High hopes in Urbanna
|by Mary Wakefield Buxton|
Urbanna, Va.— There are high hopes in Urbanna these days. The old Urbanna Inn has been purchased and is being refurbished to open soon as the Chesapeake Inn.
Hurrah! Not only will it mean more jobs and tax revenues for our county, but the new plan also will add a boutique inn to this area, and maybe, one day, a fine new restaurant.
It cheers me every time I pass by the stately white building complex on Virginia Street in downtown Urbanna and note all the activity going on to spruce up the place. A favorite haunt to many Tidewater people from the Norfolk, Richmond and D.C. areas, who have wined and dined at the old inn for many years, the inn has been closed and boarded up now for far too long.
The inn has had various owners at least since I moved to town in 1984. Many have started off well, but no one has been able to find the perfect formula for long-term success.
I have many fond memories of the inn. I remember coming to Urbanna and enjoying a good dinner even before we made this town our permanent home. It certainly was a stopping off point from Newport News for a seafood meal during the years our daughter attended St. Margaret’s School.
I recall attending Urbanna Creek Yacht Club sailing classes and parties at the inn, and even a festive St. Patrick’s Day party with Jack Mulligan playing merry Irish tunes on a piano for a sing-along served up with green beer and Irish food. Then there was a 60th birthday party dinner for Chip and many other special family celebrations.
The inn used to be a popular hangout for business leaders who would gather in the lounge on Friday nights. I especially remember a grouping of comfortable easy chairs that made a pleasant, friendly milieu for exchanging all town news.
My parents stayed there during visits to Urbanna. It was fun to meet them at the inn for breakfast the next day. One morning, Phyllis Hall, the owner at the time, served us delicious homemade blueberry muffins. The tables were covered in white linen and it was very elegant.
Another owner turned the restaurant into a five-star rated establishment by the Daily Press. There is no reason why it could not be done again.
In the late 1990s, the Middlesex Rotary Club met at the inn and at that time the cook turned out a terrific breakfast buffet that could get anyone out of bed early in the morning. I would set my alarm to just get up in time to jump in the shower, get dressed, and just make it to the 7:30 a.m. meeting as ministers Scott Krejci or Chauncey Mann were saying the opening prayer.
The inn’s renewal includes a nautical ambiance with gardens of roped-in sand that is banked by oyster shells, a rusted anchor, a pair of oyster tongs, a channel marker buoy, and lobster trap, which are arranged to suggest fresh seafood dinners await within.
John Milby is a partner in the new business venture along with McKim Beale, David Burgess, Bill Bridgeforth, David Marshall, Donald Knight, and Lewis Hall. He spoke to me last week about the venture.
“Bill and I had Craig Hall show us the place last November after we realized the inn is a focal point in town, and it needed to be brought back to life,” said John.
From that initial visit came the partnership that began the rejuvenation.
“We are gutting all 13 rooms at the inn and completely redoing them,” John said as he took a break from retiling bathrooms.
John is obviously very excited about the project. A full-time managing partner, he hopes Chesapeake Inn will be open for business in early June. Then the group will turn their attention to the front building and begin renting it for special events.
“We already have a crab-picking event lined up for July 4th with proceeds going to the Urbanna Business Association,” John told me.
“As far as opening a restaurant, well, we’ll have to wait and see how things go,” he added.
Let’s hope the wait isn’t too long.
We need the new Chesapeake Inn in Urbanna as the heart and soul of our town. Let us wish the partners well in their new enterprise. Everyone, please, get out there and lend support to these enthusiastic entrepreneurs who are doing so much important work for the town of Urbanna. ©2009