|Debbie Spear pulls the first sheet of cookies out of the oven and lifts them, one by one, onto a metal cooling rack. A second sheet is ready to go in, which she slides onto the center rack before she even sets down the empty first tray. She has guests coming in this evening; she has to time the cookies just right.The guests, driving in from Philadelphia, have dour weather to contend with, and they’ve let Debbie know they’ll be arriving late. “They’re going to be so stressed from that drive,” she worries. Even as her second batch of cookies comes out of the oven, her husband, Dan, is out the door, heading across the lawn to the Corn Crib to cozy up the cottage for their arrival. They want to be sure the guests get a warm welcome.The next day, the guests have written a note in the Corn Crib’s guestbook: “We arrived very late last night and were greeted with a friendly fire burning on the hearth, freshly baked chocolate chip cookies on the table, and two glasses of milk in the fridge. Perfect! You have gone the extra mile and we very much appreciate it!”Dan and Debbie, the owners of Stevenson Ridge, have been innkeeping since 2009, when Stevenson Ridge opened its doors to guests. “I’m actually a northern girl, but I love Southern hospitality,” Debbie laughs. “I love to welcome people here and share this beautiful place with them. It really gives me a lot of joy.”|
Dan had extensive experience building residential homes and a passion for restoring antique structures. After he and Debbie bought their 87-acre property in the summer of 2000, he and Debbie began restoring antique cottages and relocating them there. To date, he has restored nine structures, including the lush Riddick House, an 1812 plantation house originally located in Como, North Carolina. “There’s a lot to admire in the craftsmanship and artistry of these old buildings,” Dan says. “I try to update them with modern conveniences, but I really like to maintain the original character of these buildings when I restore them. They just don’t make them like they used to.”That sense of history is reflected in the name of the property itself. The Spears named Stevenson Ridge after Brigadier General Thomas Greeley Stevenson, a Union officer who was killed in the area on May 10, 1864, while commanding a division of soldiers who fought in the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House. Trenches dug by the soldiers posted in the area still snake through the woods on the back of the property, which sits adjacent to the Spotsylvania National Battlefield. “We knew we were creating something special here,” says Debbie, whose mother’s maiden name happened to be “Stevenson.” “We wanted to share it. That’s where we got the idea to open our cottages up to guests.”
|In 2008, the Spears’ daughter, Jennifer Mackowski, returned from San Diego to coordinate the start-up of the business and the integration of special events. “It’s really worthwhile to build something as a family that we can then share with so many people,” Jenny says. “I have a friend who likes to say that, because we do so many weddings and events here, I’m in the business of making people happy. That’s a great business to be in!”Stevenson Ridge saw its first guests in December 2009 and first wedding April 2010. By 2011, Dan completed work on the Lodge, which became Stevenson Ridge’s primary event facility. Built around the post-and-beam framework of an old chapel, the Lodge combined Dan’s love of antique structures with the modern amenities to accommodate hundreds of guests. “This place is very much a reflection of my family,” Jennifer smiles. “Dan gets to build, and Debbie gets to entertain, and they both get to really enjoy themselves as they do it.”Captions for photos:Debbie and Dan, as owners and innkeepers, created Stevenson Ridge to be—in one guest’s words—“the perfect storybook setting.”
By 2012, Jennifer’s work as managing partner earned her honors from the Fredericksburg Area Chamber of Commerce, which named her one of the area’s top 10 “Next Generation” business leaders.