Rockhaven’s First Owners

… So now, students, it is necessary to make use of every moment that comes to us; for while the present is great and grand the future to which we are looking will be more great and grand if we have the determination to make it so.

William Saunders in the 1920s. Courtesy of West Virginia Division of Culture and History.

Knowing something of the times in which he wrote, we are amazed and inspired by the optimism of the young Black man who authored these words as he completed his education at Storer College in 1895. He was William Allen Saunders, age 25 at the time, who later became the original owner of our home. We are excited to share with you what we have learned about him and his wife.

Saunders was born on January 15, 1870, the son of Hezekiah and Louisa (Thompson) Saunders, who were almost certainly recently freed slaves. They lived near the historic town of Louisa, Virginia, along today’s U.S. Route 33. Judging from what we have learned of William’s life, they must have instilled in him a thirst for education along with an incredible capacity for hope.

Saunders arrived in Harpers Ferry to finish his secondary education at Storer in the early 1890s. Shaped by his time in this oasis from the harsh world of Jim Crow laws, he was brimming with confidence about his prospects in spring 1895. As a co-editor of the Storer Record, his writing clearly reflected the character and leadership promoted by the school. In his farewell editorial, he encouraged his fellow students, especially those who were worried that their “great hope of being rewarded” for their academic labors might not be realized due to the “present condition of affairs in the country”: Continue reading “Rockhaven’s First Owners”

Into Each Life a Little Rain…

The New Year started out great for us. January 2 was when the trouble started.

Last year was so good – hard, but exciting as we got married and settled into our newly acquired 1927 stone house in Harpers Ferry.  I knew something had to go wrong before long, though. A fairytale life does not realistically extend ever after.

The frozen Potomac last week.

It was that darn spell of arctic cold that did a number on us. (And please don’t think I am equating our little drama with the recent true tragedies of families who have lost all their possessions and entire homes in mudslides, fires, floods, earthquakes, etc. Our thoughts and prayers are definitely with them!)

Last Tuesday I was de-Christmasing the parlor when I heard an unusual steady drumming sound. I followed the noise to the dining room where I discovered a stream of water gushing through our 1920s chandelier, cascading off the dining table, and seeping through our treasured, timeworn oak floorboards. Continue reading “Into Each Life a Little Rain…”

Christmas at Rockhaven

Christian and I are so excited to be spending our first Christmas season in Harpers Ferry. We share a love for this season and both brought lots of holiday decorations to the marriage.  Now we are having fun merging our collections and adorning this beautiful house in festive style.

We have an extra special reason to decorate well this year, because we are opening our home to the public during the two weekends of the Harpers Ferry/Bolivar Olde Tyme Christmas. If you would like to visit and enjoy an afternoon Tea Around the Christmas Tree or morning Holiday Brunch, check out the details here.  If you are undecided about visiting, we are sharing some sneak peaks in the blog this week.

To bring some kind of order to all this fun stuff, I decided to decorate (loosely) in themes — a different one for each room:

The Parlor – Santa Claus, Red & White

Christmas tree, parlor, Rockhaven B&B, Harpers Ferry

Christmas, Rockhaven B&B, Harpers Ferry Continue reading “Christmas at Rockhaven”

Prolonging the Garden

This being our first year living on a property with an existing mature garden, I have savored every flower and hated to see any of them them just wilt and disappear. I thus embarked on a mission to preserve as many as I could so we could enjoy them inside through the winter months.


I had dried hydrangeas a couple of times in the past, and I love the look when they’re done right. Since the Rockhkaven garden has an abundant supply of hydrangeas, I focused my attention on them first. How do you like the wreath I made with a grapevine wreath base? So easy! I just kept adding blooms as they were ready until I filled in all the holes.

dried hydrangea wreath, Rockhaven B&B, Harpers Ferry
I mounted the wreath over a vintage window and hung it in our dining room

Then, I got a little obsessed and tried to save every bloom I could. No bloom left behind, you know! At some point I think Christian was a little worried that the house would be overrun with them. They’re so pretty though! Continue reading “Prolonging the Garden”

Our First Garden Season in Review

We first laid eyes on this house and its lovely gardens approximately one year ago when the real estate agent showed us around the property. When we returned in late fall for the inspection, we identified some dogwood and a few other plants from their leaves, but other than that we knew very little about what garden would look like in full bloom.

Let me tell you, this garden did not disappoint.  The daily discoveries were pure joy!

As we draw to the end of the growing season, we thought it would be fun to share with you a review of what we found blooming here. These photos are just the tip of the iceberg. We could fill up the web with them, but we’ll try to be selective.

We’ll begin with April, just before our garden wedding, and take you through summer to the present: Continue reading “Our First Garden Season in Review”

Old Stuff, New Ways of Using It

We probably are no different from most other middle income couples who remarry in their empty-nester years. Christian and I both owned homes, and we both accumulated way too much stuff during our separate family-raising decades. Some of it is easy to part with, but a lot of our furniture and décor either comes with some kind of emotional attachment or cost us too much to just yard-sale it or give it away.

Thus, deciding to buy the house and move to Harpers Ferry was the easy part. The harder part has been merging Christian’s more traditional style (leaning modern) and my more vintage style (leaning cottage) into a single 1920s craftsman-style house.

Neither of us have ever lived in a home more than 40 years old, and a lot of our stuff in its current state doesn’t fit the the style of this place. Our challenge has been to repurpose – or reinvent – as much of it as possible. The attic guest suite has been our first achievement of this goal. Continue reading “Old Stuff, New Ways of Using It”

Living in the Magic House

Front gate to our enchanting home.

First, it was the way this 1927 stone foursquare in Harpers Ferry seemed to find us when we weren’t at all looking to leave Charlottesville. Then, once we agreed with the house that we belonged together, it was the acceptance of our offer with no negotiation, the perfect timing of a job transfer to NOVA for Christian, and two quick home sales as we divested our Virginia holdings. It’s also the way this house has embraced us with an immediate sense of belonging.

We quip that this house is charmed. Another interpretation is that there is some higher purpose in our being here (and I must definitely assign some credit to my husband’s prayers at every step of the process). We have more to discover about why we’re here, but we know that hospitality must be our new calling.

Love Spoken Here

This all started with Christian’s serendipitous click on a little dot in a Zillow app less than a year ago. He and I had been dating – not officially engaged but already talking about spending the rest of our lives together. We decided to pay a visit to the Harpers Ferry area. We both enjoy touring historical places, and we became curious about the price of a lovely historic home we saw for sale in nearby Charles Town. We scanned the Zillow photos of its interior on Christian’s cell phone. Ho hum. Nice yard but 1990s-era vibe inside. Continue reading “Living in the Magic House”