A Night at Doc Holladay’s House
On Saturday, after we finished with our meeting at Belle Grove, we traveled to Orange, Virginia to stay the night at one of the wonderful bed and breakfast inns. This time we selected to stay at the Holiday House Inn on Caroline Street.
The land that the Holladay House Inn now stands on was part of an 18th century farm owned by William Bell. This property, which includes much of the modern day Town of Orange, was purchased in 1799 by Paul Verdier. It was Paul Verdier who would divide the farm into town lots. This layout still survives largely intact today.
The Federal style brick structure that is now Holladay House Bed and Breakfast was constructed in the early 1830’s and was the home of Hugh Stephens. In 1834, Stephens sold the property to a local merchant named Mann A. Page and his wife, Mary C. Willis Page. Mary Champe Willis Page was a descendant of the Washington Family. Her Great Grandmother was Mildred Washington, daughter of Captain Lawrence Washington and Mildred Warner Washington. Her Great Grandmother Mildred Washington’s brother, Captain Lawrence A. Washington was Grandfather of George Washington. One note on Mary Willis Page’s Great Great Grandfather Lawrence Washington: Lawrence was born within nine miles of Belle Grove Plantation and was a childhood friend of William Strother of Millbank and Mary Thornton of Belle Grove Plantation.
By the late 1830s, due to severe financial and legal difficulties, Page’s father-in-law, William Champe Willis and brothers-in-law Robert T. Willis and Richard H. Willis acquired the house. The home was put into a trust for the Page children. It would later be purchased by John Madison Chapman in 1849. John M. Chapman was the grandson of William Madison, brother of James Madison. John was a lawyer and would operate his practice from this house.
During the Civil War, John Chapman would support the Confederate cause. He was a slave holder with at least two enslaved people residing with them in 1860. These slaves were more than likely personal attendants to the family. In August of 1862, the war would come to their door step. A battle between the Seventh Virginia Cavalry and the First Vermont Cavalry would leave 20 to 50 men and a dozen or more horses from both sides dead on Main Street and throughout the town. In 1863, Robert E. Lee would march his army from Gettysburg to defend positions in Orange County. It was during this winter that Emma, John’s daughter would marry Robert Boykin at St. Thomas Episcopal Church. This was the same church where Robert E. Lee would worship during his stay. This church is still standing today. As an officer in Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia, Robert Boykin would have Major General JEB Stuart, Major General R.E. Rhodes, Brigadier General R.H. Chilton and Brigadier General E.A. Perry attend the reception.
In 1869 Chapman would become a presiding justice of Orange County and from 1874 until his death in 1879, would serve as Mayor of the Town of Orange. When President Rutherford B. Hayes visited Orange, Chapman was part of the committee that greeted him. By 1876, Chapman was deeply in debt. Alfred Thompson, part owner of the mercantile firm of Thompson and Snead filed a chancery suite against Chapman. This suit would continue through the courts even after Chapman’s death in 1879 and Thompson’s death in 1883. It was finally completed in 1896, 20 years after it had been filed. Chapman’s wife Susan would have to sell all of her property which included this house.
In 1883, John McDonald would purchase the Chapman home and gave the title to his wife, Elizabeth. In 1896, Elizabeth sold a portion of the land to the trustees of the Methodist Episcopal Church. The home would remain in the McDonald family until 1899 when Dr. Lewis Holladay purchased the property.
Dr. Lewis Holladay was a local physician and would run his practice in Orange until his death in 1946. Dr. Holladay was educated in Hampden-Sydney College and the University of Virginia. He was dean of Physicians for Orange County throughout his medical career. In 1911, he was appointed a member of the State Board of Medical Examiners and would serve as Orange County Coroner and company surgeon for the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway. He would also serve as Director of the National Bank of Orange and ruling elder of the Orange Presbyterian Church.
In 1892 Dr. Holladay would marry Sally Helen Price and the couple would welcome this first daughter in 1898. After Dr. Holladay purchased this brick home, he would make several additions to the building in 1910 and 1917. In the 1920s and 1930s, Dr. Holladay would construct a small schoolhouse and second home on the property. The schoolhouse no longer stands. Dr. Holladay’s daughter, Louise Holladay would teach local children in this one room private schoolhouse.
Dr. Lewis and his wife would have six children. Their oldest, Louise would never marry and would live in what is now the “Oak Room” for many years. This is the room Brett and I stayed in while we were at Holladay House Inn. Louise would remain at the house all her life and would care for Dr. Holladay after the death of her mother.
As a prominent physician, Dr. Holladay knew the DuPont family of Montpelier well. He and his family would attend the DuPont’s steeplechase races, which can still been seen at Montpelier during their annual Montpelier Hunt Races in November. This Hunt Race is still one of the most popular equestrian events in Virginia with some of the oldest continually used steeplechase hedge rows in the country.
Dr. Holladay would administer physical examinations for the Selective Service System during World War I and World War II. He would also attend to wounded heroes as they recovered in the convalescing hospital that the DuPont’s operated out of Montpelier. This hospital still stands at Montpelier and houses the students and archaeologists who work and study at Montpelier.
After his death, Louise and Lewis Jr would receive the main house. Louise would continue to live there and would sometimes rent spaces to boarders and local businesses. In 1984, Louise gave her interest to her brother Lewis Jr. This house would pass from his wife, Mildred to their son, Lewis “Pete” Holladay. In 1988 Pete Holladay and his wife Phebe would renovate the property and establish the Holladay House Bed and Breakfast. Holladay House would become well known for its wonderful hospitality and Pete’s award winning apple muffins. After 101 years of family ownership, the Holladay House would pass from their ownership in the year 2000.
In September 2006, Samuel and Sharon Elswick purchased the Holladay House and continue to keep Holladay House legacy alive and well.
When we visited, Sam and Sharon were not at home, but on a much needed break. We were warmly greeted by Sam’s father, Darnell (yes that is his first name) and his wife Kathy. Darnell showed us around and give us a little of the history of the house. He also called Elmwood at the Sparks Restaurant to make dinner reservations for us. More to come on that visit!
After a wonderful and restful night, we were served one of the most wonderful breakfasts we have had in our bed and breakfast travels. We started with a Blueberry Bake made with fresh blueberries. It was warm and sweet and oh so tasty! Brett also enjoyed a cup of Orange County Roasters coffee. This coffee blend was special made just for the Holladay House Inn by Orange County Roasters. I think we are going to have to pay a visit to them for a special blend for Belle Grove!
Our main course was a light and tasty Crustless Quiche, large and juicy Grapes and thick sliced bread with heavenly homemade Apple Butter. This wonderful meal stuck with us for many hours after we left for the day!
On our way out the door, we sat down and enjoyed a chat with Darnell and Kathy. Talking about our different families and how we each came to meet and marry our spouses was so much fun. It was as if we had known them for years! We truly felt at home with them and the Holladay House Inn. Darnell let us know that Sam and Sharon would be briefly closes the doors of the Inn soon so they can complete some repairs on the home. But rest assured that they will be open again soon. Once they do, I know we will be excited to return and enjoy the Southern hospitality that has been a part of Holladay House for generations.