Meet Sharon and Sam Elswick. It’s hard to define the area of expertise of this couple as so many disciplines come to mind; extraordinary innkeepers, internet technology experts, social media masters, community emissaries, diplomats, cooks, and travel advisors. All these titles fit but mostly they’re good people doing good things for those that visit Orange. Click here to view the video of Chef Sharon in the Kitchen.
A little background about The Inn.
Holladay House was built somewhere around 1830 and has witnessed 180 years of American history. The namesake of this beautiful structure is Dr. Lewis Holladay, who purchased the home in 1899 and operated his medical practice here. Now as a Virginia Bed and Breakfast inn, it is one of the two oldest standing structures in historic downtown Orange and is registered with the National Register of Historic Places.
For almost 200 years the Holladay House has served the citizens of Orange as a residence, a law office, a doctor’s office, a dentist’s office, and currently as a premier Virginia bed and breakfast under the care of the Elswicks. In the early 20th century, a private schoolhouse for local children was on the property. Only a handful of proprietors have owned this historic home, and the Holladay family was its steward for over 100 years. This historic bed and breakfast still boasts much of its original woodwork, including floors, mantels, doors and period antiques from the Holladay family. Excellent photos and more history may be found on their website.
The Inn as we know it.
For the past 26 years the house has continuously served as a bed and breakfast. The past ten under the ownership of the Elswicks who bought it in 2006. Part of the almost unimaginable story is that neither had any previous experience in operating such an in-depth hospitality venture. Sam coming from a small internet technology firm in northern Virginia and Sharon as a federal government technology marketer.
“At the time we bought the inn Sam was 31 and I was 30 years old. We were the youngest owners of a B&B in Virginia,” said Sharon.
When I asked what motivated them to undertake such a challenging change of livelihood Sam said that, “We both wanted a change of lifestyle. We always loved small towns and knew we wanted to live in a small town…and we wanted some adventure. When the availability of this inn became known to us we knew Orange was going to be our home.”
“Part of the decision for us to move here is that we fell in love with Orange,” said Sharon. “We wanted to be deeply invested in the community. We wanted to be able to offer something to our town, to be effective and to have a sense of community and we knew we could do that here.”
“One of the things we do as part of the community is buy almost everything from local sources: Lux Aromatica, Miller Farms, Orange County Roasters, Timberwood Farms, Under the Sun, Briarwood Florist, Faye’s Office Supply, Sedwick Building Supply along with local wine and craft beer we serve to guests,” said Sharon. “And we do our utmost to match guests’ tastes with the shops in Orange first – we want guests to be as invested in this town as we are!
Most of our visitors are from northern Virginia. They have a short drive to a place where they get a remarkable change of scenery. Most come for the landscapes, to see the farms and mountains and to enjoy our local food, wine and to shop the antique and second-hand stores. We’re a short drive to Gordonsville, Culpeper and Charlottesville, which is always a plus.”
As we were sitting around the dining table I wondered what they would have done different. “Start with more money!” was Sam’s immediate reply. “While the home and business itself didn’t require a lot of changing at the time, we focused on online marketing. Our skill set from our previous jobs allowed us to rebuild the website and grow from there.”
Here’s to honoring and celebrating the dedication, hard work and love of Sam and Sharon and the success they have realized at Holladay House Bed & Breakfast. As with many of the B&B’s in Orange County, they have set a high standard.