New life, new rooms for the Public House
The Flint Hill Public House will be reborn as an inn and restaurant in late fall of 2011, according to William Waybourn, one of the new owners. Four luxury accommodations will be offered. A patio in the rear of the house will be available for special events. Plans have yet to be firmed up for the building which housed school buses, and another that served as a barn, Waybourn said.
With his partner, Craig Spaulding, Waybourn on June 17 finalized the purchase of the five-acre property, which has been vacant for more than three years. Financing was obtained from Union Bank.
Opitz Construction, located on Ben Venue Road, will be the general contractor for the renovation
effort, said Waybourn. Ernesto Santalla, an architect based in Washington, D.C. has drawn up the plans.
Spaulding and Waybourn engaged John Gruber and Marvin Swaner as general manager, and chef and assistant manager respectively. Both men are on the staff of Houlihan’s in Front Royal, and share 30 years of experience in hospitality. Waybourn expects the first day of their employment with the new Flint Hill Public House and Country Inn will be July 1.
The partners also operate Screen Archives Entertainment in Linden, where they live, and Long View Gallery in Washington, D.C.
In the past, what had most recently been a popular restaurant has also served a museum, an art gallery and a school. Spaulding and Waybourn had an open mind about how to remake the house.
Waybourn walked around Flint Hill, he said, initiating conversations with those he encountered. He asked about residents’ experience with the building, and solicited their thoughts. He also spoke with people in Sperryville, Hume and Front Royal. One couple told him about getting married two decades ago at the Public House, he said, and were excited about the possibility of celebrating their wedding anniversary there next spring.
“At one time, Flint Hill was a thriving restaurant community,” said Waybourn. “The Griffin Tavern has held the fort.”
He and Spaulding want to collaborate with the wineries in the area and take an active role in the community, he said.
Debbie Donehey, who with her husband Jim Donehey owns Griffin Tavern next door to the Flint Hill Public House, thinks the new establishment will benefit Flint Hill and Rappahannock County, and possibly the tavern as well.
“I’ve always believed restaurants are like car dealerships,” Donehey emailed. “The more you have in one area, the more likely people will come in and check them all out. It’s much easier to get into your car and drive an hour to a destination knowing that you have multiple places to choose from. If you only have one you second-guess the trip.”
Donehey noted that often the Griffin’s patrons will ask about lodging. Being able to say “within walking distance” will be a pleasure, she wrote.
More information about the project is online at flinthillpublichouseva.com.
BACK TO LIFE: The old Flint Hill Public House, vacant for nearly three years, will soon be the Flint Hill Public House and Country Inn.