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.
The first black man arrived in Harpers Ferry in the mid-18th
century as an enslaved person with the town’s founder, Robert Harper.
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. )
It’s the “Most Wonderful Time of the Year” here at Rockhaven, meaning we are all decked out and ready for 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”
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”
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?”
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.
(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.
It’s amazing much can happen in a year! On June 12, 2017, our first official Airbnb guest checked in for a night in our third-story guest suite, Inez’s Sweet Retreat. Jason was bicycling the C&O Canal Towpath, and as he left the next morning he promised to bring his wife back here for a visit (which he did in January).
Hosting guests upstairs was a test for us to see how we felt about letting strangers stay in our home – and how Harpers Ferry visitors felt about staying with us. As I wrote in our March post “Surprised by Joy,” it turns out that we love the hospitality business, and the visitors seem to like both the upstairs suite and the newer garden-level space just fine.
As we look back over the past year since Jason’s visit, we are also surprised by how many improvements have been completed around the property. We loved the place when we bought it, but Christian, especially, is always dreaming up new ways to make it better — better for us and for our guests. Fortunately, we have had the resources and the access to skilled local tradesmen to bring his plans to life. Sometimes we felt like contractors were slow to respond, renovations were taking forever and weather was holding up outdoor projects beyond reason, but ultimately a lot has changed in the span of 12 months. Continue reading “A Year’s Worth of Progress”
We always enjoy hearing about what our guests are up to while they visit here in Harpers Ferry. In case you’re wondering what there is to do, here is a list of the five things we seem to hear from them most often:
Explore Historic Lower Town
While the history buffs obviously like perusing the National Park Service museums and reading interpretive signs, just about everyone agrees that Harpers Ferry is 360 degrees photogenic. Not only do you have a quaint 19th-century-shop-lined slope leading to John Brown’s Fort, but there’s the natural beauty presented by the confluence of two rivers cutting through the mountains and traversed by rusty train bridges. Shopping and food only enhance the experience. Learn more here. Continue reading “Our Guests’ 5 Favorite Things to Do While in Harpers Ferry”
In April 2017 Christian and I tied the knot under a vine-covered gazebo in our beautiful garden, surrounded by 25 dear family members. The day celebrated our commitment to each other in a partnership that has surprised us by working so well on not only a personal level but on a business level too.
So this month has us thinking about love and marriage even more than usual. Our property – the garden, back deck and sunroom – worked so well for our own small wedding party that we are thinking about opening the place up as a small event venue to others. We’re also thinking, though, about ways our B&B can encourage stronger relationships between couples already together.Continue reading “Love Is in the Air Here”
It’s no shocker that we enjoy living in our lovely old Harpers Ferry home. Why else would we voluntarily sell our houses in Charlottesville and leave behind jobs, churches, and dearly loved family and friends to move here? Despite a few (expensive) inconveniences over the past year, we still can’t believe how blessed we are to live in this place.
The thing we did not in any way foresee was the joy that our B&B business would add to our good life together. Maybe we shouldn’t be so surprised, but we are.
Over the past year our B&B vision has evolved through hours of discussion culminating in a little hard work and lots of fun creative thinking. From redecorating the finished third-floor suite last spring to designing and directing construction of the garden-level suite this winter, we have been equally engaged partners every step of the way. (Next up is preparing indoor and outdoor areas for use as a small wedding/event venue!)
We also have fun applying experiences gained over the course of our careers. Christian has a master’s degree in business and spent much of his career working with General Motors’ marketing and sales teams. I’ve spent the past couple decades in the communications field, where I’ve gained expertise as a promotional writer with a few graphic design and photography skills to boot. It’s great to take all that know-how and use it for our very own enterprise. Continue reading “Surprised By Joy”