MOUNTAINS AND MEMORIES

Take a Journey into the Past at Cave Hill Farm Bed and Breakfast

Photos by Julie Stern

 

Bells jingle as the doors open to the historic Cave Hill Farm Bed and Breakfast. The foyer is decorated with trinkets and there is a vanity adorned with fedoras. There are five black and white photos, and one special photo of the Hopkins family printed in color and framed in gold and white. These are just a few of the items that provide a feel of the inn’s history.

Johns L. Hopkins, John L. Hopkins Jr., and John L. Hopkins III all were born and raised in the house that is now a bed and breakfast. Currently, John L. Hopkins III owns the property. However, Hannah Bell, with a bubbly personality, enthusiastic demeanor and love of history, runs the establishment with her boyfriend Omar Gonzalez. After meeting five years ago while lifeguarding at Massanutten, the two found a home in the bed and breakfast when Hopkins was looking for new innkeepers. While Bell focuses on the guests, Gonzalez cooks breakfast daily and deals with the finances. Their partnership creates a beautiful duality that keeps the bed and breakfast running. “I have a quiet life. It’s a beautiful area to be in and it always turns out to be a perfect day,” said Bell.

Cave Hill Farm, located on Cave Hill Road in McGaheysville, was built in 1830 and operated as a dairy and poultry farm. It produced goods for local processors and cultivated grain and wheat for the local flour mills. A classic southern home, four white pillars guard the entrance. Carved in the pillars are two sculptures of women that create an aura of history. “The slaves that built these bricks, they carved symbols in the bricks, on the backside of the house, but they are just X’s, or bumps, and the historian says they represent their tribes from back home to either remember who they were, or so a new slave would know who was there,” said Bell. With a gleam in her eye, Bell smiled. “I like to think that it’s the underground railroad.”

In addition to the history outside the house, Hopkins continues the theme inside. Down the creaky wooden steps to the basement sits a pink piano, decades old with a picture of Elvis on the top. Arranged around the three rooms are old appliances labeled with the year they were made and used, and their specific function.

“I think it’s cool that I live in a house built in 1830,” Bell said. “I come across something new every day.”

Because there were no planes or subways 100 years ago, visitors would stay with the family while traveling long distances, and the tradition still stands today. Visitors are normally couples looking for a new hotel experience. For guest Ben Rockey-Harris, who visited in November 2014 with his girlfriend, that is exactly what he got. “We wanted to be a little far from downtown Harrisonburg, and stay in a non-cookie-cutter, non-chain hotel,” said Rockey-Harris.

The bed and breakfast displays its personality even in its rooms. Uncle Charlie’s, Grandmother’s and Aunt Emma’s rooms are a few of the possible bedroom choices. All rooms except the Bridal Room are the same price, decorated similarly, but each have a unique story. According to Bell, the most exciting room is the Gold Room.

“It’s called that because during the Civil War this was a southern home and twice the northern soldiers camped out in that field out there, and the people that lived in this house freaked out and hid all their confederate money, their gold, in the Gold Room walls,” Bell said. The gold has never been recovered, so the story hasn’t been confirmed, but it adds to the mystery of the house. Other tales include Aunt Emma being left by her husband and Uncle Charlie leaving to buy land in Florida, and later returning. Even Jackie Kennedy wanted the large canopy bed that sits in the Bridal Room for her bed in the White House. According to Bell, Hopkins told the former first lady that she couldn’t hijack the bed.

Gonzalez enjoys asking guests what they are hoping to do in the area and guides them in the right direction. Guests look for different activities, like wine tasting or hiking. Wineries like Bluestone Vineyard and Crosskeys Vineyard are popular wineries to visit, as well as sites like Skyline Drive’s scenic parkway. “Lots of people have never been to caverns, so check the Grand Caverns or Luray,” Gonzalez said. The antique, red-and-white patterned couch with a dark wooden frame, the gold mirror overhead, and the musket hanging over the living room doorway provide a feeling of comfort and curiosity. “The giant living room held all of us very comfortably and made for a nice memory,” said Rockey-Harris.

But the furniture isn’t the only aspect that is unique. The people that visit are, too. “One lady was a wolf lady. Basically she raised these wolves, taking them out of the wild and she taught them how to howl,” said Gonzalez. Bell and Gonzalez recall another guest who could sense ghosts and, after searching the bed and breakfast, promptly told the innkeepers that the house was “totally safe” and that they had nothing to worry about. Truly, every guest that stays at the bed and breakfast becomes a part of the history.

Whether looking for a getaway, a serene comfort or a new adventure, Cave Hill Farms Bed and Breakfast is a place where history is remembered and people make new memories.