ABOUT STAUNTON HILL
Our comfortable, almost luxurious setting includes 10 private ensuite bedrooms, salt water pool, tennis court and a charming community gathering hall, Hamlett House with modern kitchen amenities and sitting and dining rooms. In addition, weekly meals, teas and presentations in Staunton Hill’s elegant reception rooms are offered. Outside on grounds, SH sits in a park-like setting comprised of several lovely walking trails both in the natural woodlands and along the 1.5 mile private driveway bordered by an allée of magnolias and woods.
WHY STAUNTON HILL?
The ancient Celts described areas where they believed heaven and earth were especially close as “thin” places. There is something in the deep starry nights followed by misty morning sunrises, the long angle of rosy afternoon light and the very air at Staunton Hill that evokes the spirituality noted by the Celts. A visiting Chinese scholar said of Staunton Hill that it is where, “Day becomes night and night becomes day.” Staunton Hill boasts natural beauty combined with layers of history and a supremely attuned aesthetic sensibility to create an atmosphere that is uplifting, inspiring and serene.
Passing through the Staunton Hill gates, one immediately feels a weight lifting as quotidian concerns slip away. Adjusting to the rhythm of this remarkable place one feels a world away from contemporary life in both time and space. The effect is profoundly relaxing. One can see things clearly again, reconnect with one’s essential self and tap into the potential residing there.
Completed in 1848, Staunton Hill is a Gothic-revival castellated mansion designed by John Evans Johnson for Charles Bruce, father of Senator and Pulitzer Prize winning author, William Cabell Bruce. The ante-bellum plantation comprised just over 5,000 acres of fertile Staunton River low ground. Primarily a tobacco plantation, wheat, oats, hay and corn were all grown here, planted, tended and harvested by the 500 enslaved human beings who lived and toiled at Staunton Hill. The Staunton Hill Center for Thought, Creativity and Production is attentive to this crushing history and is keen to attract scholars who are working on the history of slavery in America as well as creatives whose work engages with that history.
During the 20th century, Staunton Hill served as the country retreat for David K.E. Bruce, his wife Evangeline and their children. Ambassador Bruce headed the Office of Strategic Services in London during WWII and implemented the Marshall Plan following the war. He served as ambassador under six presidents. Posted to France, West Germany and Great Britain, respectively, he was the only diplomat in American history to serve in all three capitals. In the 1970s, he was appointed the first US liaison officer to Communist China. He also served as US Representative to NATO for the Paris Peace talks.
Staunton Hill has been in the same family for multiple generations. The history of the family is, in a sense, the history of the house. It is a complicated history with its share of triumphs and tragedy. The people who lived at Staunton Hill and their stories are very much a part of the house, just as are the beautiful appointments, lovely setting and whiffs of glamour. The house has weathered the good and bad and after 170 years has emerged as a place of great serenity and enormous soul. These are the qualities that make Staunton Hill such an appealing setting in which to work, be inspired and create one’s own stories. We invite you to apply and experience for yourself the distinctive allure of Staunton Hill.
SH is in the process of developing a timeline of the rich cultural history of Staunton Hill.
STAUNTON HILL TODAY
Since the early 1990s, when David S. Bruce and his wife Janet, ran the property as a conference center with a focus on Asia, Janet has made renovations with a nod to the inheritance. Janet, an internationally exhibiting artist, finds Staunton Hill very conducive to productive work in her studio there. “At Staunton Hill,” says Janet, “The quiet has to do with location. Charlotte County is literally a dark spot on the grid. One’s perception is heightened; stars shine more brightly; and a birdsong is a social event. This is the magic and beauty of SH, where one feels happy to be alive and awakened to thought, creativity and production.” In 2017 Sarah Sargent became Director of Staunton Hill Center for Thought Creativity and Production. Sarah was raised in New York City and comes to SH as a longtime colleague and friend. Her background includes many years in the art world as curator, writer and administrator. Staunton Hill is affiliated with Res Artis and the Alliance for Artists Communities. Staunton Hill is one hour from Lynchburg,Virginia. Staunton Hill was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1969.