This is not your everyday B&B. This home is a lovingly restored Queen Anne Mansion, furnished with attention to every historic detail. Staying here is truly like experiencing what it was like to live 126 years ago when Richard Samuel Thomas and his wife Frances Boykin Jordan moved into their showcase home on January 1, 1889.
Richard was a true Virginian. Often called, “A Virginian of Virginians,” he was a descendant of one of Isle of Wight County’s earliest families, a gentleman attorney, a Civil War veteran, and a scholar. He was instrumental in the preservation restoration of St. Luke’s Church (c.1632), today considered one of the country’s important historic treasures. The Thomas’ lived lives of Southern charm, hospitality, and grace in their showcase home, now known as the “Mansion on Main,” where they resided until their death.
What most people don’t realize is that the Mansion on Main transformed the usual Victorian cottage and federal home style of downtown Smithfield, to that of larger Queen Anne homes with flairs of Art Nouveau architecture. Until the turn of the century, the Mansion remained a landmark for locals and visitors alike as the largest house in downtown Smithfield, presiding proudly over its main intersection.
But there is far more to the story of this exquisite treasure than the Thomas’ legacy. Like many houses of the 20th Century, this historical mansion was bought, sold, and continuously changed hands until it was purchased by Ms. Sala Clark in 1995. Between May 1995 and November 1997, Sala dedicated her life to scraping paint, replacing rotten wood, updating heating, air conditioning, and researching authentic home decor. A 1993 graduate of Meredith College where she studied design and restoration, she was anxious to restore the house to its original character. In November of 1997, after painstaking work, the Mansion on Main was fully restored to its original glory and finally, once again embodied the same Southern charm, hospitality, and grace that had been present during the life of Mr. Thomas and his wife. Sala’s dream of opening a Bed and Breakfast had finally come to fruition.
Tragically, Sala passed away suddenly on April 10, 1998, but her death did not end her dream of creating a home that could be used as a learning tool while allowing guests to enjoy Victorian opulence. Five years later Betty Clark, Sala’s mother, purchased the home and preserved her daughter’s dream of creating a historically accurate Victorian Bed & Breakfast.
Like her daughter, Betty is passionate about preserving historic accuracy and antiques. In fact, she owns Mansion House Art and Antiques at 120 N. Church St. right next door to the Bed & Breakfast, and in her rare spare time restores antique oil paintings. Sala had great visions for the gardens at the Mansion, so Betty also remains active in trying to implement these plans, as well as in the upkeep of the B&B. There’s always a project or repair to tackle with a 126-year-old home.
Betty met Dawn Riddle not long after opening her shop. Dawn has contributed a great deal to every aspect of the Mansion’s success. She is now the B&B’s manager and is an important and hard-working member of the tourism team in Genuine Smithfield. She has been voted a Smithfield Hospitality Hero every year of the program’s existence, and has achieved the “Bravo Badge” from Trip Advisor.
The Mansion on Main, not just limited to being a historic Bed & Breakfast, also supports the community by hosting numerous fund-raising efforts, such as the Isle of Wight County Christmas Progressive Tour of Historic Sites, and offering tours in support of the town’s Church Street Beautification Project. It was also chosen as the film site for a Discovery America program, was featured on the Virginia Garden Club’s Annual Historic Home Tour in 2012, and was open to the public as part of the Commonwealth Historic Home Weekend celebrating the anniversary of the Governor’s Mansion in 2013.
Tours of the Mansion on Main are offered Saturday evenings at 2:30 p.m. as a way to fulfill Sala’s dream of offering the house as an educational tool. Guests meet at the Mansion House Art and Antiques Store and walk over to the Mansion on Main. A donation of $5.00 is requested. Larger private tours can also be arranged.
Considered by many return visitors as a home away from home, the Mansion on Main offers flexible booking hours that range from single night stays to extended visits. The ornate parlors, dining room, and cheerful sun porch can comfortably seat up to 40 with a capacity of 65 individuals, making it the perfect venue for romantic weddings, weekend getaways, and vacation house rentals, to business lodging and executive retreats. And with furnishings and décor hand selected by Sala and Betty, the home’s accurate historic atmosphere is assured, and makes for a unique setting. To top it all off, Dawn whips up “country comfort breakfast food befitting Smithfield” each morning, including everyone’s favorite Caramel French toast.
Looking ahead, Betty’s vision for the future of the Mansion on Main is to turn it into a public house museum with the help of an interested organization. But this is the story – so far – of this stately beauty that resides so proudly in the heart of downtown Smithfield. Today the Mansion is a perfect representation of what the home looked like during the time of Mr. & Mrs. Thomas. You are now cordially invited to become part of the home’s next chapter. Tour, host an event or stay at the Mansion on Main. This delightfully charming treasure offers you “living history” at its very best – because you get to live it!
Mansion on Main Bed & Breakfast
36 Main Street
Smithfield, Virginia 23430
Facebook: Mansion on Main Smithfield