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An old family home becomes 'rare treat'

December 30, 2012 12:10 am


River Terra Retreat was built in 1911. Patrick O'Toole, Kristine Guido's great-grandfather, bought it in 1920. bz1230cator3.jpg

Kristine Guido is turning this house that's been in her family for four generations into a bed and breakfast. bz1230cator6.jpg

River Terra Retreat in Colonial Beach is scheduled to open in mid-January.

KRISTINE GUIDO wasn't ready to stop working when she retired after 30 years in the corporate world.

So the former human resources executive is turning a large white house that's been in her family for four generations into Colonial Beach's newest bed and breakfast.

River Terra Retreat, 37 4th St., will open in mid-January as a "rare treat," the phrase that's serendipitously formed by the last two letters of Terra and all seven in Retreat.

"When you look at the name, that just pops out," Guido said.

She envisions it as a place where people hold small retreats, special events and customized activities in addition to spending the night in four bedrooms outfitted with 600 thread-count Egyptian cotton sheets.

The lion's share of the business is expected to come from what Guido terms "petite retreats," small groups needing a place to meet and possibly spend the night. They could be scrapbookers looking for a getaway to pursue their hobby, for example, or a business searching for a quiet environment where it can hold a meeting.

" was a very good resource for me," she said.

But guests are more than welcome to just spend a day or two relaxing, watching the sun rise over the Potomac River and exploring the area.

Each visit can be personalized. Guido can have cold beer and steamed crabs ready for a motorcycle touring group that prefers a private place to stop instead of a restaurant, for instance, or ask a Colonial Beach chef to prepare a birthday or anniversary dinner for a couple spending the night.

A friend even suggested that people living in Colonial Beach might want to have family and friends stay at River Terra Retreat if they don't have enough room for them at their home. Guido said she's willing to let them use the kitchen if they want to get together to fix meals.

She's also is developing relationships with the handful of other area bed and breakfasts so that a wedding party or other group needing more bedrooms than she can provide will have a nearby place to stay.

River Terra Retreat dates to 1911, when it was built out of cement blocks poured into molds on the one-acre site. The original owners, Mr. and Mrs. Edwards, painted it dark green.

The house and its outbuildings, which include a cottage and garage, fell into disrepair after their deaths, and children threw stones at the windows.

Guido's link with the place begins with her great-grandfather, who purchased it in 1920. Patrick O'Toole had emigrated from Ireland when he was 14. He worked as a bricklayer until he earned enough to purchase a livery stable in Georgetown. He married and, as a widower, raised two daughters. One was Guido's grandmother, Florence Cator.

O'Toole and Florence's husband, Charles Cator, eventually decided to turn the Colonial Beach house into a real home. They painted it white, refinished the doors, expanded the kitchen, repaired the two fireplaces and enclosed a side porch to make a bedroom.

The Cators moved there full time in the 1950s, and often brought O'Toole there for visits. Their six daughters, their friends and husbands liked to eat hard-shelled crabs in the dining room and roll up the downstairs rugs so they could dance.

Guido, the Cators' granddaughter, took over the house in the 1980s. She renovated the upper floor in 2007, adding more bedrooms, bathrooms, central air conditioning, two more fireplaces and a balcony.

Today the house has a master suite upstairs with a sitting room, private bath and access to a porch. The other bedroom upstairs also has a private bath, but the two downstairs bedrooms share one.

Guido plans to have the website for her new venture,, up and running by mid-January. Prices will vary depending on what special services guests want, but they will be competitive, she said.

She may be reached now by emailing rtr@riverterra

Cathy Jett: 540/374-5407

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