I knew that the front porches were the perfect spot to enjoy a summer breeze. I knew that the multiple bedroom models are perfect for families who want to spend all of their vacation time together. And from information I gathered from Dr. Robert Conte’s history tours when I first became a Team Member at The Greenbrier, I was aware that most of the cottages were on the property long before the current hotel — and even the Grand Central Hotel that stood on the grounds prior to the construction of today’s building in 1913.
But until a recent tour of the Baltimore Row cottages, which overlook the North Lawn of The Greenbrier, including the gazebo, I wasn't aware of exactly how much history is contained in these welcoming cottages that serve as a lasting connection to the resort's storied past.
The Baltimore Row cottages, I learned — mostly from Dr. Conte, who accompanied me on the exploration project — were built as an upgrade to the Paradise Row and Alabama Row cottages, which were some of the first permanent structures built on the property of the resort, then known as White Sulphur Springs.
James Caldwell, who owned and managed the resort throughout most of the 1800s, persuaded families from his native Baltimore, Maryland, to build cottages on the grounds to serve as their summer homes. John H.B. Latrobe, son of architect Benjamin Latrobe, designed the first Baltimore Row cottage, Baltimore A, in 1832, and the other six followed shortly thereafter. By 1840, seven nearly-identical cottages stood on Baltimore Row.
Although the design of the buildings is similar, what makes the collection special — from both a historical and practical perspective — are the subtle differences that make each home unique.
For example, my tour on a spring afternoon included Baltimore E, Baltimore F and Baltimore G cottages, the last three built on Baltimore Row.
The history of Baltimore E, the first stop on the journey, is unique, because it was purchased by Jerome Napoleon Bonaparte Jr. He was the son of Elizabeth (Betsy) Patterson Bonaparte, an American socialite who was the first wife of Napoleon Bonaparte’s brother, Jerome.
During World War II, the cottage was used as a home for physicians, who worked at The Greenbrier, when it was purchased by the U.S. Army and converted into Ashford General Hospital.
It’s not only the history that makes Baltimore E unique. Like most of the cottages, it features a beautiful front porch and a wood-burning fireplace, but this cottage is the only Baltimore Row unit with an upstairs, built to house the family of upper-level executives of The Greenbrier, who called the cottage home over the years.
The upstairs section includes a bathroom, a long bedroom, perfect for children with two built-in single beds, and another bedroom with a king bed. Today, the cottage is the ultimate spot for a family vacationing at America’s Resort™.
Baltimore F has its own unique features. It is adorned with 16 pictures of different leaves and includes three bedrooms, a dining room, a living room and a wet bar. Offered as a guest accommodation for the last 29 years, the cottage was remodeled in 1990 and again in 2015.
Perhaps the most famous of the Baltimore Row cottages is Baltimore G, also known as the Lee Cottage.
Originally owned by George Harrison — no, not the one from the Beetles — the cottage was built with two bedrooms and two parlors for entertaining, which helped draw Harrison’s good friend, General Robert E. Lee, to the home for multiple visits.
Lee rode his famous horse, Traveler, who was purchased in Greenbrier County, to Harrison’s cottage in 1867, 1868 and 1869, visiting the sulphur springs to help with his arthritis.
Since 1984, the cottage has been reserved for guests, and it is decorated with a collection of Lee memorabilia, including a picture of the barn where Traveler was born and a print of a Natalie Grauer original of Lee riding Traveler. It features two bedrooms, a living room and a dining room.
Although these three were the only ones I toured this particular day, all seven Baltimore Row cottages offer something unique in their design or history. Baltimore A was the first one built and was owned by John Ridgely of Hampton. Baltimore B features unique fabrics and wallpapers in each room, while Baltimore C contains four bedrooms and a wet bar. Baltimore D also contains four bedrooms and features a unique set of photos in its dining room.
If you’re a history buff, a stay in the Baltimore Row cottages is a great way to look back at The Greenbrier’s incredible past, but you don’t have to be a student of history to enjoy the customized setups that the cottages offer to accommodate many different groups of visitors, who can still enjoy all of amenities offered to guests who stay inside the main hotel.
to learn more about all of the cottage options available to guests at The Greenbrier, and save a glass of sweat tea and a rocking chair on the front porch for me.