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Historic site could have a B&B future page 2
Couple hopes to open bed-and-breakfast in King George County at Belle Grove, the birthplace of President James Madison

 The Darnells have big plans for the future of Belle Grove Planation, the birthplace of James Madison.
PHOTOS BY REZA MARVASHTI/THE FREE LANCE-STAR
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Date published: 9/29/2012

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There's been some question as to where the original home was, and Michelle Darnell has studied historical documents and newspaper clippings religiously.

The Darnells came across a foundation in the crawl space and believe it may be part of the original home. They'd like to look into it more, once they open the bed-and-breakfast and move onto the property.

Michelle Darnell's grandmother probably would be proud of the way her granddaughter has taken to Belle Grove's history as if it were her own.

Michelle Darnell grew up in South Carolina, and when her grandmother took her to the state capital or the family cemetery, she shared stories about past events and the people who carried the same blood in their veins.

Little Michelle became the family historian. She embraced the Belle Grove history with the same enthusiasm--to the point her husband regularly tells her to shorten her history lesson when showing visitors around.

'TO MAKE IT BEAUTIFUL'

The Darnells hope to host weddings, receptions and other gatherings on the lawn of Belle Grove. The bed-and-breakfast will offer four suites of rooms.

Two are on the ground floor and are junior suites with sitting rooms and spacious bathrooms.

The two master suites on the second floor include one named for James Madison. From the "soaking tub" in the bathroom, guests can gaze out the window at the flowing Rappahannock.

The Austrian company will pay for some of the antiques and reproductions the Darnells will use to furnish Belle Grove, once they get county permission to open.

Michelle Darnell plans to uphold some of the traditions observed by people who once lived there.

She'll have a wine and cheese reception in the grand hallway every day but Sunday and serve mint juleps. That's in honor of the Turner family, whose male members gathered promptly at 5 p.m. for refreshments.

On Sunday afternoons, she'll have a lemonade social, which was the custom observed by the last person to live on the property, Mary Hooker.

"We're trying to think of every little detail that might make somebody comfortable," Michelle Darnell said. "We want to make it beautiful."

Michelle Darnell posts a blog about Belle Grove at virginiaplantation.wordpress.com.

Cathy Dyson: 540/374-5425
Email: cdyson@freelancestar.com


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