By Lynne BrandonSouth Boston, Va. (Halifax County) - SoBo, or South Boston to outsiders, has a secret. Outside the small Virginia town sits a historic antebellum mansion once home to the affluent Bruce family in the 1800s. The mile-long driveway halts in front of the spectacular Greek Revival mansion that sits majestically on 685 serene acres dotted with native trees and magnolias.
Adjacent to the Dan River, Berry Hill is the perfect get-away for a romantic weekend, girl friend getaways, and yes, newlyweds. Brides have discovered Berry Hill, and in the summer the grounds are alive with laughter, love and celebration as families tie the knot under the wide open Virginia sky.
Leland Luck, the property’s faithful and enthusiastic historian, weaves a story of rich history in his tour of the “hidden in the hills” jewel. The great white home originates back to 1728 when it was first given to William Bryd II as a part of a land grant from England. Italian marble base boards, ornate ceilings and cherry floors connect the mansion to owners of prestige and good taste. The focal point of the house is the dramatic mahogany ‘horseshoe” staircase which displays the craftsmanship of freed Black cabinetmaker, Thomas Day.
In the late 90’s after lying dormant for several years, Berry Hill was restored to its former glory, making it a leisure destination and executive conference center.The mansion itself houses two large suites used primarily for wedding parties. Privacy lovers will enjoy the two smaller “mini-mansions,” small replica’s of Berry Hill on either side of the mansion, as well as 88 historic rooms with a view of the rolling Virginia landscape.
SoBo has its history steeped into tobacco when Halifax County was once a dominating force in the industry. For a period before the Civil War the county was the largest tobacco-producing county in the U.S. Spend the day seeing the local sights in SoBo's downtown. Start at The Prizery where exhibits on tobacco co-exist with displays of the historical “Crossing of the Dan” during the Revolutionary War.
Shop at “Three Women and No Trucks,” and stop for lunch at Cafe Peroni. Afterwards drive out to the countryside to see world famous artist Bob Cage and his eclectic field of sculpture made from everyday objects. No object is too ordinary to become a work of art for the 89 years young enthusiast. Goats and other farm life are on the property, creating a fun, magical time for all ages. Car enthusiasts will want to spend a day at the races when the famed nearby Virginia International Raceway hosts the prestigious Lemans and other European and vintage car races on its well maintained road track
In the evening dine at Carrington’s Restaurant where Chef Jason Collie stirs up creative cuisine from crab cake appetizers, fresh catch of the day, to decadent, homemade New York cheesecake. The seared Ahi Tuna salad with mixed greens, mandarin oranges and crispy noodles is a party for the taste buds.
After dinner stop next door at Darby’s Tavern styled like an old English tavern, where locals join guests for domestic and imported beers on tap, or a myriad of cocktails like the Washington Apple.
Pampering is maximized at the Blackberry Spa where Terry Spell-Mosley is a mixologist in the truest sense. Her “earth friendly” approach translates into massages using hot chocolate oil, strawberry champagne scrub, or specialty pedicures with cranberry exfoliation, mint mask and rose paraffin dip.
The spell is cast and leaving the scenic mansion in the hills is not easy. At Berry Hill, cares are whisked away in a historic, serene setting where romance is rekindled, and new families blend together to start their own page in history.