Happy May, everyone! The year has been flying by, and this month we wanted to slow it down and reflect on how exactly we got to the place we are now here at the Hornsby House Inn. In this post, co-owner David Bowditch and his wife Rene give you the inside scoop on the surprises, challenges and fulfillment of converting his family home into a renowned Bed & Breakfast.

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David, how did you and Phil come up with the idea to convert your family home into a bed and breakfast?

It had really been in the back of our minds for a long time. Much later in our mother’s life, she lived in the house with caregivers. We were trying to figure what was going to happen to the house after she passed. Phil and I eventually ended up owning the house together. Tanya, mom’s caretaker who lived there for 8 years, suggested turning it into a bed & breakfast. We liked that idea, so renovated the house room by room, added bathrooms, and opened in the fall of 2011. Tanya helped in that process too. 

 

Rene, were there any surprises that came along with the new lifestyle as an innkeeper? 

Well, the first year the Inn was open, my husband, David, spent more than 200 nights there after having dinner and spending part of the evening with me! It was sort of like we were dating again, but it’s also why I am particularly grateful for the wonderful young women (taking a gap-year from college or paying off student loans) we have had as House Managers ever since then! I got my husband back, well, most of the time.

I often tell people that I’d been married to David for 32 years before I learned he could cook, clean, and iron. That was the biggest surprise of them becoming Innkeepers. I will never forget the night I watched them ironing sheets on an ironing board set up in the sunroom while watching football on the TV.  Having ironed sheets was all their idea! Eventually they calculated the cost in time if they had to pay someone to iron all the sheets in the house multiplied by an estimated number of room turns and decided it would be less expensive to purchase a rotary iron to help. Guests now can find them in the office watching a Netflix show and “Mangling” (the brand of iron) the sheets!

 

David, what changed about the Hornsby House in its transition from private home to a hospitable haven for visitors? 

Well, it’s a long-standing joke that Phil and I don’t agree on anything! So we thought it would be great to have a third party come in and take the real designing work out of our hands. Karan Mulkey, our dear friend interior decorator, took on the role perfectly. Karan owns a consignment store in Hilton Village, Newport News called Rooms Blooms and More and is absolutely talented with an eye for unique design.

Now, what has changed and what is the same? All beds are brand new, and one or two sofas are new throughout the house, but all the major antiques, the dining room table and corner cupboards are family heirlooms. I’d say 90% of the Inn’s furniture is original to the house – and that is one of the most special things about it.

 

Rene, what was it like watching David and Phil learning the in’s and out’s of running an inn? How long did it take them to get the hang of it? 

They totally surprised me! Very quick studies, both of them. That’s why I think it must have been a latent gene that was waiting for the opportunity to present its talents! Their mother, Marian Hornsby Bowditch, who grew up in the house and raised her 4 sons there, was the consummate hostess and purveyor of hospitality. She was very active in the community and the house was used to entertain often. She even did our wedding and reception, herself and her friends chipping in, right there in the house.

So I believe they come by their gift of hospitality, making people feel welcome, naturally.  That’s why the Inn’s motto is “For Three Generations the Hornsby House has been a center of Hospitality in Yorktown.” David and Phil are admirably carrying on that tradition, and enjoying every minute of it.

 

David, what is the best part about being an innkeeper?

The interaction with the guests – we have had over 9,000 guests! Meeting so many neat people who tell their stories over breakfast or wine & cheese simply can’t be beat.

 

Rene, are long-standing connections made between the innkeepers and the guests? Do you have any specific examples of people you’ve kept in contact with? 

Oh my, yes! David and Phil often join the guests for breakfast and wine and cheese in the evening, so relationships develop. This was just posted on BedandBreakfast.com recently by a couple who have stayed with us for two years and already have booked for next year:  ”This is one of the most beautiful and peaceful settings you could ever wish for. Our hosts David and Phil make you feel like they’ve known you your whole life and that they are welcoming an old friend back home.”  We just had a guest this week who had been there during our first year and has been back several times in the five years since.  We have others who have stayed with six, seven times already. Several specific dates, like Yorktown Day in October, we have the same full house every year!  In fact, David and I as a result of a group of them staying at the Inn every year, are now members of the American Friends of Lafayette organization and have made good friends through them.

Oh, David always invites couples who marry at the Inn back for a complimentary one night stay on their first anniversary, so we often keep in touch with those couples. We also tell them that as we were married in the house 39 years ago that weddings there are always blessed with longevity, and that if they have any problems, call us – we offer free counseling! LOL.

 

If you have stayed with us, what made your visit stand out to you? We hope you enjoyed this behind-the-scenes post… stay tuned for more next month! 

 

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Dad began building the Moore House model around 1977 with the intent to have it completed for the 1981 centennial of the Battle of Yorktown.

The Moore House the location at which General Cornwallis chose to dwell in while making final negotiations of surrender in the American Revolution). Remarkably, it still stands today after much restoration through the years.

Dad’s goal – to build an exact replica of the house.

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After 17 years (1993), Dad had completed most of the model but became to ill to get down to the basement to finish it. Dad passed away in 1996. For the next 20 years The Moore House has sat in the basement of the Big House collecting dust.

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David and I showed it to Bruce Brown, the Modelist & model ship / workboat restorer for the Watermen’s Museum.

Bruce agreed to tackle the monumental task of restoration and completion of the replica.

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The Moore House was brought to the Watermen’s Museum in November of last year and Bruce began the research and restoration process that would finally finish the project our dad started decades ago.

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The Moore House replica is close to completion and will be moved to the main foyer of the Hornsby House next Wednesday. From there it will be moved to a suitable new home in one of the Museums in Yorktown.

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Thanks to Bruce Brown and the Watermen’s Museum, the Moore House model will be completed , all be it, 36 years late.

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Bruce is shown here cutting the wall paper for the surrender room. The house will also be completely furnished with period furniture as well.

 

-Phil Bowditch

 

If any one should feel the urge to make a donation to the Watermen’s Museum please consider it. The address is; Watermen’s Museum, P.O. Box 519, Yorktown, Va.  23690

 

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We are being spoiled with beautiful weather already in Virginia, and we cannot wait for Spring to bloom! These are just a few of the exciting events coming up in the next few months that you definitely don’t want to miss on your next visit.

MARCH

Now-3/31 Botticelli Art Exhibit at Williamsburg’s Muscarelle Museum of Art

3/11 Riverwalk Restaurant’s Wine Expo – taste a plethora of fine local wines

3/18-19 Military Through the Ages at Jamestown – peruse past incredible setups of military camps from countless time periods, ask questions, learn from history experts

3/23-3/31 Grand Opening of American Revolution Museum at Yorktown – celebrate with Yorktown its brand new, multifaceted museum!

3/25 Busch Gardens opens on weekends – visit their site now to see if you qualify for a discounted pass

3/30 Water Street Grille Whiskey Bourbon Dinner – delicious! More details on their site here

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APRIL

4/1-4/5 Botticelli Exhibit – see above

4/1-4/4 Grand Opening of American Revolution Museum at Yorktown – see above

4/8 Yorktown Kite Flying Gathering – come one, come all down to the river front, and be sure to bring your kite!

4/22 Sister Cities French Market – this is the 5th annual market offering French goods and celebrating the tradition of Yorktown’s Sister City, Port-Vendres!

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MAY 

5/6 Yorktown Garden Stroll – tour 10 private gardens through beautiful Yorktown

5/6 Blues, Brews & BBQ Festival – live music, delicious beverages, wonderful local food, all on the river!

 5/13 Yorktown Market Days Kickoff – let the Saturday Farmers Markets commence!

5/20 Water Country USA opens for the season – a fun time for the whole family close to Yorktown

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What Yorktown spring event are you looking most forward to? We hope to see you soon!

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1. History

There has never been a better time to visit Yorktown than this year, which will celebrate the new American Revolution Museum opening from March 23-April 4. At the museum, expect to enjoy interactive exhibits and soak up the stories of our town which has played a monumental role in our nation’s history.

2. Culture

There is no shortage of the arts and culture being celebrated in our surrounding area. Year round you will find festivals such as Blues, Brews and BBQ, art classes at On the Hill Gallery, live music & dancing, and farmers markets just steps from our doors!

3. Nature

Situated on the Peninsula right next to the York River, Yorktown’s natural landscape simply cannot be beat. Spend a day at the Yorktown beach just a block away, or take a ride on a ship! Ride down the Colonial Parkway from Yorktown to Jamestown, or enjoy a sunset kayak adventure on the James River. We even have guests who make the bike trek on the Virginia Capital Trail from Richmond all the way to Jamestown!

4. Food

…And we’re not just talking about Breakfast at the Hornsby House! (Our breakfast is a variety of passed-down family recipes with a twist here and there. Read more on our Recipe blog post!) We are lucky to be surrounded by wonderful restaurants, and our coastal location insures the freshest seafood  that simply cannot be beat. Ask us what’s good on your visit and we will be happy to make recommendations!

5. Family

The Hornsby House was our home before it was an inn, and we still like to treat those who come through its doors like family. We welcome reunions, weddings, birthdays, and other celebrations and work with our guests to make memorable occasions. Come experience a communal, friendly and relaxing inn like no other.

 

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Holiday spirit is in the air, and with it come waves of nostalgia for us all. In this post, David takes a moment to look back on Christmas in his childhood at the “Big House.”

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Phil with Gray and Santa

“Christmas was BIG. Lots of family, lots of presents!

When I was young, we had two Christmases each year. The first was for the four Bowditch brothers. On Christmas morning, Mom made us wait at the top of the stairs while she and Dad made coffee in the kitchen. One year, Phil snuck down early and rearranged all the present piles to his benefit!

The second Christmas was for the whole Hornsby family. All seventeen cousins were lined up on the staircase in the hall, and a Santa with a real beard would come through the door and give us even more presents! So we really made out like bandits every year.

Christmas-1988

Mom and Dad would always have neighbors over on Christmas Eve, and I remember young Reeves Bailey, Dr. Bailey’s son, sang Little Drummer Boy every year.

We still decorate the house each Christmas – it’s decorated now! – and celebrate the gift of family and friendship with our guests!” – David Bowditch

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What are your favorite childhood memories of the holidays? We’d love to hear them!

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