Where the past still gleams

Virginia: The Boar's Head Inn in Charlottesville takes guests back to old-fashioned comforts amid historic attractions

Short Hop

September 19, 1999|By Stephanie Fletcher | Stephanie Fletcher,Special to the Sun

An imposing antique forms a backdrop behind the reception desk at the Boar's Head Inn in Charlottesville, Va. The bottom portion contains shallow drawers, while the top half displays several rows of cubbyholes that once functioned as hotel mailboxes. Thick brass discs, each bearing the carved likeness of a wild boar, dangle from cup hooks at the tops of the cubbyholes. The golden ornaments form long, neat lines that gleam in the overhead light. When I ask the receptionist if I can take a closer look, she hands me a hefty fob attached to a brass key, and the heavy, glittering disc covers my entire palm.

"Aren't they pretty? The designer from Atlanta suggested we use them as decorations. Unfortunately, it's not safe to use them anymore." Then she smiled and added conspiratorially, "My mother spent her honeymoon here 30 years ago -- she kept one."

I reluctantly return the massive fob, and she hands me an uninspiring plastic passkey for my room. However, I discover that although the keys and some amenities have been modernized, spending nights and days at the inn still provides guests with an elegant, old-fashioned experience.

The Boar's Head Inn, which bills itself as a "country resort," sits on 573 acres on the outskirts of Charlottesville. It contains a main inn building, a four-star restaurant, convention facilities, two outdoor pool complexes, 16 tennis courts, an 18-hole golf course, a large state-of-the-art fitness room and a gift shop. Picturesque vegetable and herb gardens provide fresh ingredients for the restaurant and add interest to the grounds.

A limpid green lake outlined by a gravel walking path serves as a centerpiece. On a pretty day, I sit in a wooden swing on the bank beside a weeping willow and watch dragonflies hover over tiny yellow aquatic flowers. The lake is also home to a pair of white swans and flocks of Canada geese and wild ducks.

Overnight accommodations are in four 3- and 4-story guest quarters situated around the property. Two buildings are attached to the main inn via a corridor. The other satellites are located a short walk away. Most rooms feature patios or balconies, and many offer lake or mountain views.

The inn is undergoing a facelift. All guest rooms and hallways have freshly painted walls, newly carpeted floors and recently draped windows. Common areas are in the process of being refurbished. I spent a weekend at the resort three years ago and can testify to the improvements. The inn, although successful in maintaining its signature quaintness, now possesses an appealing freshness.

My spacious lakeside room is located on the ground floor. It features a screened back door that leads to an 8'x 15' brick patio separated from its neighbors by screens of louvered shutters. Two wrought-iron chairs and a small circular table are stationed here. This spot is ideal for enjoying a morning paper and cup of coffee. A green manicured lawn extends from the brick pavement to the lake. Tree-studded hills form a backdrop. It is a simple pleasure to impulsively leave my cup and paper on the table and step out for a leisurely morning walk into a landscape that evokes a dewy English countryside.

The interior of my room features the same warm cream, camel, brown and brick-red color-scheme as the inn's exterior. The decor strives to create the feeling of a cozy, 18th-century country inn -- a gentrified version. To that end, a pretty four-poster, king-size bed covered with a cream-colored spread dominates the space. A plaid, fringed throw lies neatly folded at the foot, a nice touch. It's perfect to wrap around shoulders while sitting on the patio in cool weather or to use as a light coverlet while napping in the upholstered chair.

The room also features two armchairs and a writing desk with a drop-leaf that transforms it into an eating table. A large armoire contains a TV, a do-it-yourself coffee service, a small refrigerator and a safe. Two beefy bathrobes and an ironing board share space in the closet.

The white tile bathroom makes up for its small size by offering the charm of a dark wood, marble-topped washstand. A modern sink with goose-neck faucet takes the place of a basin and pitcher. Stacks of white towels and a hair dryer are stashed on the shelf underneath. A delightful wall-mounted print depicts the metamorphoses of two caterpillars into moths.

Recreational activities

The Boar's Head Inn complex serves double duty as community country club. Locals and vacationers alike are drawn to its recreational possibilities. In addition to classic diversions of golf, tennis and swimming, guests may bicycle around the grounds or try their hand at fishing using complimentary equipment. The complex offers the added attractions of spa services and hot air ballooning.

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