At Lackawanna, snooze in the 19th cen­tury

The Washington Post Sunday - - TRAVEL - BY BECKY KRYS­TAL krys­talr@wash­

Even be­fore I ar­rived at Lackawanna Bed & Break­fast in Front Royal, Va., I was in a 19th-cen­tury state of mind. I’d spent the af­ter­noon brows­ing among the an­tiques a few miles away along Front Royal’s East Main Street. The book in my suit­case was an 1870s novel by An­thony Trol­lope. And as I turned onto the snowy side roads lead­ing to the inn, I couldn’t help think­ing that a horse-drawn con­veyance would have been more sta­ble than my car at that par­tic­u­lar moment.

With the short but nerve-rack­ing drive com­plete, I made my way to the grand home’s front­porch en­trance. It seemed a pity to sully the freshly fallen snow.

The win­try weather suited Lackawanna well. Fine pow­der frosted the edge of the porch and the tufts of or­na­men­tal grass flank­ing the path up the lawn. The build­ing’s white bricks, with their charm­ingly dis­tressed paint, merged into the snowy land­scape. And as a fi­nal re­minder of the sea­son, Christ­mas wreaths hung on ei­ther side of the door.

Even with­out the pre­cip­i­ta­tion, Lackawanna’s fa­cade is sure to im­press. Four col­umns line the porch, the ceil­ing of which is a robin’s-egg blue. Rock­ing chairs in­vite guests to sa­vor the scene.

There was, how­ever, only so much sa­vor­ing I could do in the snow with a suit­case in hand. I tried to open the front door. Locked. That re­sulted in the slightly comic sit­u­a­tion of my hav­ing to phone the own­ers, Phil and Sandy Charles, to letme in as I waited on the porch.

Sandy good-na­turedly hunted down news­pa­per to put un­dermy drip­ping boots, and Phil showed mearound the house and gaveme a bit of its his­tory (built in 1869; prob­a­bly named af­ter Lackawanna County, Pa., where the orig­i­nal owner came from; re­quired a good bit of TLC for proper restora­tion). He pointed out the siz­able store of movies and his equally im­pres­sive dis­play of old cam­eras, a col­lec­tion that echoes his for­mer ca­reer as a pho­tog­ra­pher for the Na­tional Gallery of Art.

Imet the Charleses’ three dogs: two laid-back cock­apoos and a gre­gar­i­ous stan­dard poo­dle who might as well have been half-kan­ga­roo for all her amus­ing leap­ing. If you don’t like dogs, this prob­a­bly isn’t the place for you.

It prob­a­bly also isn’t the place for you if you have an al­lergy to Vic­to­rian-style decor. Or­di­nar­ily I find it fussy, but at Lackawanna, par­tic­u­larly at Christ­mas­time, it works. I couldn’t com­plain about the flow­ered wreath above my four-poster bed when I could sit down and see the Shenandoah River outmy win­dow.

At break­fast, Phil tended to the fire­place in one of the front par­lors. And be­ing the only vis­i­tor stay­ing in one of three guest rooms, I got to choose my en­tree, a crisp Bel­gian waf­fle.

Af­ter pack­ing, I re­turned to the par­lor to soak up a lit­tle more of Lackawanna’s am­biance. Knit­ting seemed like an ap­pro­pri­ate ac­tiv­ity. As my nee­dles clacked, the smell of the Christ­mas cook­ies Sandy was bak­ing in­fused the air. I wasn’t al­lowed to leave with­out a bag of them. Re­gard­less of the set­ting, such hos­pi­tal­ity will al­ways be time­less.


Lackawanna Bed & Break­fast is an Ital­ianate-style house near the Shenandoah River on the out­skirts of Front Royal.

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