Tucked into a grove of centennial oaks atop a rise that is a slight quarter mile off Route 100 in Pulaski County, Virginia, is a beautiful old house. For readers of CAIRNAERIE, it should look very familiar.Rockwood Manor

Chimneys punctuated the steeply pitched slate roof and rose as if large birds were perched atop. Ornate cornices and dentil moldings framed red brick walls. Long windows stretched from the floor to the ceiling of a wide, wrapping porch where faded paint was peeling from decorative balusters. At the far end of the porch, an empty swing, animated by the breeze, squeaked as it swayed on rusted chains. In the pungent autumn air, it looked rather forlorn. Only smoke curling from one chimney and the light from a single window suggested the house was occupied. Otherwise, he might have thought it abandoned…

IMG_0431But the real Cairnaerie is anything but abandoned. In fact, for almost 150 years, it has been a family home—my family’s home. Built by my great great grandfather, it is where my great grandfather lived, where my grandfather grew up, and where my father stayed for a year during the Great Depression.

The home’s real name is Rockwood, and it has been a source of curiosity and imagination throughout my life. It was not hard for me to picture the fictional Geneva Snow and her family living there. For me as an author, it was too rich a setting not to use.

In the aftermath of the Civil War, around 1873, Rockwood was  built out of brick formed from the surrounding soil and fired on site. It has eight bedrooms, two large parlors, a dining room ending in a large bay window, a floating staircase that curves from the second floor all the way to the English basement, and a belvedere. Throughout the house  elaborate crown moldings line the high ceilings, and 65 tall windows, some with Jefferson style openings, frame stunning mountain views. It is the definition of elegance.

Among the house’s most striking features is floor in the front foyer.

The floor was patterned with alternating light and dark planks running diagonally fromIMG_0429 the room’s perimeter toward the center where it formed a striking, six-pointed star.

The star has long fascinated me and the hundreds of relatives and visitors who have stepped through Rockwood’s front doors. For my novel, the star was too good a spot not to hide a secret, and the house was the perfect setting—a ready-made and enchanting “place.”

Today, the home is owned by my cousins Frank Drummond and his mother, Sarah. Frank and his wife, Rochelle, began operating the house as a bed and breakfast almost 20 years ago. Since then, Rockwood—the epitome of Southern hospitality—has welcomed guests from all over the world.

To see more pictures of Rockwood, visit the website:



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