By Josette Keelor
Its walls have witnessed much greatness over the last 200 years, but now as employees prepare Rosemont Manor in Berryville for its upcoming Christmas tour on Monday, the former manor house turned bed and breakfast will have an opportunity to tell its story.
The open house, now in its third year, will run from 5 to 8 p.m. and will feature a tour of the original 1811 house and 1911 wing of guest rooms, with guides stationed in each room to explain the history of the house.
The rooms of Rosemont are named for famous guests of the manor, said Suzanne Pearson, director of communications.
Standing in the Nimitz Lounge, named for Admiral Chester Nimitz, Pearson said, "We like to say, if only the walls could talk in here."
In the Roosevelt Suite, a marble sink and claw-foot tub are original to what used to be two rooms. Rosemont's owners in the 1990s, Randy and Sue Jones, removed the wall and used the space as a game room. Later when Rosemont became a bed and breakfast in 2010, the room was transformed into a suite.
For weddings, it's usually the room groomsmen choose, Pearson said.
"The red walls with black tuxedos makes for good photos in here," she said.
Upstairs in the Kennedy Suite, a hiding closet that locks from the inside dates back to the Civil War's 1864 Battle of Berryville, when occupants of the house would have been prepared to hide themselves and their valuables from invaders, Pearson said.
In the modern bathroom, a wall mirror hides what used to be a two-way mirror that since has been remedied. Evidently someone was interested in the goings on in what became the Kennedy Suite, said Pearson.
"We don't know under whose management that was happening," she said.
Down the hall, the Byrd Study, named for Sen. Harry Byrd, was transformed from an office into a guest room that includes on an inside door the heights of his four children with the written warning, "Please do not erase in any manner."
The Nixon Suite previously was the master bedroom for Byrd and his wife, who, during the summer, would use the adjoining sleeping porch above the sun room. From there they could hear the sounds of Berryville children, who routinely would sneak into the pool at night, their voices traveling up the hill to the manor, Pearson said. On one occasion, as she related, Byrd, awakened by their voices, walked down the hill to the pool and simply asked them to keep the noise to a reasonable level.
The biggest of the upstairs rooms, the Churchill Suite, features views of three sides of the 60-acre property. Often it's used as a honeymoon suite, Pearson said, but for his daughter Anne's wedding on Oct. 13, Gen. David Petraeus and his wife Holly stayed in the Churchill Suite.
Also this year, Byrd's great-grandson Langdon Byrd Greenhalgh married at Rosemont, Pearson said.
Included along the tour will be the downstairs, decorated for Christmas by Michael Haymaker, director of weddings and design, who also will lead the tour of the Roosevelt Room.
With the help of Winchester designer William Smedley, "We created a whole new look for Rosemont," Haymaker said.
"Each room has its own character and gives a whole new look of the holiday season."
Tickets for the Christmas tour at Historic Rosemont Manor will be $10 for adults and $5 for students through college age. Children 5 and younger get in free. Proceeds will go to Abba Care Inc., in Winchester, and Healthy Families Northern Shenandoah Valley. For more information, call 955-2834 or visit rosemont1811.com.
Contact Community Engagement Editor Josette Keelor at 540-465-5137, ext. 176, or firstname.lastname@example.org