Explore an artist’s home that’s right here

I read with interest the recent Associated Press article in The Free Lance–Star [“Artists’ homes tell the story of the Hudson River School,” Sept. 7] encouraging readers to travel to New York’s Hudson River Valley to experience the magnificent homes of 19th-century artists Frederic Church and Thomas Cole.

However, I am compelled to promote the discovery of a similar and equally enjoyable artist’s home here in our immediate region, at much less cost in both dollars and time.

Right here in Falmouth is Gari Melchers Home and Studio at Belmont, a National Historic Landmark that, along with Frederic Church’s Olana, was among the first nationally significant artist’s museums selected in 2000 for the Historic Artists Homes and Studios affiliate program, organized by the National Trust for Historic Preservation (Thomas Cole’s home was added a few years later).

Owned by the commonwealth and operated by the University of Mary Washington, Belmont boasts 27 acres of scenic riverfront and woodland trails and restored formal gardens, a carefully preserved 19th-century home filled with the original furnishings and collections of Gari and Corinne Melchers, the artist’s 1920s working studio featuring scores of his best Impressionist paintings and a renovated carriage house that serves as a unique gift shop and official Stafford County Visitor Center. And unlike the seasonal New York sites, Belmont is open seven days a week, year round.

Local residents should certainly be encouraged to explore major attractions in other regions of the country, but need not feel deprived of opportunities to learn about and enjoy their history and culture in the space of a few hours instead of a few days.

David Berreth


The writer is the director of Gari Melchers Home and Studio with the University of Mary Washington.