Turning off the main road onto the sweeping, tree-lined driveway with views on all side of the 80 picturesque, acres of rolling grounds set against the stunning Shenandoah Valley sky, you would never know that this spectacular property was once a state mental health facility or medium-security prison. Its been quite a transformation from its original purpose and look, yet this is all part of the history behind The Blackburn Inn.
Upon arrival you’re greeted by a classic portico, dramatic columns, traditional moldings, a garnet brick façade and whitewashed wood trim, together evoking a feeling of the era when use of Jeffersonian-esque design elements meant something—a commitment to flawless beauty and integrity at every turn.
Formerly the Old Western State Hospital and built in the early 1800s, the property was upgraded in the mid-1830s to facilitate more humane treatment of the residential patients, the belief that it was possible to take one’s current environment, add wonderful amenities possible, and support greater emotional well-being.
The Inn’s namesake, architect Thomas R. Blackburn, was instrumental in adding numerous comforting design features that would hold true to this mission and focus: magnificent gardens, walking paths, a gurgling fountain, and inviting gazebo.
Located in Staunton, VA (pronounced STANN-tun) and just a short walk from the thriving downtown area, The Blackburn Inn was recreated in 2018 as Virginia’s newest, luxury boutique hotel. Yet it maintains and pays homage to its earlier iterations—including as a medium-security prison in 1981—with flair.
The main lobby, which used to be the main administration office, has been transformed into one half of a sitting area/library stretching across both sides of the entrance hall; a spot where you’d more likely be asked to sit and enjoy a cup of tea rather than tend to traveler details.
In the middle of the central hall is a five-floor, hand-crafted spiral staircase which at the top reveals a beautiful cupola and rooftop veranda offering amazing 360-degree views of the surrounding landscape and city.
Great attention to detail was paid to the spacious room wings with graceful hallway arches encompassing the 49 beautifully designed rooms in 27 different floor plans: cozy queen, deluxe queen, and deluxe queen with soaker tub rooms, and queen suites (the Inn also has special pet-friendly accommodations). Inside each, guests are enveloped by soaring vaulted ceilings, intricate baseboard and crown molding, traditional fireplaces, and hardwood pine floors.
The sitting areas feel just like home – oversized fabric covered furniture with contrasting patterned cushions, footrests, low bistro tables where you can enjoy a glass of wine or a meal, and flat-panel TVs against one wall. The bathrooms feel more like a spa with 12-foot ceilings, marble floors and countertops, frameless glass-enclosed showers and rain showerheads, plush bath towels, and Keurig coffeemakers and refrigerators with complimentary bottled water that lend toward the overall ambiance.
Walking through the peaceful and beautiful hallways you can take in the temporary changing local art, displayed in the second-floor art gallery, more spectacular artworks enhance the walls of the other floors. Every transition to another part of the Inn is via a 12-foot-high glass door which lends itself to the immense volume and space without being overbearing.
In the morning you’re treated to a complimentary light European bed and breakfast type experience in the Inn’s intimate, 40-seat bistro and bar, The Second Draft, set out with freshly baked muffins and croissants from local fave Réunion Bakery & Espresso, fresh fruit plates, a selection of Virginia sliced ham and cheeses, hard-boiled eggs, and hot tea and coffee from Red Rooster Coffee Roaster, a Virginia-based company.
In the evening The Second Draft serves seasonal menus indoors and out on the expansive patio stretching the length of the hotel and facing the gardens, shrubbery and downtown skyline featuring farm-to-table fare—a summer salad with a mix of berries and walnuts with bright heirloom tomatoes and red onions, tossed with feta cheese and resting upon a light spring mix with a regular or citrus balsamic vinaigrette; a portobello mushroom burger with lettuce, tomato, onions, and blue cheese drizzled with a house sauce and served on a toasted bun; or the 1828 sandwich with Virginia ham, swiss cheese, Dijon mustard, and habanero jelly service with lettuce and tomato, just to name a few, all accompanied by a great selection of regional wines and local craft beers if you desire.
Special packages offered here include a Couples Signature, Virginia All-Inclusive Wedding, Dinner and a Show, Romance, and a Shenandoah Beerwerks Trail.
Up the hill there is a small but functional 24-hour indoor fitness room with everything you need to stick with your workout routine on the road. The room is inside of another one of the renovated buildings—now called The Villages of Staunton—a very unique upscale, mixed-use community because of its setting.
Perhaps the icing on the cake here is the level of service, the staff going over and above “the standard” hotel guest interactions to create a memorable, relaxing and peaceful experience.
Check out these other features about what makes Staunton a great travel destination!