We Bought a Vacation Cabin! A Year Ago!

The current self-isolation has forced us to slow down considerably, so I’m trying to catch up on some blog writing this week. I got so behind in 2019 that I never shared about the sweet vacation cabin we acquired last spring over near Shepherdstown.

Knott Cabin in winter
Here’s how Knott Cabin looked the first time I took Christian to see it.

Knott Cabin had been a popular listing on Airbnb for about three years, marvelously hosted by Ginger Hankins. When she heard last January that we were building a tiny cabin on our property, she mentioned that she and her husband were thinking about selling one of her two Airbnb listings. She asked if we might be interested, and my first thought was, “No way could we manage a property that was a 20-minute drive away.” I decided to see the place, though, just for the heck of it.

I walked into Knott Cabin and immediately discovered what Ginger and a couple hundred of her guests already knew. It’s a special place. Situated about a tenth of a mile from the Potomac River, sporting a cedar-clad exterior with front porch and patio, the cabin sits next to a rural road and is surrounded by nearly 3 acres of woodland.

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Our Latest William Saunders Discoveries

Ever since we moved into this house, we’ve been trying to piece together the history of its original owners, William and Inez Saunders. As we’ve shared in past posts (here and here), the couple were both Storer College alumni and educators, and William was a distinguished member of the Storer faculty for four decades.

Since last writing about them, we have uncovered a good deal more information about William. Our first big leap forward came last June, when the grandson of Carrie Dennis visited for a night’s stay. Carrie’s husband was a plasterer who had worked on this house. They lived just across the street, and her grandson told us Carrie spent years longing to live in the big stone house.

She got her wish in 1962, when “The Prof” (as he was fondly known to the Dennis family) was in his nineties and finally ready to sell. Carrie, by then a widow, evidently moved in with much of Saunders’ furniture, books, and more still in place. More about that later…

The grandson remembers visiting here as a youth. He explained to us the closeness of the African American neighbors living on this block at the end of Fillmore Street in a predominantly white town – how they were all like family, related by blood or not.

The next stage of discovery came last fall, when we received an email from Bates College writer Jay Burns. He said he had written about William (with some minor help from our own blog posts). It turns out that after completing his preparatory years at Storer in 1895 William went north to Bates for his undergraduate degree. Saunders’ choice of Bates was likely influenced by Storer founder Nathan Cook Brackett and his wife Louise, who had both attended Bates . The college had graduated its first African American in 1874.

Not only was Saunders a scholar (serving as librarian of the literary society Eurosophia), he was quite the athlete. He competed in track & field (hammer and shot put) as well as in football. In his senior year Saunders became the star of a particularly important football match-up with rival Bowdoin College. Here’s an excerpt of Burns’ article, beginning with a quote from the student newspaper:

“Time and again the giant guard, Saunders, went into the line and always for a gain,” said the Student. “Saunders played like a fiend,” reported the [Lewiston EveningJournal. “It always took two men to bring him down.” (Though not big by today’s standards, Saunders, at 5-foot-10 and 173 pounds, was among the tallest and heaviest Bates players.)

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What’s New at Rockhaven?

If you haven’t visited since 2018, you’ll notice on your next visit that Rockhaven just keeps getting better. Last year was a big year for property improvements here. We are always thinking about ways to provide a better experience for our guests AND in 2019 we needed to spruce up for the 400 visitors coming to inspect our place during April’s home and garden tour. Here are some of the most notable changes we made:

Parking

Christian started by digging out the dirt parking area in front of the property, installing TrueGrid permeable pavers and laying in lovely white gravel. He also moved the fence back a foot or so to increase space for head-in parking. Now, we can easily fit three cars in front and never have to worry about guests experiencing a muddy mess out there. Doesn’t it look nice?

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Our Often-Open House

December is here, and Rockhaven B&B is decked out to the max again this Christmas. We are in between house tours right now — last Sunday and again Sunday, December 15, from noon to 5 pm. The Olde Tyme Christmas Tour of Historic Inns includes a total of 7 inns and supports restoration of nearby Zion Baptist Church. Come on by if you can to see our entire first floor and our new tiny cabin out back. You can buy tickets here or purchase them in advance at https://bit.ly/2WTuoz1 .

In case you need some enticement, here’s a glimpse:

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Learning about Black History in Harpers Ferry

Living in this beautiful and spacious Harpers Ferry home built for William and Inez Saunders ca. 1927 is indeed a privilege. In researching the lives of this African-American couple, we have learned more broadly about the rich depth of black history connected with our town.

We can easily draw a direct line through that history from John Brown to the Civil War to Storer College to William and Inez – who came to Harpers Ferry for its unique educational opportunities. They both left after graduating to expand their horizons and then returned here to work, marry and live out the remainder of their lives among colleagues and friends.

This month, we share a broad overview of Harpers Ferry’s black history as we have learned it so far. We are not the first to write about this history, by any means, but we hope to make this fascinating story more accessible to our visitors, friends and social media followers. We also provide some sources for those who want to learn more.

Pre-American Revolution

The first black man arrived in Harpers Ferry in the mid-18th century as an enslaved person with the town’s founder, Robert Harper.

Pre-Civil War

By 1859, about ten percent of the town’s residents were black. Around 150 were enslaved and another 150 were free blacks (source: Journey Through Hallowed Ground site on African American Heritage. This website also describes briefly the town’s role in the arduous journey of enslaved people heading North or West seeking freedom. )

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Christmas in Harpers Ferry

It’s the “Most Wonderful Time of the Year” here at Rockhaven, meaning we are all decked out and ready for Christmas!

Rockhaven, Harpers Ferry, Christmas

 

Over the first two weekends in December, hundreds of visitors will descend on our quaint historic village for the very special experience we call Olde Tyme Christmas. If you aren’t already planning to come, you might want to add it to your holiday calendar.

Tour of Inns and B&Bs

A new and exciting addition to the December schedule includes us! The first annual Tour of Historic Inns of Harpers Ferry and Bolivar will introduce ticket holders to six beautiful lodging establishment  bedecked in their holiday finery. These inns are typically open only to paying guests, so here’s a great chance to peek inside and learn some fascinating history. Most will also offer light refreshments. Continue reading “Christmas in Harpers Ferry”

Living in Harpers Ferry

Harpers Ferry, WV

For the hundreds of thousands of annual visitors to Harpers Ferry this lovely little village is a tourist destination: a scenic and historic spot for exploring, hiking, riding, rafting, learning and maybe even relaxing.

Yes, it is all that, but for its nearly 300 residents – including us! – Harpers Ferry is home. So, what is it like to live in a 255-year-old microtown, you ask?

We thought we would give you a little snapshot based on our mere year and a half of experience. (Ask us again in 5 years, and we’ll likely write a totally different post.)

Harpers Ferry is definitely the smallest town either Christian or I have ever lived in, but if you haven’t heard me say it before, we love it here. There are plenty of small towns across America, but hardly any others have such a large proportion designated as a National Historical Park and are visited by close to 500,000 tourists and adventurers annually. Yet, Harpers Ferry somehow maintains its sleepy, friendly, Mayberry character. When Christian turns onto Union Street after a round trip to the DC metro area for work in I-70 traffic, he says it feels like he has entered a bubble of tranquility. He treasures the step back in time that Harpers Ferry is. Continue reading “Living in Harpers Ferry”

After Six O’Clock, Then What?

Harpers Ferry is a small town with fewer than 300 residents, and businesses in the Lower Town historic area are highly dependent on tourist traffic – all of which means that many businesses close by 5 or 6 pm (and are not open at all on Mondays), so nightlife is pretty limited within the Town limits.

If you aren’t exhausted by a day of hiking, biking, tubing or exploring our history and want to go out in the evening, here are the closest local options. A few are walkable; some are within a 6-mile drive. Continue reading “After Six O’Clock, Then What?”

A Back of the House Tour

After working hard during our first year in Harpers Ferry to get the two guest suites up and running and the garden paths in shape, we have had more time this summer to work on decorating our own living areas. Since most B&B guests don’t get to see the back of the house, we thought we would give you a little peek at the rest of this amazing place.

We’ve tried hard to fit the stuff we already owned with the craftsman style of the home. The stained woodwork definitely requires a different decorating look than either of us have ever lived with, but I think we’re getting the hang of it.

The dining room became the repository for some of our collections. (I think we both might be museum curators at heart.) Also, I just HAD to paint these built-in shelves to brighten up the place. I promised to leave the rest of the woodwork alone.

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Our Favorite Local Lunch Spots

(We updated this information on 9/18/18 and again on 1/14/19)

Christian and I love good food, and we love to support local businesses. Want to know which ones we like best? Here is a list of our top five favorite local lunch spots to help you out in case you are looking for recommendations. We actually have more than five favorites, but we’re saving some of the restaurants that also serve dinner for a future post.

Delicious bread is an important lunch ingredient for me, which makes these first three establishments especially high on my list. Continue reading “Our Favorite Local Lunch Spots”