Petersburg and an Unexpected Visitor

Aug. 12th 2012

La Villa Romaine Bed and Breakfast

“Oh wow”

That was mostly what I said Friday and Saturday in Petersburg! We arrived late on Friday, thanks to my job holding me over and two traffic accidents blocking our escape from Norfolk. But when we pulled up to the house, all I could say was, “Oh wow.” This Italian style home that was built in 1858 was just a grand place!

Tiles on the Front Porch

As we walked up to the door, again the word, “Oh wow” escaped my lips. The front doors are 12 feet tall! There are two sets, the outer set and then the inner set, allowing a small reception space between the two. When Mrs. Roy opened the door to the main hall, I felt my breath rush out as I tried to say yet again, “Oh wow!” La Villa Romaine Bed and Breakfast is filled with beautiful French and Asian antiques that were from Mrs. Roy’s family in France.

Main Hall

Mrs. Roy warmly welcomed us and walked us upstairs to our room first to put away our things. The staircase leading up to our room was really grand! As you walked the first set of stairs, you were met by a small sitting area on the landing and a hall that leads back to a back section of the house. Then the next set of stairs lead you to the second floor rooms. Our room, The Louis XVI room was a warm floral room that wasn’t too over powering for a man to stay in. It has a king size bed with a draping half canopy. The walls are done in a white and blue stripe and it has a shared bath in yellow and blue. We were the only ones staying the night so we had the bath to ourselves.

Landing Sitting Area between the First and Second Floor

Louis XVI

Louis XVI

Louis XVI

From here Mrs. Roy walked us through to the next room that would have shared out bath, the Renaissance room. This is a very masculine room done in burgundy, browns and black. It is filled with a horse equestrian decor. The bed, the only full size bed in La Villa is a wood craved bed with a crown drape. The headboard had an egg carving in it. I wasn’t sure, but maybe it could have been a Thomas Brooks bed. Thomas Brooks was known for his egg carving accents on his beds. Either way, it was very impressive! If it had been a king or queen bed, I could have easily stayed in that room! Now here is something I have never seen and was really impressive. La Villa has decorated everything, including the inside of the closet spaces! Talk about attention to detail!




Renaissance – Thomas Brooks bed? See the Egg Craving

Renaissance – Closet

Mrs. Roy then walked us over to the Louis XV room with its deep pink walls and plaster accents on the walls. The bed, a king was draped with a beautiful pink crown. We then moved to the last room, the Provence room through the shared bath with the Louis XV room. This room is done in a floral and has a day bed added for additional guests. The king size bed is also draped with a beautiful crown. I was really impressed to learn that Mrs. Roy made all the curtains and draping in the house!

Louis XV

Louis XV

Bathroom between Louis XV and Provence



The main hall of the second floor is an inviting space with places to sit and read or to hold quiet conversations. Mrs. Roy pointed out the third floors above us and told us that they were two studies and a small tack room with her equestrian items. But we didn’t venture up there next. We headed back downstairs to the first floor. Here Mrs. Roy walked us through the main parlor with all her families’ French antiques. I have to say, it was mind blowing! I would love to have just a third of what she has for Belle Grove, but I don’t think it would match the style home it is. But what a great space to drool over!

Main Hall on the Second Floor

Formal Parlor

Formal Parlor

Formal Parlor

Mrs. Roy walked us across the main hall to the library next. As we walked across the floor, I took notice of the wood floor and its inlay patterns. Again, great attention to detail! You can tell the builder and first owner made sure it was to impress. The library was beautiful! It was down in a burgundy with antiques and books. The two most impressive antiques were two chairs from her family’s collection. One date to the 1400s and one from the 1500s. And here we think we are doing well with a home from the 1700s! “Oh wow!”

Wood Inlay Pattern


Library – The chair is from the 1500s

Library – The chair is from the 1400s!


Then we walked into the dining room which is filled with more antiques and china. It was so hard to take it all in! There was just so much to see! Then she led us back to the kitchen through a small butler’s pantry. The kitchen is a cozy space which can be more informal. It would be easily the gathering place for friends and family as the chef of the house whips up a gourmet meal for a few. At the back of the room was the old kitchen fireplace hearth. It was large as you would expect and gives that room that antique feel.

Formal Dining Room


Ktichen – Fireplace

Mrs. Roy then walked us to the day room just behind the formal parlor. This room was filled with Asian antiques and art from her family. Mrs. Roy explained that this room gets the morning sun and is a delight to enjoy your morning newspaper in. I don’t know, I think I would have a hard time reading the current news with such things to be studied around me! I didn’t ask the age of the items, but one would think with the collection this family has assembled over the years; there could easily have been items from the Ming Dynasty!

Day Room

Day Room

After looking around and taking in all we could in one viewing, our growling stomachs reminded us that we needed to head out to dinner and the Arts of Petersburg. We asked for a suggestion of places to eat and Mrs. Roy directed us to the Old Towne District with its abundant food and wide range of cuisines. We chose to head to a little Italian cafe, Maria’s Cafe on West Old Street. As we parked in the public parking lot just a block away, we could hear live music from the outdoor cafe area of Andrades. This restaurant features South American cuisine. Just next door to this is the Brickhouse Run, a British style pub where we were later told we should stop and try the Bangers and Mash. Across the street from Andrades was Wabi Sabi which we were told was a great place for sushi.

Before we hit Maria’s Cafe, we stopped at the Oaks Antique Mall to see my new friend, Robert the antique dealer. He had told us that he would be there working his booth for the Friday for the Arts. There we found him walking around in his tux tails serving a tray of cookies to the guest as they browsed the antiques. Talk about impressive service! I introduced him to Brett and we set an appointment for 11am the next morning to meet and see his home. Here we found out that he was just two doors down from La Villa! What a great bonus!

The Oaks Antique Mall – Robert

So off we went to Maria’s Cafe. I have to tell you as we turned the corner heading down to the opposite side of the block to Maria’s the aroma of the Italian food met us. I think we must have floated down that last block by our noses! Maria’s Cafe has a small outdoor cafe area and a wonderful sitting restaurant inside. As we came in, we were greeted again by the contemporary music of a solo artist. He had a wonderful deep and rich voice that wasn’t over powering and just right for a quiet meal between the two of us. Brett enjoyed Spaghetti with a Mushroom Marinara Sauce to which he added Meatballs. Brett is just a classic eater when it comes to Italian. I had the Chicken Piccata with Mushrooms and Capers and a Wine and Lemon Sauce. It was a wonderful meal and great customer service.

Maria’s Cafe

At this point, we were starting to drag a bit from our long day at work, so instead of dancing the night away at the outdoor cafe at Andrades, we headed back to La Villa Romaine for a restful night’s sleep. Brett was out like a light as soon as we hit the bed, but I needed to unwind, so I picked up a Petersburg guide that Mrs. Roy had in the room. As I started looking through the guide, I realized that there was so much more to Petersburg that I didn’t know.

Did you know that Petersburg was a main transport and shipping area for the new colonies? They had the Appomattox River for shipping and later the rail system. It was because of the rail system that Petersburg became an important area for the Union Army to hold during the Civil War. By cutting off the rail system in Petersburg, Richmond would be isolated and not be able to receive badly needed supplies. General Lee spent his last days of the War here trying to defend it. It would be just shortly after the fall of Petersburg that General Lee would surrender in Appomattox.

Did you know that the Battle of the Crater occurred here? If you saw the movie, Cold Mountain, they used this battle as part of the movie. It is where the Union Army dug a mine and filled it with explosives to blow a hole in the defense line of the Confederate Army. But sadly it did not have an affect the Union had hoped for. Instead, it resulted in more casualties for the Union forces (3798) than for the Confederate forces (1491). General Lee would call it “the saddest affair I have witnessed in the war.”

There were also several plantations in the area I wasn’t aware of. One in caught my eye, Weston Plantation in Hopewell, Virginia. I looked up the location and realized it was just a short drive from where we were. Maybe we would go see this plantation tomorrow on the way home was my thought. Finally I started getting sleepy so I shut off the light and drifted off to a quiet sleep. This house is very sound proof and we couldn’t even here the street noise from passing cars. It was a great way to fall asleep.

Around 4:30am I woke up and walked to our restroom. I turned the light, so by the time I laid back down; I know I was fully awake again. I cuddled back into my wonderful bed and drew the blanket up. As soon as I did, I heard what at first sounded like a deep bass from a radio in the distance. You know the kind you hear as you are sitting at a traffic light from someone’s car. I listened a little more. I realized quickly it was a deep bass sound. It was like footsteps. It sounded like a heavy boot walking along the hallway at a distance. It would walk a few steps, then stop and then walk some more. Then only thing was that it was getting louder with each step. It would walk a few more steps, stop and then walk again. Finally, I could hear it very clearly. It was a really hard boot sound. Someone that was heavy and walked hard. The next thing I knew, I could hear it in the room. It was walking up alongside my bed! I knew it because beside the bed is a small table with a marble top. On top of this table is a lamp and small picture frame. As it walked along my side of the bed, I not only heard the steps, but I could hear the frame and lamp rattle on the table from the steps vibrating the floor and table! All of a sudden I gasped and pulled the blanket up over my face. I didn’t want to see! It stopped. I quickly rolled over and asked Brett if he had heard it. Of course, he had slept through it as always. Sometimes I think a freight train could run through our bedroom and he wouldn’t hear it. So I turned on the light and looked around. Not a sound. After a few minutes, I turned off the light and settle back down. No sound. It was quiet for the rest of the night.

Now I don’t think this “visitor” was something to fear. I think it was more or less checking on me. I thought about it as I tried to go back to sleep. The first thought was that maybe this house had served as a hospital for the Civil War and it was a soldier that was walking around checking on things. It would make sense since the sound was boot like. So when I got up that morning, I met Mrs. Roy in the kitchen. We discussed my experience. She told me that the house was not used as a hospital, but General Ambrose Burnside had stayed there. Maybe it was General Burnside who was checking on us. Who knows, but it was an experience.

General Ambrose Burnside

We really enjoyed our stay at La Villa Romaine Bed and Breakfast…, in spite of the early morning visitor with heavy boots. If you should find yourself in the area of Petersburg or Richmond, Virginia, we highly recommend staying there for a night, or a couple nights.

Posted by Michelle Darnell | in Year of the Virginia Historic Homes | 24 Comments »