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Tuesday April 19, 2016

- Written by Susan Morten 

Things will be on offer for the Martinsville-Henry County Garden Day Tour in Bassett on April 27 that make for fun. Consider these things dessert, if you will, to top off the opportunity peek into homes and gardens and more.

Food factors into the fun. Chef Bob (Robert Koester) and his students from the Culinary Arts Program of Patrick Henry Community College will cater the garden day luncheon. They will whip up dishes adapted from the Bassett Garden Club’s 1950s-era cookbooks. Now out of print, the cookbooks have become collector’s items of sorts, sometimes handed down from mother to daughter (or son!).

Luncheon, 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., costs $12. Reservations are required by April 25. Contact Lynne Beeler, 276-638-1030 or ldcb@comcast.net, or Eliza Severt, 276-632-2447 or ehsevert@aol.com.

Luncheon will be served at tour headquarters, the Historic J.D. Bassett Event Center/EMI. Tour-takers can also tour the old high school itself. The 1948 Georgian Revival building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Tour-takers can walk back in time in the home economics department, which remains intact. There’s a living room, dining room, kitchen, bedroom and bath. At 2,800 square feet, the home ec department really is as large as a home. In fact, David Wright and his family, who now own the building, sometimes use it as their home away from home when they have to stay late at work. (Check out Holly Kozelsky’s story about the home ec department in the Martinsville Bulletin, April 8, 2016 http://bit.ly/1WBdK1Z.

David, a graduate of JD Bassett High, bought his old school for his secure information management solutions business, EMI. He has adapted parts of the school for re-use for the business. The library, for instance, became a conference room. He also has left some spaces, such as the home ec department, unchanged. Some get used for the business, such as student lockers, which have provided storage for microfilm.

Wright also makes spaces available to the public. The school has a theater and spaces capacious enough for trade shows or large community events. The cafeteria and kitchen make the building even more event-friendly. Seniors can use the gym for free. And the building houses the Henry County Food Pantry.

The building even has two interior courtyards with gardens.

Food also factors into Wine & ’Shine, 4 to 7 p.m., an event that’s part of activities on garden day at the Historic Bassett Train Depot, the tour hot spot. Tasters can choose from wines from three area wineries and 100-percent legal moonshine made by Dry Fork Fruit Distillery in Meadows of Dan. The $25 ticket is good for two glasses. Area restaurants are donating trays of hors d’oeuvres, which will be free. And there will be chocolate made by an area chocolatier. It all will happen to the sound of music.

One happening during Wine & ’Shine will be the drawing for the Water & Wine raffle. The holder of the winning $10 ticket will be entitled to a raft ride for six on the Smith River with Smith River Outfitters. And the winner gets supper for six at Hamlet Vineyards tasting room, with wine, of course: one bottle per couple.

On tour day, tour-takers can also sample wine at the tasting room of Hamlet Vineyards. The tasting room will open specially for the tour. The tasting room is housed in the gambrel-roofed barn on Eltham Manor, a property listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It was built for one of the chairmen of Bassett Furniture. The current owners, Virginia and Butch Hamlet, decided to plant vines and make wine. Their rosé won a silver medal at a competition in Sonoma, California. 

But wait, there’s more to taste. In this case, it’s refreshments the United States Postal Service will serve on tour day at the Bassett Post Office. The post office is also offering a first-ever pictorial postmark cancellation for Historic Garden Week. Visitors to the post office will also get to see “Manufacture of Furniture,” the New Deal-era fresco painted in the plaster of the wall above the postmaster’s door.

Those with a taste for what makes things tasteful might want to stop by the Bassett Furniture Design Studio. Bassett Furniture is opening the normally nonpublic studio for garden day. It’s the “think tank” where Bassett creates its signature look. Designers marry upholstery, casegoods, and accessories – all with the Bassett Furniture label -- to create room arrangement settings. Arrangements are photographed for Bassett’s website and promotional materials. Photos make it possible to replicate settings in Bassett’s retail store showrooms across America.

Those with a taste for history might want to swing by the Bassett Historical Center. The center is a virtual treasure trove, including 10,000 family files, 3,000-plus local history files, 16,000-plus genealogy books and nearly 1,000 genealogy files, and the Henry County co-habitation register, an important resource for African-American lineage research. First Lady Michelle Obama’s has forebears listed in the register (the family of Peter Jumper.)

The historical center is about far more than things on paper. It has artifacts galore. These include a Victorian mourning wreath. (Victorian mourners often made the wreaths with a most personal memento of the dearly departed: strands of his or her hair.) The historical center also has a diorama of Fayerdale, the town whose remains lie beneath the waters of the lake at Fairy Stone State Park. (Fairy Stone State Park is itself a stop on the tour. Ticket-holders will get in for free.) And given the interwoven nature of the area’s history with moonshine, the historical center has a still.

The historical center itself has a connection to garden club activity. The ladies of the Bassett Garden Club decided, back when garden club members wore hats and white gloves to meetings, that Bassett needed a library. The original papers from which the historical center’s collection grew were originally stored in a filing cabinet in the library basement. The center is located in the old library building.

 Happenings at the depot, in addition to Wine & ’Shine, include:

  • A book signing by Beth Macy, author of the bestseller “Factory Man” from 3 to 5 p.m.
  • A book signing by Tom Perry, author of some 40 books of local history and head of Laurel Hill Publishing (10 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. and 2:30 to 7 p.m.; he’ll also be at the old school during lunch)
  • Exhibits and speakers will be former State Sen. Roscoe Reynolds, who will talk about the town’s semi-pro baseball team, the Bassett Furnituremakers, at 2 p.m.; former state Del. Ward Armstrong, who will talk about railroad history, 3 p.m.; and Brian Williams, of Smith River Outfitters, who will talk about kayaking, canoeing and fishing on the Smith River, 11 a.m.
  • There will be an exhibit, 15 Magical Miles, about what is envisioned for the future for the town and three of its neighbor along the river.

And, of course, the tour has homes that will be open. One listed on the National Register of Historic Places is that of one of the founders of Bassett Furniture, the company that put the little town on the map. The other is a factory house that sheltered some of those on whose shoulders rested the fortunes of the furniture company and the area.

With things like a factory house, food from ’50s recipes, and wine and moonshine, this is not your grandmother’s garden day tour.

Shout-out: Thank you, sponsors.

Stifel Nicolaus, Ace Hardware, Tacoma, Inc., Bassett Furniture Industries, Bassett Mirror Company, American National Bank, Clarke and Jim Beckner, Kiwanis Club of Bassett, Everything Outdoors LLC, Cunningham Tire of Bassett, MHC Chamber of Commerce, Norris Funeral Services, Virginia Museum of Natural History, Beverly Coleman/Rives S. Brown, Sunnyside Communities/King’s Grant, and Stanleytown Health & Rehabilitation Center.


What: Bassett, Pioneering the Future,” Martinsville-Henry County Garden Day 2016 

When: April 27, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Where: Historic J.D. Bassett Event Center/EMI, tour headquarters, 3289 Riverside Drive

Who: Garden Study Club and The Martinsville Garden Club, hosts

Tickets: $20 per person. On tour day, buy at any site or at tour headquarters. Advance tickets at www.vagardenweek.org. Available locally March 30 – April 25 at Bassett Historical Center, Martinsville-Henry County Chamber of Commerce, Martinsville-Henry County Visitor’s Center, Piedmont Arts Association and the Patrick County Chamber of Commerce. Ticketholders may enter Fairy Stone State Park free on tour day.

Getting around: Park and catch a shuttle at Pocahontas Bassett Baptist Church, 120 Bassett Heights Road. Although parking will be available at most sites, it will be limited. Two sites, Hamlet Vineyards and the Haley House, will be accessible only by shuttle. Shuttles will also go to Fairy Stone State Park.

More info: Contact Lizz Stanley, tour chairman, 276-252-3009, or Cindy Edgerton, tour co-chairman, 276-732-2784. Reach either by email at martinsville@vagardenweek.org

Tags: , Bassett, Dining, Entertainment, , Hamlet Vineyards, Henry County, History, Insider's Tips, Local Business, Music, Outdoor Recreation, , , Smith River,