Bolling Wilson Hotel: Tribute to a First Lady in Wytheville, Virginia
It is evident everywhere at the Bolling Wilson Hotel that the owners know a lot about Edith Bolling Wilson, second wife of President Woodrow Wilson, and hope those who visit will learn about her also. If you have an opportunity to spend the night in this beautiful property, you'll want to make your way to the Edith Bolling Wilson Birthplace Museum which is directly across the street. Or, go back to last Friday's blog post to learn that the United States has already had its first female President, although strictly an unofficial title, you understand.
Edith Wilson was actually born upstairs over what is now Skeeters Hot Dogs (the second story in the museum). You'll find artifacts and informational displays sharing many aspects of her interesting life. William and Farron Smith established the Edith Bolling Wilson Foundation in 2006, and opened the museum in 2008. They also own the hotel. You will be lucky indeed if Farron or the museum curator, Morgan Herbert, conduct your tour. They have ambitious plans to continue to improve and expand the museum as funds become available. They are passionate and extremely knowledgeable about this remarkable First Lady and her legacy.
In the photo below, Farron and Morgan are pictured, and Farron is holding a children's book she co-authored with her sister Joyce Covey called "How the Sheep Helped Win the War." I bought a copy to share with my grandchildren and have loved telling them the story.
The restaurant at the Bolling Wilson Hotel is called Graze on Main, in a not-so-subtle reference to those famous sheep who grazed on the White House lawn during World War I. And don't miss the ceramic sheep keeping guard by the front steps, masks and all. :)
I hope you get to experience the hospitality of Rashedah McCray at the reception desk. She is one of the friendliest and most helpful greeters I've ever met. She won't just tell you where something is, she'll get up and lead the way. Also, she's the one who told me about the amazing carrot cake served in the restaurant, and I agree that it is likely the best I've tasted. By the way, carrot cake is a signature dessert because it was what Edith and President Wilson chose as their wedding cake in December of 1915.
The orchids in the hotel lobby were (you guessed it) Edith Wilson's favorite flowers, and one of the floors in this 30-room boutique hotel uses purple orchids in its decorating scheme.
Another floor has yellow accents recognizing the time Edith spent caring for her grandmother's 26 canaries. Plus, the rooftop bar is called Perch Rooftop Terrace, again referring to those birds. This rooftop area provides a 360-degree view of downtown Wytheville and the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains. You can also spot St. John's Episcopal Church. Edith Bolling Wilson was baptized and confirmed in that church, and she donated the stained glass windows in memory of her parents in 1960, a year before she died.
Yet another floor of guest rooms utilizes rich brown leather in its decor, suggesting Edith's fondness for bourbon. An orchid, a canary, and the bottom of a bourbon barrel are incorporated into the hotel's logo.
Guest rooms are elegantly and comfortably furnished, and the bathrooms contain Gilchrist and Soames bath products and toiletries.
The wide front porch as well as the large outdoor patio are great for relaxing and taking in the cozy, small-town atmosphere of Wytheville. I was there when the hotel was decked out for fall and Halloween. I have no doubt that it will be stunning at Christmastime.
Because of COVID, a sack of pre-packaged items is placed outside your door by 6:00 a.m., and there is a coffeemaker in the room. You will also find a gift shop, known here as the Provisions Shoppe, in the lobby.
Only a couple of blocks down Main Street, you will want to look for a 100-foot mural depicting Edith Wilson's entire life story. It is clear that Wytheville is justifiably proud of its native daughter.