 at Spring Valley Road and Blaker’s Mill Road between Alta and Alderson. Watch for the large bright electronic signs on those roads saying “Home Tour” with an arrow pointing the way. The sites are also easy to find using google maps with the addresses on the GHS website.
Why not make it a weekend and attend the Friday night reception at the 1834 Supreme Court of Appeals of Virginia Law Library and Study building and the Enslaved Quarters /Rhoda’s House beside it located at 200 Courtney Drive, Lewisburg, WV. The reception begins at 7:30 p.m. and includes the opportunity to explore both buildings as well as view amazing art and indulge in some food and drink.
Tickets are available online from the Greenbrier Historical Society website at www.greenbrierhistorical.org. Tickets are $30 in advance and $40 on the day of the tour at each spot and include the driving tour keepsake booklet. Friday night tickets are $75 and proceeds benefit the Greenbrier Historical Society which works to preserve the history of the Greenbrier Valley.