Cooperative Living Magazine Feature
Weekend in Williamsburg
by Rosemary Dietrick, Contributing Writer
Where can a bagpiper go to practice a tune without disturbing the neighbors?
A local piper approached Dr. William Lee, owner of War Hill Inn, who agreed to help. And so, one day, way down in the farthest corner of the inn’s pasture, the unmistakable sound of bagpipes filled the air. Slowly, an enthralled herd of Aberdeen-Angus cows drifted en masse toward the music, encircling the piper. Lee recalls, “It was a sight to behold.”
Innkeepers Bill and Shirley Lee and son, Will, can’t promise the presence of a piper, but their working farm does offer B&B guests a bucolic hideaway, only a few miles from Colonial Williamsburg and the bustling outlet malls along Richmond Road. A country lane winds up past a field, a mini-vineyard, and a small orchard. On the crest of the hill, overlooking a sweeping expanse of pasture, War Hill Inn, elegant in Colonial style of rose brick and scalloped tile roof, is not your typical farmhouse, but rather a re-creation from the 18th century.
“The house is a composite,” says Bill “Before we built it, we’d wander up and down the Duke of Gloucester Street in Williamsburg with a notebook, fancying a particular dormer or door; basically, it’s modeled on the James Anderson House near the Capitol.” An architect from Colonial Williamsburg supervised the construction, using salvaged materials like wide, heartpine floors from an old school in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and bricks taken from Main Street in Norfolk.
War Hill provides a preview of the architectural style that awaits tourists who’ve come to explore the Colonial capital. The inn’s complex includes Washington and Jefferson Cottages, copies of the Bracken Kitchen and the Powell-Waller Office, both within Williamsburg’s historic district. Yet before there were buildings, there were cows and horses. When Bill bought the land in 1961, his brother presented him with his first cow, a Holstein named Hilda, saying, “You can’t live out in the country on a farm without a cow.” Hilda was in residence for 20 years. In 1988, Bill retired from his large- and small-animal veterinary practice, but continued continued to raise prize-winning breeding stock.
For a family of five from Venezuela, the birth of a calf was the highlight of their stay. “Even if it happens in the middle of the night,” they said, “wake us up.” So Bill knocked on their door at 2 a.m. They were delighted.