What's Up in Tappahannock
Longstanding as a sleepy pass-through for summer people headed to Northern Neck points east along Rt. 360, Tappahannock is waking up to the possibility that we might want to stop and stay a while. Although the arrival of Wal-Mart a decade ago threatened the existing business base of the town, there are those who’ve kept the faith and stayed on and others who are investing in the future with energetic Mayor Roy Gladding cheering them on. He’s the man behind the big new food-and-fun event in town, RivahFest!
The following are a few more signs of life to consider:
While it may not sound glamorous, the new Hoskins Creek bridge is making a big difference for those who live and visit Tappahannock. As things have started to pop around town, a thing called traffic, a heretofore unknown species, was getting a little snarly. The new four-lane bridge promises to make access to Tappy town a bit easier.
Evidence of commitment to preserving the town’s Colonial past are two restoration projects in the works in the historic district, and old house buffs will be interested to take a peek at the progress of both. The older of two is the former Emerson’s Ordinary (c. 1710), possibly the oldest house in Essex County, and definitely the pet project of architect George Jennings who is painstakingly reviving the place from its crumbling foundation up to its gambrel roof. When the work is complete, Jennings plans to live in the back of the house and run a gallery in the front rooms.
A half-block away on the banks of the Rappahannock is St. Margaret’s School, a day/boarding school for girls. A component of the campus is the historic (c. 1763) Brockenbrough House. Commanding a panoramic view of the Rappahannock River, this late Georgian house was the site of a demonstration against the Stamp Act in 1766 and a target for British artillery in the War of 1812. Extensive termite damage has made necessary a massive preservation effort which is now under way. The finished space will be used for offices and available for public gatherings.
Want to know more about the history of environs? The Essex County Museum, staffed by knowledgable volunteers, offers a chronological snapshot of the area’s history ranging from prehistoric fossils up through the Revolutionary and Civil Wars. Photographs and historical items detail the days of steamboat travel along the Rappahannock. Of interest to the treasure hunter, Tappahannock has become a great town for meandering through aisles of old stuff. From the venerable A-Z Antiques and Nadji Nook, two of the oldsters on the block, to the upstart
Pizazz now housed in an old filling station, there are plenty of places to satisfy the scavenger. Queen Street Mall and the Essex Square Antique Mall offer multiple dealers under one roof. Vintage books, glassware, furniture and furnishings, jewelry and oddities are all part of the offerings.
For a bite to eat other than the standard fast food fare, there’s the Riverside Café on Prince Street. Sandwiches are all priced under $5 and you can eat in or carry out. The old guy in town is Lowery’s, a longtime favorite of locals and purveyor of specialties like fried shrimp. The Crabby Oyster on 360 also offers seafood. Locals also tout Roma’s for Italian and
Ferebee’s for drinks, dinner and live music.
Visitors who find that they need more time to explore will find shelter at the new Essex Inn. Built on Duke Street in 1850, this Greek revival home has been transformed by Aylett native John Owen Gwathmey and wife Kelly. With four guest rooms in the house proper and two apartments adjacent, the National Historic Landmark is perfect for overnighting or throwing a party. From the Inn, guests can easily walk to antique shops, the Essex County Museum, eateries and St. Margaret’s School. Open just slightly more than a year, the Inn’s guestbook already boasts names from as far as Texas and Illinois. www.essexinnva.com.
For general information on Tappy on the Rappy, visit www.essex-virginia.org .