Benefit on the knoll for a Pantry in town
Jessamine Hill, the home of Rappahannock native John Anderson, is the grand setting for this year’s Food Pantry benefit dinner on May 10, capping a day of recognition and support for the community nonprofit that serves an average of 200 local families a month.
This year’s theme, “An Italian Feast,” is meant to complement the elegance of the surroundings. Jessamine Hill was built between 1825 and 1830 by James Leake Powers, a protégé of Thomas Jefferson who also constructed Trinity Episcopal Church, the courthouse, the clerk’s office and the town hall in Washington. The brick manor house was originally the home of Thomas Fletcher and his wife, Susan Stack Fletcher. Atop a knoll in Tiger Valley, the house commands a breathtaking view, with formal gardens giving way to rolling pastures against a backdrop of the Blue Ridge.
When John Anderson bought the property in 1997, he considered razing the structure, which had fallen into disrepair. Thankfully for enthusiasts of history and architecture, he instead began what he describes as a “labor of love” — 15 years of restoration, repair, reconstruction and refurbishment. The replastering alone took three years, and it took six or seven years to furnish the house. The Louis XIV clock in the front hall, found in a Parisian market, was the first piece Anderson purchased for Jessamine Hill. “It was the only thing in the house for a long time!” he added.
The redesigned kitchen is crowned with a giant fireplace built with stones recovered from Anderson’s grandfather’s home. The house features a sweeping central staircase, seven fireplaces with their Greek Revival mantelpieces and a formal dining room with its portrait of Thomas Fletcher, wall tapestries and hutch filled with Waterford crystal and blue and white willow.
Tickets for the Food Pantry’s benefit dinner (6 to 9 p. m.), for which local restaurants and wineries have donated food and libations, are $85. Make reservations at rappahannockpantry.org or by calling Bette Mahoney at 540-675-3446.
May 10 is also Food Pantry Day in Rappahannock, and includes the popular Pet Parade, co-sponsored by the Rappahannock Animal Welfare League (RAWL) and held on the lawn of the old Washington School ( registration begins at 9: 30 with a “fee” of dog or cat food), a benefit bake sale at St. Peter’s Catholic Church, food drives and benefit flower sales at River District Arts, St. Peter’s and the 211 Quicke Mart. For more information, call pantry director Mimi Forbes at 540-675-1177.