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Posted March 14, 2009 | Copyright © The Northern Virginia Daily
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Wayside to be sold at auction

By James Heffernan

jheffernan@nvdaily.com

MIDDLETOWN -- America's oldest continuously operating inn is looking for a buyer.

The Wayside Inn, which has been welcoming guests traveling up and down the Shenandoah Valley since 1797, will be sold at auction April 30 at 1 p.m.

The estate sale will be conducted on site by Gordon Greene of the Cleveland-based Chartwell Group on behalf of the property's owners, the Bernstein Family Foundation.

The foundation consists of the children and grandchildren of longtime owner Leo M. Bernstein, a Washington banker and real estate developer who used the inn as a hub for his local business operations. Bernstein died in August, transferring ownership of the inn to the foundation.

Greene said Thursday his company, which specializes in commercial real estate auctions, has been in discussions with the Bernstein family for the past month.

"Their thinking is that it could take nine to 12 to even 15 months to sell [on the open market]," he said. "An auction would be an expedited means of selling the property."

The family wants to use the proceeds from the sale to further their philanthropic efforts in the Washington area, he said.

The Wayside has had to cut back its hours in recent months due to the slumping economy. In November, the inn and its seven formal dining rooms began closing on Mondays and Tuesdays, and its 22 guest rooms and suites are now available only on Friday and Saturday nights.

In an interview last month, Ami Aronson, managing director of the Bernstein Family Foundation, said the goal was never to close the inn, but to find a buyer who shares her late grandfather's passion for historic preservation.

In 2002, the Chartwell Group helped sell the Berkeley Castle in Berkeley Springs, W.Va., which dates to the 1880s. But the Wayside represents "certainly the most historic property we've ever been involved with," Greene said.

"You're talking about a building that traces its origins to George Washington's second term as president," he said.

"Many hundreds of thousands of dollars" have been invested in the property since Leo Bernstein purchased it the 1960s, according to a statement released by the Chartwell Group. Guest rooms are decorated in period themes featuring canopied beds, antiques and paintings. Lunch, dinner and a traditional Sunday brunch are served by wait staff in Colonial costumes.

The Wayside also features a conference center and gardens for private parties, meetings and wedding receptions.

Bidding on the property will open at $535,000, with a minimum purchase price of $995,000, according to the Chartwell Group.

"It's a very unique property," Greene said, adding, "We'd be happy if there are six to seven bidders."

Interested parties must purchase an information packet prior to inspecting the property. Open houses are scheduled for April 16, 19, 25, 29 and 30.

A cashier's check for $55,000 is required to register to bid on the property. The closing date of the sale is May 12.

For more information, call Gordon Greene at the Chartwell Group at (216) 839-2005, or visit www.alongthewayside.com.

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