Road Trip – The Mimslyn Inn
My April road trip will take us across the Thornton Gap in the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia separating the Shenandoah Valley from the Piedmont region of our state. A short drive into the valley will bring you to the sprawling town of Luray. This area is home to the world famous Luray Caverns, which I wrote about last year, however this visit is to enjoy the comforts of the Mimslyn Inn.
The actual purpose for the visit was to attend the Wasmunds Whiskey Dinner and Poetry Reading last month. What a spectacular setting for an event such as this! The Inn rises on a knoll with a massive front lawn and an over-sized patio that beckons you to come closer. Driving up the circular driveway you are drawn to the large portico with huge Doric columns that highlight the front of the Inn. Entering the lobby you are greeted by comfortable couches, hardwood floors and a winding staircase that will take you back to the days of the old South.
The Mimslyn Inn has recently undergone a multi-million dollar renovation, but it wasn’t always this way. There was a time when luxury was a novelty and only a few took vacations. During this time, on a knoll of a former army encampment and hospital during the Civil War, an Inn was being planned. The owners of the property, Mr. Henry Mims and his wife Elizabeth, wanted to create a one-of-a-kind place. With a background in hotel ownership and management the Mims now had their vision to create a grand Inn, which required experience and special construction materials, commissioned from around Virginia. A coal-fired steam shovel was brought in from Richmond to begin excavation in February of 1930. The brick is oversized tapestry made in Glasgow. The joints are flamingo from Riverton, the slate for the roof was quarried in Buckingham, and the bathroom tile was brought up from Roanoke. The window frames were made on site by a local blacksmith, and the first Schlage locks used in town were installed at the Mimslyn. J.R. Mims, Sr. designed the winding staircase, the Inn’s most renowned feature and an architectural masterpiece.
On Friday, May 22, 1931, The Mimslyn Inn welcomed its first guests. The public was invited and over 700 guests enjoyed dining and dancing as they looked in wonder at the Mimslyn’s modern features. Today vacations are a necessity, or at least a road trip is in order, and the Mimslyn Inn is there to welcome you like it has done for the past 80 years.
In November of 2005, Mr. And Mrs. Erwin Asam and sons, Christian and David, purchased the Inn. The Asam family has owned and operated the popular Bavarian Inn in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, for 30 years. Like the family before them, the Asams appreciate quality and elegance. They are responsible for bringing the Mimslyn Inn back to life after a complete restoration in 2008.
For all of its elegance and finery, this 45-room hotel is very affordable and serves for a great base of operation while exploring the Shenandoah Valley and all of its’ wonders. It is also an excellent destination if you see an ad for another Wasmunds Whiskey dinner, or any other event for that matter. At the dinner last month the Inn was sold out and we met some of the most interesting folks. It seemed like everyone was the life of the party.
The formal dining room, Circa ’31, is located a few steps up from the lobby with dramatic floor-t0-ceiling windows, beautiful crown molding, tasteful linens, and a vintage flair. The Mimslyn was known for its pan-fried chicken, country ham and apples, club sandwiches and pies. Circa ‘31’s menu includes a few of those favorites as well as many other dishes relating to modern times. The executive chef uses local ingredients and seasonal produce, which compliment freshly baked breads, sumptuous desserts and an impressive wine list. The Mimslyn is true to Virginia and offer a nice selection of Virginia wines. One thing is for certain, their staff is very well trained and exceptionally attentive and responsive.
Speaking of Virginia wines and other libations you must take the staircase downstairs to the Speakeasy Bar and Restaurant. This is a trip back in time with Art-Deco décor, a Prohibition-theme drink menu and period music. The restaurant also serves comfort food like chicken pot pie, meatloaf, pulled pork sandwiches, and more. In the evening you can find local bands serving up music to dance the night away.
As you can see this is a one-stop destination, however if you want to get out and stretch your legs, there is much to do and see in Luray. The famous Blue Ridge Mountains are home to the Shenandoah National Park and the idyllic Skyline Drive with its 75 overlooks and over 500 miles of hiking trails. The Massanutten Mountain range features George Washington National forest offering plenty of recreational opportunities while the south fork of the Shenandoah River cuts the valley in tow. The internationally acclaimed Luray Caverns is a short drive from the Mimslyn.
Written by: Bob Tagert