I t has been a very good year for Happy Retreat. A lot has happened this year to move us toward our goal of completing the restoration of Happy Retreat and its grounds, as is further detailed in this newsletter.
First, we have developed a master plan for both the house and the grounds. Second, this year’s federal budget contained $500,000 in Congressionally Directed Spending for Happy Retreat, thanks to U.S. Senator Joe Manchin. Third, we dedicated the smoke house and stone kitchen after a lengthy restoration made possible by the generosity of Tia and Bob McMillan of Shepherdstown. Fourth, the City of Charles Town gave us a grant to fund a topographical study and develop the engineering plans for the parking lot and other hardscape infrastructure called for in our master plan. Fifth, the Bee Line Chapter of the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution donated a kitchen herb garden. Sixth, we broke ground for the relocation and restoration of the octagon building, again made possible by the generosity of Tia and Bob McMillan. Seventh, we received a grant from the West Virginia State Historic Preservation Office to help fund the restoration of the columns on the front portico. Eighth, the West Virginia Humanities Council awarded us a grant to continue our research into the history of the enslaved community at Happy Retreat.
To top this all off, we hosted a successful fifth annual Craft Beer & Music Festival after a two-year hiatus caused by the Coronavirus pandemic. And the Appalachian Chamber Music Festival capped off a highly popular second season with its concert finale on the back lawn at Happy Retreat.
Yet, one of my favorite memories of the year was on senior prom night in May. We had received an inquiry from a student at Washington High School if he and a few of his friends could come to Happy Retreat to take their senior prom pictures. They wanted to come at 5 p.m. on prom night. When I arrived at Happy Retreat at quarter till five that evening, there were at least 15 cars already parked on the grounds. Word had gotten out and prom couples from both Washington and Jefferson High Schools had come to Happy Retreat, dressed in the most fashionable prom styles, corsages in hand. And with them had come admiring parents, younger siblings, grandparents, neighbors and friends. It was a beautiful late spring evening. The dogwood trees were in bloom. And soon pictures of beaming couples posing all around Happy Retreat were popping up on social media.
We want Happy Retreat to be a place for the entire community. The fact that our local high school students sought out Happy Retreat as a place to take one of the most
memorable pictures of their young lives gave me hope we are achieving that goal. Thank you to everyone who has helped to make this possible!