By Randy Arrington
LURAY, Nov. 22 — Decades ago, it was home to Dr. Vernon G. Boggs’ dental practice along East Main Street. His daughter Anna Maria opened her own office in the two-story structure before launching a successful practice as a pediatric dentist in Harrisonburg.
Then, for almost three decades, it sat vacant.
Until it drew the attention of Page County native Don Hilliard, who became interested in the property for an old college buddy looking to relocate. When his friend’s interest faded, he and his wife Cindy began to consider the property as a vacation spot for themselves and their friends, as well as a short-term rental for tourists.
“We bought it site unseen,” Don recalled. “We walked in that first day and said ‘we have a lot of work to do’.”
Around $300,000 later, renovations had been completed to the entire interior and exterior, including a new heating and air conditioning system.
“Everything was torn out,” Don remembered, “even the sidewalk.”
On Friday, local officials, family and friends gathered at 146 East Main Street to celebrate the tremendous renovation of the property now known as the Briar Laine Vacation Home.
“We’ve had a lot of ribbon cuttings [this year], but this one really is special to me because I recall a lot of memories here…it’s been empty for about 30 years,” Mayor Jerry Dofflemyer said on Friday. “Thank you all so much for investing in Luray, and we hope the folks that stay here will wander down and enjoy our downtown.”
Built in 1800 as a farmhouse, it stands as one of the oldest buildings in Downtown Luray. Its close proximity to several eateries, theaters, parks, brewery, wine bar, downtown shopping and the Hawksbill Greenway adds to its freshly renovated appeal.
“Our guests appreciate that they can walk to everything on Main Street,” Cindy Hilliard said. “That has been a selling point.”
Cindy handles the bookings, while Don handles general upkeep and maintenance during their trips back from their current home in Hoodsport, Wash., which sits about 30 minutes northwest of Olympia, Wash. in the Hood Canal. Don, a 1989 graduate of Luray High School, retired in July after a successful career as Sales Manager for Boise Cascade in Woodinville, Wash.
The Hilliards moved out to Washington in 2004. The next year they created Briar Laine Inc. with the goal of building custom homes in the Pacific Northwest.
“After just two houses the recession hit and the demand for custom homes died. It took awhile to figure out what direction to take the company. Both Cindy and Don have always been passionate about food, and after some research decided to create Briar Laine Personal Chef Service, and the company was going strong until Cindy’s Leukemia diagnosis in 2018,” reads a history of Briar Laine on its website. “In the spring of 2019 after [eight] months of intense treatment, Cindy was in remission and looking to slowly getting back to work. We were having a conversation with friends about home prices in South Carolina versus Washington and on a whim Don decided to look at property in his hometown of Luray, Va.”
Six weeks later, they owned the property. To explain the story behind the vacation home’s name, the website states: “Cindy’s Grandpa Fat (yep that was the name he went by!) purchased a home on Hood Canal in Washington back in the early 60’s…called Briar Lane. As a child it was and still is today her ‘Happy Place’, so when it came time to pick a name for our company, it seemed the obvious choice!”
China Martin, of Luray, will be managing the property locally for the Hilliards. Don expects to get some business from his sister Christina Grieve, who operates the popular wedding venue Stover Hall along Route 340 just south of Luray, which the Hilliards promote on their website.
Briar Laine Vacation House offers seven bedrooms (one handicap accessible) and 4-1/2 bathrooms, which can be split into two units with separate entrances — one unit offering five bedrooms and three baths, while the other has two bedrooms and 1-1/2 baths.
The Hilliards actually opened their doors at Briar Laine on June 1, 2020. They hope visitors take advantage of the convenient location, when they aren’t using it about six weeks out of the year.
“With Luray and Page County being the ‘Cabin Capital of Virginia’…this is unique to have Downtown [Luray] access,” Don said. “It’s a unique place to get together.”
Briar Laine Vacation House is located at 146 East Main Street, Luray, Va.