09 March 2011
“The Virginia countryside with its spectacular mountains, gently Rolling hills, splendid foliage and open meadows is the Eden of the United States”- Thomas Jefferson
Have you ever dined at Keswick Hall? Have you enjoyed the ambiance and feeling of luxury there? Have you felt you tasted a bit of Eden? Do you know when it was built and by whom? Do you know that two movies were filmed there? Do you know a mystery once occurred there?
On 2 March Keswick’s resident historian Patricia Castelli told the Friends of the Library some interesting stories about its history. The 17-room Villa Crawford, the north wing of Keswick Hall, was built as a private residence in 1912 for Mr. and Mrs. Robert B. Crawford. They had just returned from a trip to Italy and so they commissioned prominent local architect Eugene Bradbury to design a house that would resemble an Italian villa. He designed an 8,000 square foot, two-story, tile-roofed home with ornate ceiling molding and a grand staircase. The cost was $100,000. A pair of miniature donkeys was kept on the 311 acre estate to amuse the twin Crawford boys. Mr. Crawford died in 1919 and the Villa had five different owners during its total of 35 years as a private residence.
In 1948 it entered a new era when it became the Keswick country club under Mr. Donald Stevens and it has served off and on as a country club for 42 years. Over the years it has undergone many renovations as tennis courts, a golf course and a swimming pool have been added.
In the 1960’s the Keswick Country Club was one of the first to integrate its membership. This was a bold move for the time and it cost the club some of its members.
The club was purchased in the early 1990’s by Sir Bernard Ashley, widower of designer Laura Ashley. He bought the property for $5.5 million and spent another $25 million restoring it. His philosophy was to give the hotel the warmth and feel of coming to a grand country manor for a visit. Arnold Palmer redesigned the golf course and a tennis pavilion and new clubhouse were added.
In 1999 Orient Express purchased the 600 acre property and now Keswick Hall is truly a premier location offering guests a unique and delightful experience.
Oh yes in 1955 some of the movie “Giant” starring Rock Hudson was filmed there and in 1980 so was some of the movie “Four Seasons” starring Alan Alda and Carol Burnett.
What about the mystery you ask. In 1979 the golf pro was mysteriously murdered when he was shot in the head while he sat in the car waiting for his wife. The perpetrator has never been caught.
Patricia’s presentation included many fine photos of Keswick Hall through its many mutations to become the marvelous place it is. It was definitely a look at local history and we are grateful to her for sharing this with us. She has authored a book entitled “The Story of Keswick Hall” which will soon be available. We wish her the best of luck with her new book.
Librarian Cyndi Hoffman announced that the library now has puzzles available for checkout. There is also a new chess club in Fluvanna which will be hosted at the library and there will be classes for kids. Plans are underway for the summer reading program and there will be a teen reading program and an adult reading program. Contact the library for more information. She also stated that volunteers are needed for craft programs. She also reminded that movies are being shown on the first and third Fridays. The best part is that they are free! You don’t have to drive to Charlottesville to see a movie and we even have popcorn.
The next meeting will be on April 6 and the guest speaker will be local poet Lynn Young joined by two other poets. See you at the library.