Greenbrier Historical Society prepares for home tour in June

GREENBRIER CO., WV (NEWS RELEASE) – The traditional Saturday tour of historic homes is always the anchor of the Greenbrier Historical Society’s Home Tour Weekend and 2017 is no different.  Its position, in between the elegant gala at the home of Angus Peyton on Friday, June 9 from 5-7 and the afternoon tea and recognition of Medal of Freedom winner Katherine Coleman Johnson on Sunday, June 11 at 2 and again at 4 p.m., allows visitors to enjoy very special houses in the Greenbrier Valley.

Waiting for visitors on Saturday, June 10 from 10-5 p.m. on the banks of the Greenbrier River at Caldwell is Elmhurst.  Owner Alicia Kuhn has brought an airy elegance to this venerable old charmer of a house.  Kuhn is obviously no stranger to challenges and this huge house did not daunt her.  Even flood waters in June, 2016 did not keep her from moving forward.

Elmhurst has seen its share of adversity.  Built in 1824 as a tavern by John Dunn with mantels carved by Conrad Burgess, it first served as a stage coach stop at the toll bridge crossing the Greenbrier River.  Private parties were held here for guests from what is now “The Greenbrier” and was then “the White Sulphur Springs resort” including a very famous one given in honor of President Martin Van Buren.  While everyone is welcome to visit during the Home Tour, only men were invited to the Van Buren party!  The belles at White Sulphur were very much annoyed to have their eligible beaus taken away for an afternoon.  During the Civil War, fighting took place in this area, and only the illness of a family member is said to have saved Elmhurst while all its outbuildings were burned.

As a special treat for guests, author Courtney Soling Smith will be in the Elmhurst living room to discuss and sell her novel, “LIES: Based on True Stories”, about the house and its occupants during one turbulent set of days during the Civil War.  This book is a lively read about the fate of one family when raiding Union soldiers came looking for medical supplies.  This story is well researched, partly using the archives of the Greenbrier Historical Society, and sheds light on the customs of the day, especially for women.

The close association between Elmhurst and the Greenbrier has lasted over the years.  Guests may have stopped at the Elmhurst Tavern to wait on rooms at the White Sulphur Springs resort.  Certainly, if they were going west to their homes or to other resorts such as the Blue Sulphur Springs, they passed by.  The party for President Van Buren was important enough to rate a newspaper article and even the menu was preserved.  This association continues as the Greenbrier is a sponsor of the 2107 Homes Tour and is opening its Presidents’ Cottage Museum for visitors.

On the fabulous grounds of the Greenbrier Resort, the Presidents’ Cottage Museum was built in 1835 as a private summer residence for Mr. Stephen Henderson, a wealthy Louisiana merchant and sugar plantation owner.  In the 1830’s it was common for the more wealthy guests at White Sulphur Springs to build their own private cottages at the resort.  They were insured no problem with reservations!  When Henderson passed away in 1838, Caldwell, the resort owner, took the cottage over and used it to house his most important guests.  Five presidents stayed in this cottage before the Civil War.  It opened as a museum in 1932.

Visitors are invited to look out over the Greenbrier grounds from the porch and imagine the scene in as it might have been in years past.  Visitors are also invited to explore the Art Colony Shops, located in the historic Alabama Row cottages which are among the oldest structures, having been built in the 1830s.  Together, the President’s Cottage Museum and the Alabama Row cottages are the most authentic remaining portion of the famed antebellum resort then known as White Sulphur Springs.  It is planned to have an additional historic cottage open for viewing depending on bookings at the time.

Tickets are available at the North House Museum and the Greenbrier Convention and Visitors Bureau in Lewisburg; City Hall in White Sulphur Springs and from GHS board members.  Gala tickets are $60; tour tickets are $30; and tea tickets are $20.  A special value weekend package of tickets to all three events is available for $100.  While home tour tickets will be available at each house on the day of the tour, gala and tea tickets must be purchased by June 2.  Please call 304-645-3398 for more information.  The Greenbrier Historical Society thanks The Greenbrier Resort for helping to sponsor these events.