The almost flaming red-brick Georgian Inn now occupies much of the block that is known as “Linden Row,” and it sits on land that was originally outside the Richmond city limits. This piece of real estate was purchased by an entrepreneur called Thomas Rutherford in the mid 1800’s, with the original purpose of housing a State Penitentiary (it was in the then outskirts, after all) but thankfully that didn’t happen. Like Rockefeller, Rutherford made his fortunes in tobacco, milling and real estate.
A domino effect of owners happened: the land was sold to a chap called Charles Ellis who used it as a community garden blooming with beautiful roses, jasmine and linden trees. It was in this garden that the young poet, Edgar Allan Poe, used to play, after he was adopted by owners Mr. and Mrs. John Allan. The garden, studded with stately rows of linden trees, is said to have inspired the heavily romantic metaphor of “hyacinth hair” in Poe’s poem, “To Helen.”
Inns have distinct characteristics and strong personalities. Some, like the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado, have a spooky vibe. Linden Row Inn has old-world charm to it, with its softly-faded carpets, marble fireplaces, and beautifully indented bay windows that give sunlit visions to the laid-back pedestrian life below.
Mary Wingfield Scott, an architectural historian, purchased the property in the 1980s before it was demolished in order to preserve the row homes in Richmond’s Fan District (a saving grace!) and turned it into a girls school called the Virginia Elliott School (there were ten row homes, and Linden Row now owns seven). I felt the vibe of girlish chatter just walking in the courtyard of the property, imagining pinafore-clad youngsters hopping, skipping and laughing in the hallways.
I spent a calm evening in the stately Mary Wingfield Scott parlor suite, whose best feature has to be the chiffon pink and gold wallpaper wrapping the wall’s perimeter: it was specially made in California using methods found in the mid-19th century (this is actual paper, unlike the modern wallpaper made from vinyl). The wooden floorboards which creaked like a soundtrack from Michael Jackson’s "Thriller" were carefully replaced in parts to fit the worn-out boards that were originally cut onsite from pieces of timber.
In the calm evening, I sat on one of the many rocking chairs on the porch (when I stayed, the porch floors were being given a fresh coat of teal paint, a testament to how the owners, Savara Properties, likes to run things).
A new restaurant called Urban Farmhouse Market will debut in December in that portion of the Inn that was formerly the stables.
If you’re into art, you can see rotating artwork through a partnership with a non-profit called 1708, and rejoice in the fact that the furniture are period pieces throughout, from the consoles to the clocks and "loaned" permanently from the Historical Society of Richmond (technically, those should be "gifts" if they're permanent). Now, how cool is that?
Each of the 70 rooms is well-priced, from $100 and up, and breakfast is included. Now, that’s a fine stay indeed.