While the pool at Winton Farm in Amherst County was quiet with no swimmers a few days after Memorial Day because of restrictions from the coronavirus pandemic, work was in full swing on the residence directly beside it.
Dave McCormack, owner of Waukeshaw Development, Inc., which finalized its purchase of the Winton country club and golf course property in early 2019, has crews working to restore the pool house into a rental property to go on the market this summer to fulfill a goal of opening the site to rentals and overnight stays.
McCormack said the historic Sarah Henry Manor House, the centerpiece of the nearly 300-acre property on Virginia 151 in the Clifford community, also is slated for painting and interior work to ready it for rental use.
The developer said his Petersburg-based company has spent about $50,000 on the first renovation of buildings for rental use on the Winton site. From 1967 through early 2019 the property, now known as Winton Farm, was owned by Amherst County through a citizen’s land donation and overseen through a nonprofit corporation that dissolved last year.
McCormack’s company operates the golf course and country club and wants the overnight accommodations, which can complement weddings and other social gatherings on the property, to help make the overall site viable, he said. Since purchasing the site, the company has put a lot of attention on addressing a backlog of maintenance needs and stabilizing its condition and financial flow while focusing redevelopment uses in various phases that will take time, according to McCormack.
Winton Farm’s living units undergoing and soon to undergo touch-ups for Airbnb rentals are part of telling an overall story of the site’s history and rural character, McCormack said. The pool and 18-hole course tie into making the property a draw and destination.
“Our goal is this isn’t your average Airbnb [rental],” McCormack said. “... It’s a really nice marketing tool for us. It’s a way to attract weddings out here. It was hard to do that before.”
Waukeshaw Development, which specializes in historic preservation of old properties, also is transforming the former Amherst Milling Company on Union Hill Road into a brewery and restaurant and the former school on Phelps Road in Madison Heights into 40 apartments.
Victoria Hanson, executive director of the Amherst County Economic Development Authority, and assistant director Lori Saunders were on hand for a May 27 tour of the pool house as work was underway, as well as the Manor House where upcoming work is planned.
“What a view from up here,” Hanson said while looking out a window of the pool house’s upper floor, which includes a panoramic scenic of the golf course’s 18th hole.
McCormack said in addition to painting, interior work and other touch-ups, the site’s banquet hall, which is connected to the Manor House as an addition, also will be looked at for viable future uses. He said the banquet hall’s commercial kitchen is a highly suitable feature.
Hanson said in addition to couples enjoying stays for weddings, she believes it can be a draw for families as well.
“This is actually very family-friendly,” Hanson said while looking around a bedroom at the pool house. “I could see young kids having a ball in here.”
“I think it’s going to be amazing,” McCormack added.
McCormack said in addition to the single unit in the pool house and a few more in the Manor House, space above the banquet hall and pro shop also are possible rental spaces.
“I think at the end of the day you would wind up with 10 places to stay out here,” McCormack said.
He said he wants to assess demand before investing in the potential idea of a boutique hotel, noting the current pandemic’s negative effect on the hospitality industry, including weddings.
“I want to test the market a little,” he added.
Saunders recalled experiencing Winton’s banquet hall in past years and the Friday night buffets and Sunday lunches.
“Winton, in my day, was a big wedding venue. It was huge,” Saunders said. “You couldn’t get a weekend [booked].”
McCormack said he wants the site to again be a local attraction for such events.
“All the pieces are here,” McCormack said. “They just need to be assembled.”
Hanson said he believes the rental units meet a local need and noted a lack of places for overnight stays along the Virginia 151 corridor in Amherst County.
“Especially when different events are going on, we have gotten calls at the EDA saying, ‘We are looking for a place, any place; do you have any ideas?’” Hanson said. “I do believe there is a demand.”
McCormack said construction remains ongoing on renovating the Phelps Road school and that project is planned for completion this fall.
The brewery at the former mill also is nearing the end of construction and a house directly next to it also is planned for eight rental units, McCormack said. He described the project, which has been in the making for just more than two years, as complex because of utility issues and the previous condition of the mill.
The company also is taking a wait-and-see approach with the pandemic in terms of the opening, he said, noting it doesn’t make sense to open with current restrictions on restaurants’ operations in place.
“We’re just waiting on the COVID situation to go away,” McCormack said.
Reach Faulconer at (434) 385-5551.