A Washington welcome: Bed and breakfastPublished 9:33pm Thursday, May 22, 2014
Virginia Finnerty’s welcome to Washington was a photo of her new home splashed across the front of the Washington Daily News.
It snowed that day she moved in in 2010, and a photographer took advantage of the circa 1906 home covered with a layer of white. The style of the home, a mixture of Greek revival and plantation-style is common to the South. The snow, not so much.
But her first morning in town began with a copy of the Washington Daily News left on the porch of her new home, and business — the Pamlico House Bed and Breakfast — with the words “Welcome to Washington” scrawled across it. It was a gift from her new neighbors.
She’s enjoyed the Southern hospitality since.
A native of Honduras, Finnerty spent her college years in Texas, then lived in eight U.S. states before settling in Washington. According to Finnerty, the move here was inevitable: for 20 years she’d been reading about North Carolina’s quality of life. For all those years, she’d also been working retail, management, real estate, event planning — everything she needed to know to make her dream of running a bed and breakfast a reality.
She searched for that dream in several places, but found it on East Main Street in Washington. It had all the pieces: a big backyard for events; a large home already set up as a bed and breakfast by previous owners; located in the historic district and within walking distance to downtown — it was perfect.
“If I had known Washington existed, I would have come right here,” she laughed. “I fell in love with Washington. I’m sure you hear that over and over again, but it’s just a great little town.”
For four years, Finnerty has opened the Pamlico House to overnighting guests. Its past may hold stints as a bed and breakfast and as a private home, but it was built as the church rectory for nearby St. Peter’s Episcopal Church. Three Episcopal priests would live there between 1906 and 1950, when the church sold it.
“My guests always comment on how fancy it was for a church rectory, but I think that’s because it was built in the city, not in the countryside,” Finnerty said.
With five bedrooms, each with its own bath, high ceilings and original pine floors, the home has a central hall that opens onto spacious rooms. A front parlor invites guests in for conversation, while the large, wraparound front porch invites them to stay outside for the same. It was too much house for a single priest, but it’s perfect for its current use — especially after Finnerty added a bedroom for herself and laundry room onto the rear of the house.
“I felt like I was too much in the middle of my guests,” Finnerty said, adding that she wanted to avoid guests feeling like she was hovering over them. “This way (my guests) can have run of the place. When the whole house is a group, they take over—and they should. That’s the whole point. They always ask me, ‘Did you hear us last night?’ and I don’t hear a thing.”
Finnerty said the house has been lovingly cared for through the years, especially by the couple from whom she bought the home, Holly and Michael Overton.
“I was very fortunate they were the owners before I bought it,” Finnerty said.
In addition to a new roof, new porch foundation and columns, the Overtons also added a Venetian plaster finish to the dining room and a wealth of color and lighting fixtures to other rooms. Finnerty has only repainted two rooms since she purchased the home.
One of the rooms, once a family room, is now a wine and gift shop. The shop started as a convenience for guests, but Finnerty has both a license to sell and serve wine. Every few weeks she hosts Friday evening tastings where live music and a porch view are offered up along with wine. The events show Finnerty’s civic-mindedness: she never holds a wine tasting on nights when there are events in downtown Washington, largely because her guests never wanted to move on, she said.
But with a Southern Belle of a porch like the fern-and-rocking-chair-dotted one found at the Pamlico House, her guests can hardly be blamed.
For more information about The Pamlico House, visit Pamlicohousebb.com.