How Our Historic Inn Came to Be

Steeles Tavern Manor Bed & Breakfast – The Beginning

In the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia on what is known today as the Lee Highway or Rt.11, is a quiet little village known as Steeles Tavern. No history of the village would be complete without the story of the man for whom it was named – David Steele.

Surviving the battle of Guilford Court House, NC in 1781, David Steele, age 22, with his young wife settled in a house by the side of the road between Staunton and Lexington, VA, where they provided lodging to the few passing travelers. Soon afterward stage coaches began running regularly, and they too stopped at the home to change horses and to eat and drink. Thus the small village of Steeles Tavern was born. [Gradually a country store, post office, town hall, Presbyterian Church, two flour mills, cooper shop, blacksmith shop, and a two-room schoolhouse were added to land owned by the Steeles.]

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Upon the death of David Steele, his son John inherited the tavern along with most of the land. In 1831, John let his good friend and neighbor, Cyrus McCormick, give his first public exhibition of the reaper in a field of oates in front of the tavern. In 1857 James Gibbs, who lived 1 ½ miles from the village, invented the machine known today as the Wilcox Gibbs sewing machine. And so, Steeles Tavern was the birthplace of two foremost labor saving devices of the 20th century – the reaper and the sewing machine.In 1889, a man named Walter Searson married Irene Steele, one of John’s daughters, and they raised 7 children on the McCormick farm, where Walter was the manager. In 1916, the Searsons moved into a new home, and Irene Steele Searson, in the tradition of her ancestors, opened her home to accommodate tourists with “good home cooking and modern facilities” until the 1940s.

A later owner, Mrs. George Butler reopened the home, this time as the “Virginia Tourist Home”. It operated for some time and then became a private home. In 1994, extensive restoration began on the home and the next owners, Eileen and Bill Hoernlein opened its door in 1995 to greet guests at the Steeles Tavern Manor Bed & Breakfast. The Hoernleins successfully operated the 5-room B&B serving guests both breakfast and dinners before closing the Inn in 2004.

Ray and Melissa Alexander purchased the Steeles Tavern property in December 2011. Since the Bed and Breakfast was closed for 7 years, it needed some renovations before we opened our doors in July 2012. The floral wallpaper was stripped and fresh warm paint colors were applied. The colors of ecru, soft greens, and soft plums match the wine décor of the Inn. The red wall to wall carpet was removed to unveil the original hard wood floors of the 1916 Virginia Manor House. The multi-layered window treatments were replaced with white Plantation shutters and Plantation blinds to brighten the inside and retain the southern style of the house. Extra recess lighting was installed in the hallways and in a common room to create more light inside.  We wanted our Inn to retain its original look and feel of a Virginian Manor House but at the same time provide modern amenities to our guests such as flat screen TVs, DVDs and 2 person Jacuzzi tubs in the guest rooms. Each of our 5 guest rooms have been named after a grape varietal that is native to Virginia to keep with our theme of wines.  We named one of our common rooms the Social Room to create a place where our guests can come together to meet and socialize. The room provides a relaxed environment with very comfortable furniture, a flat screen TV, and bar. We offer an early evening “social hour” serving Virginia wines and light snacks that allows guests to relax and get to know one another and the Innkeepers.  Our future renovation plans will focus on the outside to improve the walking grounds, pond and pool area.

Plan a visit with us, and experience the elegance and hospitality that began in this house in 1916 and continues today.

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  1. Pingback: "Steele" Away to a B&B | Bed & Breakfast Association of Virginia Blog

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