Clyde’s Willow Creek Farm

EarthDay@Loudoun Family Festival’s location is adjacent to Clyde’s Willow Creek Farm. Clyde’s Willow Creek Farm was not yet on the drawing boards in the early 1980s when Clyde’s Restaurant Group purchased a number of antique heavy timber buildings that were destined for demolition.These structures were disassembled and put in storage, with no clear plan for their use. When the opportunity arose for a new restaurant at Broadlands, just west of Dulles Airport in Loudoun County, Virginia, it became an ideal chance to combine the historic pieces to create a restaurant that will be truly unique. The original buildings are examples of the classic American inn, and now each will contribute to the resurrection of this charming indigenous architecture for today’s wayfarer.


Clyde’s Willow Creek Farm was conceived and designed by John Laytham, Clyde’s Restaurant Group, in collaboration with the Weather Hill Company of Charlotte, Vermont, and Mark Orling, of Rust, Orling Architects of Alexandria, Virginia. The history of the design goes back to the early 1980s, when Clyde’s purchased a series of antique heavy timber structures that had been destined for the wrecking ball. These structures were photographed, labeled, disassembled, preserved, and stored for later restoration with no clear understanding of where or when they would be employed. When the opportunity for a new restaurant at Broadlands arose, this became the perfect venue to combine these historic pieces in creating what will become a truly unique restaurant for Northern Virginia. These four original antique buildings, each disassembled, moved, connected, and restored with various reproduced ells, represents the classic American Inn.

The primary inn structure is a 43’ x 34’ hand hewn, post and beam, ‘Georgian frame’, with a classic dining room ell and a large stable/bar. It has a pilastered entrance, 12 over 12 double hung windows, and heavily molded cornice. Inside, there are many original rooms, seven fireplaces and soapstone bake oven, with antique paneling, mantles, wainscot, chair rails, wide beaded sheathing, and paneled doors. The old plank floors are very wide. There are parlors, a keeping room, and a museum-quality paneled taproom.

The main building, the historic Samuel French Tavern, was a classic 2-1/2-storey Federal country inn, built in 1804, and added to in 1821. It had two ells and a large barn. The builder and first owner, Samuel French, was a captain in the Militia (officially commissioned in 1824), and was reputed to be a well-known bridge builder and ‘bon vivant’. His inn was a significant center for social and political gatherings for almost two centuries.

Off the back of the Tavern is a secondary historic building, theRoxbury House, first built in 1810. Hand hewn from massive timber, the old 30’ x 93’ structure with the original ‘farmer’s porch’ now houses two paneled dining rooms, warmed by three fireplaces. The larger room displays hunt country oil paintings and the original mantel. The wing of the wider original front house is adorned with prints from the late 18th century, and overlooks the outdoor garden.

Clyde’s Willow Creek Farm also includes a large attached barn, theChandler Barn, built c.1885. This amazing Victorian beauty is a 40’ x 84’ post and beam, with two elliptical cupolas, and was originally built for hay, feed, and stock. It had milking cows, horse stalls and a chicken coop on the first floor. Laytham commissioned and assembled a magnificent collection of American folk art to fill this room: whimsical weathervanes in the shapes of a rooster, a ram, a herald, an Indian, and a dog, to name a few, were created by New England artist Mark Perry; Vermont sculptor Will Kautz’s hand-carved life-sized women, Indian mermaid, Rhode Island Red rooster and a painted pine and maple billy goat define and divide the open space; sweeping panoramas of a metaphysical early America by East Coast artists David Wiggins and Kevin Paulsen hang high on the walls; tavern signs, trade signs, and gameboards by vintage sign maker Brian Laurich hang from the ceiling in the barn and on the walls of the bar; and a 23K gold leaf grasshopper weathervane above the bar is Perry’s interpretation of the well-known original, found at Boston’s famous Faneuil Hall. Fourteen massive 3-tier iron chandeliers light the room; designed by John Russell Pope, noted architect of the West Building of the National Gallery of Art and the National Archives, they were reproduced from an original, found in Georgetown’s 1789 Restaurant. Handmade botanical shades by Adirondack artist Shirl Ireland adorn the chandeliers and the small table lamps.

The eye will delight in the outrageous collection of art found at Clyde’s Willow Creek Farm—the antique carriages from the late nineteenth century hanging from the ceiling of the Carriage Bar; the life-sized horse, made in France and once the mascot of the famous 21 Club in New York city, pulling an antique carriage; the complete collection of “Audubon’s Fifty Best” from the Original Havell Engravings of John James Audubon’s Birds of America featured in the front dining room and adjacent bar; and the two beautiful sleighs poised outside the entrance, restored to their original splendor. Murals by Wiggins & Paulsen cover the walls of the long interior hallway and the small Samuel French Tavern dining room, and several of their paintings are found at the entrance.

An outdoor garden, with beautiful trees surrounded by teak benches for relaxing and a koi-filled pond with swan fountains, creates a delightful seasonal dining area, and is partially covered with seating for 125. As a final touch, an old Virginia farmhouse, the Richmond House, c.1780, has been relocated and restored as a warm little bar in the garden, where it sits radiating welcome with priceless original hand dressed and beaded beams, paneled wainscot, early mantle, and, of course, a wonderful old bar. A working garden is next to restored barns on the property. Clyde’s Willow Creek Farm’s menus incorporates this homegrown produce into many of the dishes being served.

Source: Clyde’s