Restoring the Whitehaven Hotel
Anne's Weekly No Holds Barred Discussion of the Hotel Restoration - September 1995
Episode 2: Brigadoon
The Village of Whitehaven is an otherworldly place. In the village, you feel that you are completely removed but it’s not that far from civilization - 25 minutes and two roads will get you into Salisbury, a town of 10,000. Going into Whitehaven, the houses start to spread out along Nanticoke Road and by the time you pass the country club at the beginning of Whitehaven Road, there are little clumps of developed communities and the occasional old farmhouse. Continuing along the road, you hit long stretches of green and in places the perfectly flat road stretches like a ribbon to the horizon. Pine trees line the way, like an allée leading up to an old estate. When you are not used to the trip, this is the point at which you become anxious. Hypnotized by the route, you wonder if you have missed the village, which deep down you know is impossible because it’s at the end of Whitehaven Road. It’s hard to miss things at the end of the road.
Still, as the green stretches on, and you realize that, once again, you have miscalculated the time it takes to get to Whitehaven (and that breakfast, lunch or dinner will be unforgivably late). Then, suddenly, out of the mist of green comes a whiff of sulfur from the river. Wildlife, varying by season, scoots out in front of your car. Smashed bugs form an intricate lacework on your windshield and you spy the gray and cream shingles of the hotel roof, rising up from the highest mound of land in the village. Your pulse slows. You have found Whitehaven and, God willing, a bathroom.
Ken and I have had this sensation of discovering Whitehaven many times and have heard many visitors express similar wonderment at actually finding the oasis at the end of the road. On one of my first trips to the village we were running late to a scheduled meeting with the local heritage association and Whitehaven Road never seemed to end. It was then that we hit on the “Brigadoon Theory.”
“I finally get it, “ I said to my husband, “Once every 100 years, the town of Whitehaven appears out of the mists of the Wicomico River and wreaks havoc on the lives of modern-day man before receding back into the marsh.”
We might reach the end of the road but now that our first check had cleared, would the town still be there?
Of course, it was, and years later the H&G Channel’s “Restore America” showed up to film a segment on the village, which ended up featuring the hotel. By this time the exterior had been restored and painted so that the Hotel looked great. Well, from the outside, anyway. The village enchanted the production crew. Echoing our own early impression of Whitehaven, one dazed crew member was quoted in the local paper as saying, “It’s like Brigadoon.” I had to laugh. Luckily, they didn’t give details about their camera lenses being so badly swarmed by flies that the interview with Ken on the hotel had to be conducted on a boat in the middle of the river. Also luckily, no one noted that swarming insects could be a sign of demonic possession.
We have long since given into the magical pull of Whitehaven and, particularly the Hotel, which acts as the town's magnetic center. Ken and I know it will always be there, pulling us to the end of the road. The restoration is also like Whitehaven Road - there will never be an end in sight. Still, while you are there on the set of Whitehaven, with curtain pulled to conceal the rest of the world, you wouldn't't ever want to come to the end. Next Week: Looks Better Than It Used to.