Meet Our Friends: Rick Butts of Keswick Hall
Keswick Hall is a stunning, century old estate converted into a luxury hotel located in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains outside of Charlottesville, Virginia. The resort served as the backdrop for our first collection of December Short Run Shirting. Prior to our lookbook photo shoot, we sat down with Rick Butts, Keswick Hall’s general manager to find out more about the history of Keswick, the property’s connection to Arnold Palmer, and his thoughts on genuine southern hospitality.
Keswick Hall has a rich history - how long has it been a luxury hotel?
The hall is currently celebrating its 100-year anniversary of the Villa Crawford, which was originally built as the private residence of Mr. and Mrs. Robert B. Crawford. After several years as a private residence and then subsequently as the clubhouse for the Keswick Country Club, Sir Bernard Ashley, who was the husband of the late fashion designer Laura Ashley, founded the Keswick Hall resort 20 years ago. Ashley purchased the 600-acre property for $5.5 million with the goal of converting the country club into a "country house" hotel and wanted guests to feel as though they were visiting a grand country estate.
In addition to Keswick Hall, there is also the Keswick Club?
The Keswick Club is located adjacent to Keswick Hall and this really creates a unique environment because of the harmony between the two. The clubhouse has a spa, multiple swimming pools, and a separate dining room and bar called the Palmer Room. We have this great club membership that has access to the resort as well as resort guests having access to the Keswick Club and the two parties constantly co-mingle throughout the property.
You mentioned Arnold Palmer, what is his connection to Keswick Hall?
When Bernard Ashley developed the club and resort, Arnold Palmer was commissioned to redesign the golf course that was originally designed by Fred Findlay in 1949. Palmer’s design team spent a significant amount of time redesigning the course and established an Arnold Palmer Signature 18-hole golf course. With this, the legacy was created with naming the restaurant in the Keswick Club the Palmer Room and Arnold Palmer memorabilia is used throughout the clubhouse.
What are the benefits of Keswick Hall’s location at the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains?
We are located in the middle of Virginia wine country and the region has really exploded in recent years. Multiple vineyards are located in just a few miles drive and not to mention the close proximity to the University of Virginia and Monticello. The area has many wonderful aesthetics and a great culture that easily make for an amazing experience.
The on site restaurant, Fossett’s, also seems to be an important component of the Keswick experience.
Fossett’s was created several years ago with the relocation of the dining room to the main floor to take advantage of the spectacular views over looking the golf course and mountains. Over the years, with the help of really great executive chefs, we have created one of the finest dining experiences in the Charlottesville, Virginia area. Executive Chef Aaron Cross has done a tremendous job with using as much locally sourced food as he can to bring guests a great dining experience. Many of our proteins are sourced locally -bison, lamb, oysters and fish, and we have our own chef’s garden on site.
How is wine used to complement the dining?
We have one of the largest wine selections and wine cellars in central Virginia with 7,000 bottles here on property. Another unique part of Fossett’s is that we have extended our private dining experience and created Treble, where parties up to 12 can be seated in our wine cellar. Our sommelier and executive chef work together to customize a unique dining experience. We also have our own vineyard on the property and had our first bottling earlier this year.
There is an unmistakable sense of genuine hospitality here – does this occur naturally?
Southern hospitality is a phrase that gets used often but I’m not sure if people are able to translate that into service as commonly. I think luxurious service should be approachable, friendly, knowledgeable, prompt, and responsive. We take those things very seriously and that culture lives through great people and staff. Genuine hospitality is something that we work very hard at and is something that makes people want to come back. Keswick Hall is managed by the Riverstone Group whose diverse portfolio includes luxury accommodations in Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, Nashville, Tennessee, Charleston, South Carolina, and in our backyard in Richmond, Virginia. To learn more about Keswick Hall, visit their website and if you happen to find yourself in the Charlottesville area, do not hesitate to make reservations for dinner at Fossett’s, have a glass of wine on the patio, or stay the night and soak in the scenery of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The first collection of December Shirt Run Shirtingis now available.