The Wonder and Beauty of Historic Homes


My fascination with old homes and plantations, a theme that figures regularly in much of my writing, is partly inspired by the family home place, circa 1816, located outside the historic town of Staunton, Virginia in the lovely Shenandoah Valley.  *Note I did a previous post on Staunton.

Called Chapel Hill (old homes invariably have names) this Georgian style brick house has been in the family for eight generations.  Sadly, the old kitchen, a separate building from the main house, no longer stands but I remember it from my childhood.  Some outbuildings still remain; among them the smokehouse and stable.  The house itself is filled with a wonderful collection of heirlooms.  The miniature china dogs I played with as a child turn up in Enemy of the King.

The story I’m writing now, my next ‘Somewhere’ story,  is set at Chapel Hill at Christmas, the season I remember best.  More on that in future posts.

The home in Somewhere My Love is a compilation of Berkeley and Shirley plantations with flavors of Chapel Hill, and lord only knows what else considering all the old  homes I’ve toured or lived in over the years.  The curved staircases I favor in my novels are replicas of the one at Chapel Hill that winds from the foyer in front of the old parlor up to the second floor.  As a child, I’d anxiously wander up and down those stairs in the moonlight in my white nightgown, no doubt looking like a ghost girl, because I wanted to be with my parents asleep downstairs, but hated to admit it during the day when my cousins were about.  So, I’d be tucked in with them upstairs, far from asleep, and worries of the night would settle in.  Then I’d wandered the steps until I finally made a bolt for mom and dad, feeling quite foolish in the bright sunshine of morning with birds singing cheerily.  However, nighttime in that house was quite another matter.

The ‘snake thing’ in Chapter One of Enemy of the King is drawn from an incident that happened to me at Chapel Hill when I was a girl during my night wanderings.  Back in my contest circuit days, more than one judge told me a snake couldn’t possibly get into a house and wind around the antlers of a buck mounted up on the wall.  They can and one did; a rather horrifying discovery for a child to make in the wee hours.   And then there’s the fact that I always suspected the house was haunted…not sure by whom.  But I’m not entirely certain I was alone on those stairs, though whoever kept me company was benign.

To clarify, I do not live at Chapel Hill.  My aunt does, but it’s not far from where my husband and I live on the family farm, and I’ve visited Chapel Hill all of my life.

My light paranormal romance Somewhere My Lass opens in an old Victorian home in the historic town of Staunton, (mentioned above).  I also love homes of the Victorian era.   Our farm house dates back into the 1800’s.

Old homes from the nineteenth or eighteenth centuries (and beyond) have character, charm, mystery, and sometimes…ghosts.   Beneath the staircase at Chapel Hill is a deep closet, long rumored to be the site of a secret passage now closed from view.  Whether any truth exists to this family legend I do not know and apart from tearing out the back of the recessed closet can’t think how else to make this determination.  But I assure you, there will be a secret passage when I set my story there. :)

The Joshua Wilton house in Harrisonburg VA is a beautifully restored Victorian home operating as an Inn and Restaurant.  They also serve tea in the afternoons if visitors wish to come only for that lovely occasion.

For more on the Joshua Wilton house visit: http://joshuawilton.com/

For more on my work please visit: www.bethtrissel.com

Shirley Plantation and Berkeley Plantation homes pictured in that order.

Chapel Hill pictured first.

3 responses to “The Wonder and Beauty of Historic Homes

  1. Beth, this is a post according to my heart. I love old houses –or new ones– that look like mansions. I visited the fabulous mansions of Newport, Rhode Island. One of my hobbies is decoration. I spent years decorating my house. By the time I was satisfied, we had to sell it and move south.

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  2. Beth, I love this post and envy you growing up in such a wonderful home and area. Thank you so much for sharing. I’m happy to see the houses you used in your Somewhere books.
    I am surprised someone told you a snake couldn’t get in a home and curl around the antlers. My friend had one upstairs on the ledge of her bedroom window. When we lived near a creek, we had a water moccasin climb the wall of our house toward my daughter’s bedroom window. A neighbor alerted us because the window was open. Not open for long, of course.

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  3. Thanks Mona. So sad you had to leave that home after all your efforts. And Caroline, thanks so much. I am blessed to live in such a rich area, but didn’t realize it all until I was much older. Yes, snakes get around. Thank heavens that moccasin didn’t make it into your house. Snakes are far worse in our area back in the mountains. A friend told me when she and her husband would go and visit his mom who lived in an old mountain cabin, they didn’t dare reach into a kitchen cabinet without looking carefully first. Shudder.

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