Charming B&B is near homes of four presidents

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ORANGE, Va. -- If you'd like to dip into presidential history and taste a variety of wines, the Monticello Wine Trail is a great destination with 22 wineries.

Virginia is home to 140 wineries, and this particular trail, which is near Charlottesville, is five hours south of Pittsburgh.

If you decide to make it a weekend trip, there's a gorgeous new bed-and-breakfast eight miles from Barboursville Vineyards and just one mile from Montpelier, the home of James Madison that was recently restored by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

The Inn at Westwood Farm is operated by Elizabeth Goeke and her husband, Jay Billie. While the yellow 1910 farmhouse retains its simple exterior, the inn's inviting interiors offer comfortable furniture, hardwood floors, antiques, Oriental rugs and fresh flower arrangements. Guest rooms are spacious and feature Yves Delorme sheets.

"We're getting more and more people just visiting the area for wineries," Ms. Goeke said, adding, "In the past, we've had many people come and not think about going to Montpelier. We sell them on going. They've been extremely impressed."

Besides Montpelier, visitors who take the presidents' tour can see Jefferson's Monticello and Ashlawn, the home of James Monroe, both within a 45-minute drive of the inn. Some tourists also travel the 67 miles to Staunton, Va., to see the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library and Museum.

The Inn at Westwood Farm is picturesque and relaxing. Ms. Goeke and her husband purchased the farm, which came with a barn and paddocks, in 2004.

The two New Jersey natives renewed their acquaintance at a 25th high school reunion in 1996.

In her previous life, Ms. Goeke ran competitively and in 1977 created her own line of athletic gear, called Moving Comfort, and sold the company to Russell Corp. in 2002. Mr. Billie worked as a research director for seven years at Gallup, the polling company.

Ms. Goeke had traveled a great deal in her former career and dreamed of opening a bed-and-breakfast. "I just enjoyed creating an environment that people found relaxing and enjoyable. The more I traveled, the more I wanted to do it."

When they bought the farm to run as an inn, they started renovating.

"The central part of the house had been gutted and renovated. It was in very good condition on the inside. The previous owners had also added a wing with a two-car garage and a second story which was under roof but the interior was never built out. That is the wing that Jay and I renovated," Ms. Goeke recalled.

Renovations began in June 2006 and the inn welcomed its first visitors in September 2007. Two months later, Ms. Goeke and Mr. Billie were married.

Mr. Billie said it made sense to delay getting married until their relationship survived the travails of renovating the bed- and-breakfast. He had heard horror stories about couples who embarked on major inn renovations, then wound up in divorce court.

Now, they've been working to turn their 15-acre homestead into an organic slice of Eden.

This fall, the couple planted edible landscaping such as kiwis, persimmon trees, raspberries and blueberry bushes. They also have created new garden beds in the front and behind the inn.

Mr. Billie's latest project was building a coop for 29 chickens and a rooster. Made of found wood and a tin roof, it's red with white trim and has iron lantern holders in the shape of a rooster.

"We have affectionately called it the Henslay Palace," Mr. Billie said, adding that the chickens are laying two dozen eggs each day. The eggs will go into guests' omelets.


Post-Gazette staff writer Marylynne Pitz may be reached at 412-263-1648 or mpitz@post-gazette.com .


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