The 78th Annual House and Garden Tour, Presented April 16th By The Garden Club Of The Eastern Shore of Virginia

by: Marlene email

April 16th  this year dawned cloudy and overcast,  with the weatherman calling  for temperatures  in the low 70’s,  windy conditions in the morning and a really good downpour  beginning shortly after noon.  My husband commented that it was too bad we weren’t going to have a nice sunny day for the Garden Tour but I was just glad we were not going to have anything like the 2 feet of snow on tap that day for Nebraska, the Dakotas, Wisconsin,  Michigan, etc, etc.   ( For some reason, just knowing I am headed out for a spring day,  flowers blooming,  April showers bringing May flowers, etc. ,  feels even better  when I contemplate that snow is slamming some of the western states from here to Kingdom Come but that here on the Eastern Shore of Virginia  we are going to be enjoying some of the temperate weather of  which we are justifiably proud.  I was just so very glad not to be one of the hundreds of motorists stranded in blizzard conditions the entire night of  April 15th  on  I-80  in Nebraska.   Tax Day and a blizzard, whew !   )

Kendall Grove large yellow Colonial style home on Eastern Shore VA

Kendall Grove overlooking Mattawoman Creek, Machipongo VA

At any rate, we each grabbed a little rain jacket and headed out the door for Kendall Grove near Eastville,  only 5 minutes from Blue Heron’s  Machipongo office,  the first of three homes we planned to tour.  Located on  simply spectacular four  acre waterfront point overlooking  Mattawoman Creek,  Kendall Grove is of a distinctive Eastern Shore architectural style called  “Big House, Little House”, which as the name says involves the main house and several smaller  additions.  In the case of Kendall Grove,  this has resulted in a very pleasing home with numerous rooms, each of which offers a unique view of   the gardens, the shoreline and the wide blue waters beyond.  I thought that one of the nicest rooms was the large sunroom which overlooks a pretty little  garden enclosed with white fencing,  a very serene room where one could sit quietly,  reading a good book and just enjoy the relaxed feel of the surroundings.  It goes without saying that this cheerful yellow home is very tastefully furnished, with an interesting  juxtaposition of American and African art.  The grounds were lovely,  creatively shaped flowers beds abounding,  a pool overlooking the inlet  and one of the tallest camillia bushes I have seen,  which was just blooming its heart out for Garden Tour Day !  As we were leaving, we stopped for a moment to chat with a fellow on the back porch who turned out to be none other than Tayloe Murphy who served for many years in the Virginia House of Delegates, served as Virginia’s  Secretary of  Natural Resources under Governor Mark Warner and was a  real motivating  force behind the passage of the Chesapeake Bay Protection Act in Virginia,  a venerable gentleman indeed.


Eyre Hall large historic home in Eastville VA

Eyre Hall, on the National Register of Historic Places and A Virginia Landmark in Eastville VA

From Kendall Grove we slipped south a few miles to Eyre Hall,  listed on the National Register of Historic Places and well as being  a Virginia  Landmark.  At the end of a long, long driveway, bordered by huge cedar and crepe myrtle trees,  is this  amazing house,  circa 1758, built on the shores of the famous Cherrystone Creek.  The current owner is an eighth generation decendent of the original owner and has maintained the home and the gardens in mint condition.  The downstairs, with its extensive collection of period furniture and collectibles,  has an almost museum-like quality and includes a framed thank-you letter from General Lafayette to General Robert Barraud Taylor for his kind hospitality on the occasion of Lafayette’s visit to Eyre Hall shortly after the War of 1812.  On the way to tour the upstairs we took a quick peek into a  little den/library tucked  next to the kitchen,  outfitted with a  comfy sofa,  a little TV and a wall of  books.  I love reading and I love looking at other people’s books,  I think seeing what other people read is quite interesting and says a quite a bit about a  person.  This library contains, among many others,  a great many  books on southern architecture as well as landscaping,  not unexpected considering that Eyre Hall and its extensive  gardens can be counted among  the finest in Virginia.  And I loved the upstairs–  such a contrast to  the very, very formal downstairs,  vivid bedrooms with descriptive  names like  the  “Green Room” and the  “Lavender Room”,  complete with colorful bathrooms to match.   It struck me that seeing the upstairs was sort of the Virginia gentry version of  being able to see the family quarters of the White House after touring the State Dining Room or the Oval Office ( maybe not a great analogy but it felt a bit like that.)   I would be remiss not to say that the formal gardens,  which have been maintained continuously since 1800,  are  absolutely spectacular,  a multitude of small gardens and  beautiful plantings separated by almost ancient boxwood borders.  The ooh’s and ah’s of visitors,  many taking pictures of especially interesting specimens,  were audible everywhere.  Eyre Hall’s gardens are so extensive you really must  see them to appreciate them.  According to the official brochure,  this is the seventh decade that Eyre Hall has been  the centerpiece of the Eastern Shore of Virginia Garden Tour,  so try to come next year and see its beauty for yourself.


Bellevue, a lovely waterfront home in Onancock VA

Bellevue overlooking Onancock Creek, an inlet from the Chesapeake Bay

From Eyre Hall we headed north to Onancock, our last stop of the day,  but first a bit of sustenance at Mallard’s On The Wharf,  an excellent local bistro located in the historic Hopkins General Store building.  They were,  of course,  jammed but we managed to get a nice table upstairs overlooking the water and enjoyed a most pleasant lunch of clam chowder with an excellent crabcake sandwich, ( all crabmeat,  no fillers,  as owner Johnny Mo likes to point out ).  After lunch we headed out for Bellevue on Onancock Creek.  Fortunately, the weather was still holding out- skies were overcast but no sign yet of any rain,  I was so happy for the owners  who had so graciously opened their homes for this charity event.  I can’t even imagine how I would feel about hundreds of   just in from the rain, dripping wet  visitors walking through my house  ( of course I’m sure they put carpet protectors down but still, rain doesn’t make the best situation).  Built on the shores of Onancock Creek in 1978,  Bellevue was one of the most recently built homes on the tour and included a charming pool and pool house.  It is a good example of how a modern waterfront home can have two facades- the  home as it faces the street presents as a lovely Colonial home but on the water side  its many large windows enable the owners to enjoy many fine views of their dock and the broad saltwaters beyond. The large sunroom overlooks a fenced perennials garden with criss-crossing walkways and an especially attractive  gate.  A family graveyard sits close to the pool house whose path is guarded by a very creative  creature fashioned from old clay flowerpots.  Just before leaving  I stopped to  take a photo of   “Flowerpot Person”  and another visitor,  who kindly stopped to let me finish the shots,  said  You’re going to make one of those aren’t you ?   And maybe I will…..


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