Tucked away in the graceful foothills of Virginia’s horse country, Welbourne is the epitome of a Middleburg hunt country estate. It has been passed down for eight generations in a row now and believe me when I say– they just don’t make ’em like this anymore.
I had the privilege of visiting in January and the red metal roof was peeking out under a beautiful snow. Driving down the stately driveway toward the house was magnificent with snow covered fields flanking either side.
Painted Stucco Exterior
This house, like many old Virginia homes, did not start with stucco exterior walls. It was originally stone when it was first built in ~circa 1770, but as the years have gone on, the house has been added to and renovated and eventually took the form it does today. (Painted stucco was not something everyone could afford and created a seamless exterior especially when houses had multiple additions.) This house was substantially enlarged when the Dulany family, whose descendants currently own it, first purchased it circa 1833. John Peyton Dulany bought the Welbourne property and named it for his wife, Mary Anne DeButts, who was born at “Welbourne Hall” in Lincolnshire, England.
The front facade of the house was added around the 1830s. Doesn’t it seem like the front would be the original structure? Old houses are always so fun for reasons like that; don’t you love the unexpected changes that create the buildings we see today? I also love these antlers fixed to the stucco above the front door. I asked the current owner, Rebecca, if she knew the story behind them, and she said they’ve been around for centuries now and just sort of blend in to the house for her.
Rebecca and her brother and sister-in-law, Joshua and Amanda, have made it their mission to restore the house to as much of its original splendor as possible. They are all too humble about inheriting this masterpiece of a home. Rebecca told me countless times that she realizes how lucky she is to be a descendant of the firstborn children of her ancestors for eight generations now. She and Joshua view themselves as stewards for the next generation, a mentality I’ve found all old house owners seem to adopt.
The house is filled with antiques that have been passed down as well. Everything has a story.
Rebecca has been able to dig through the attic and find old photographs taken throughout the centuries her family has inhabited Welbourne. One of the treats of those photos is seeing where the furniture used to be. Slowly, Rebecca has enjoyed rearranging pieces to their former locations (if they’ve gotten shuffled around over the years).
Welbourne started taking in guests as a bed and breakfast by introduction only nearly 100 years ago. You can actually stay here today (check out their website here). I will say: for folks wanting a traditional hotel room experience, this is not the place. Welbourne is known more for a bed and breakfast from word-of-mouth for a reason. It is charming, full of character, and attracts the kind of people who appreciate the beauty in historic one-of-a-kind estates.
Formal Library Sitting Room
To the right when you first walk in the hallway is a beautifully appointed library. A portrait of one of Rebecca and Joshua’s ancestors, Colonel Richard Dulany with the Confederacy, hangs in between two built-in bookshelves exactly as it has hung for over a century now. Born in 1820, Colonel Dulany was Rebecca and Joshua’s great-great-great-grandfather, who also founded America’s first foxhunting club, The Piedmont Fox Hounds. The Upperville Colt & Horse Show is the oldest and one of the most prestigious horse shows in America. Established in 1853 by Colonel Richard Henry Dulany, who also founded the Piedmont Fox Hounds, the show was originally designed to encourage better treatment of young horses and improve the local breeding stock.)
During the Civil War, soldiers actually camped out on the front lawn of Welbourne.
Being in this room felt surreal– it felt like I stepped back in time. Everything is mostly the same from the Civil War era. Rebecca has prioritized reupholstering or refinishing antique furniture that is meaningful and sentimental to their family, and this room has many pieces of such furniture. The art, the books, even the rug… it’s incredible to behold a room that has been lived in and kept the same by this family for so many generations.
Guest Room to the Side
Behind the formal sitting room is a stunning guest room. I love the crazy high ceilings (and how the bed takes full advantage of the height those ceilings provide)! There’s a full bathroom off this room with gorgeous sunlight. I think this might be my favorite bedroom in Welbourne, but as you’ll see, there are so many that it’s nearly impossible to choose a favorite.
To the other side of the sitting room off of the entryway is the living room decked out with gorgeous antique art. Mostly religious in nature, the majority of the art in this room was purchased by one of Rebecca’s ancestors during a trip to Europe.
You might think this room feels a bit “stuffy” but it’s actually an incredibly warm and welcoming space. Rebecca said guests frequently retreat to this room for a nightcap and enjoy getting to know one another here.
Music (and Dancing!) Room
Just past the parlour is a fun room that was added on in the 1830s. Thomas Wolfe and F. Scott Fitzgerald’s editor, Max Perkins, was a good friend of Elizabeth Lemmon, who lived at Welbourne where she entertained frequently. Elizabeth was known for having spectacular social events that included F. Scott Fitzgerald and others and in 1920 had a special “dancing floor” installed here:
Until the 1990s, the fireplace in this room (to the left of the doorway above) was covered up by a wall. The family hired noted historic brickmason, Henry Cersley (who has also done work at Monticello), to come take a look at Welbourne’s chimneys and he discovered a hidden fireplace! I’m also loving the gorgeous transom window entrance from the music room to the front of the house (below):
“The house floated up suddenly through the twilight of rain. It was all there – the stocky central box fronted by tall pillars, the graceful one-story wings, the intimate gardens only half seen from the front, the hint of other more secret verandas to face the long southern outdoors.”
-F. Scott Fitzgerald, Her Last Case (The Saturday Evening Post, November 3, 1934)
In the original part of the house just past the staircase sits the dining room. It is beyond elegant.
Look at these 1700s floors! I’m in love!
The mantlepiece is simple and yet holds quite a presence. So understated and elegant. Be sure to note how thick the window sills are (meaning how thick the exterior walls are).
The portraits that hang above the fireplace are Rebecca and Joshua’s ancestors who lived at Welbourne Hall in Lincolnshire, England. They’re the parents of Mary Anne DeButts who purchased Welbourne here in Virginia in the 1830s. Isn’t that amazing?
Just off the dining room is the kitchen. This kitchen is not the original kitchen, but a very 1950s version that hasn’t really been updated since. I LOVE it!
The actual original working kitchen is in the basement/ cellar underneath, where a dumbwaiter (that still works!) hoists food up to the hallway just outside the dining room. Meanwhile, this 1950s era kitchen serves its purpose and can still manage to be a successful catering kitchen for events.
Picture Perfect Mud Room
I don’t think I’ve ever loved a mud room as much as I love this one. This space is just off the dining room and full of family history and elegant design. It’s absolutely perfect. I love the same green paint tone in the trim and walls. And the window panes– ohhhh, so many beautiful old lead glass window panes!
A bedroom downstairs near the mud room has two twin beds and what used to be a doorway that is now part of the wall. (Again, a fun feature of old houses that adds so much character!)
Rebecca refinished the wood mirror in this room. I love the classic Virginia farmhouse feel.
Once upon a time, this was probably one of several front doors to Welbourne at some point in time. Now it’s the side porch entrance.
Aren’t these porch railings exquisite?
The rows of boxwoods almost beckon you to walk among them and be in nature.
The stairs are sturdy as can be (I love that feeling in old homes) and these go up and up and up!
Slanted Floor Central Bedroom
On the second floor, one of the original bedrooms has a beautiful four poster bed. The wood floors slope (not very slightly, but rather significantly) toward the center of the room.
Rebecca worked with a friend who helped her make extra wood legs for the feet of the bed as well as the bookshelf/ dresser so that the furniture can remain level despite the slope in the floors. Look closely at the photo below and notice the height difference in the bottom of the legs. Isn’t that hysterical?
Welbourne has so many stunning bedrooms on the second floor. I could easily post 100+ photos here. Suffice it to say, each is utterly charming and unique.
Carved Out Bathrooms
When Welbourne first started letting guests stay in the ~1930s, the owners at the time (Rebecca and Joshua’s ancestors) had to ensure each bedroom had a bathroom. Of course, houses built in the 1700s/ 1800s didn’t have en suite bathrooms configured in the plans, so bathrooms needed to be carved out of the existing footprint. The result is a slew of creatively carved out bathrooms throughout the second floor:
Rebecca told me she loved staying up on the third floor when she was a teenager and it’s easy to see why. This space is sweet and feels completely private.
Welbourne reminds me of Ovoka (not too far away!), Pharsalia or Walnut Lawn in that it is so beautifully classic for a country Virginia home. It also reminded me a lot of my grandparents’ farmhouse with the family antiques and obvious warmth in each room.
The more I get to visit these amazing historic Virginia homes, the more I realize the importance and tangible feeling of love in each space. It was such an honor to visit Welbourne and I can definitely say I recommend stopping by if you’re visiting Middleburg; this is the kind of place that makes your heart kind of ache when you drive away.
Welbourne is an incredible homage to the Dulany family. (Joshua and Amanda run a retirement home for horses on all those 520 acres that remain on the estate.) I have so much respect for a family who has figured out how to maintain a home such as this for eight generations. Houses like this don’t get passed down for eight generations unless the family is intentional about its past and present.
Welbourne’s greatness lies not in its grandeur (although it is impressive in every sense of the word), but instead in its ability to reconcile its yesterday with today. Filled to the brim with museum-level historic charm and character, I can honestly say Welbourne is an experience like none other.