When the Gari and Corinne Melchers purchased Belmont in Stafford County in 1916, it was Gari Melchers’ desire to find a quiet, peaceful place where he could paint people in a rural setting that led them to settle in the small town of Falmouth after living in Europe and New York City.
The couple found a true home at Belmont and in its surrounding community. Corinne Melchers devoted herself to making a beautiful home and to sharing it with her neighbors. She made the decision to give Belmont to the state of Virginia, and that decision continues to allow members of the public to tour the 18th-century house, restored gardens and trail-lined grounds today.
The advent of spring is a fitting time to plan a visit to Belmont. The gardens are coming to life, and it’s also the season of Easter, a time with special meaning here.
In the 1920s, Corinne and Gari Melchers were known for throwing cheerful, elaborate Easter parties for the children of families they knew in Stafford County. There were usually around 30 children at these annual events, according to a 1992 article in The Free Lance-Star.
Corinne Melchers would purchase memorable gifts for her guests on trips to New York, where Gari Melchers maintained a commercial studio. Treats like intricate spun-sugar eggs with tiny Easter scenes inside would be sure to delight these young visitors.
After an Easter-egg hunt on Belmont’s grounds (or inside the house if it rained), Corinne would put on a puppet show for the crowd, and then treat the children to homemade angel food cake, sugar cookies and hand-cranked ice cream. One invitee recalled that the local kids looked forward to this event as much as Christmas.
These days, Belmont continues to offer a special welcome to the public in springtime. For the past four years, the museum staff have hosted a Beeping Egg Hunt with special audible eggs for visually impaired children and their families. This year’s Beeping Egg Hunt will take place Sunday, March 29. Find more information on it here.
As the garden continues to come into bloom, Belmont will hold its Spring Open House April 12 from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. This free event provides a great opportunity to see the home and estate during a truly beautiful season.
Art enthusiasts will want to take advantage of two free lectures at Belmont this spring. On April 26, at 2 p.m., Cultural Resources Manager Beate Jensen will talk about he Colonial Revival movement, a major influence on American architecture, decorative arts and landscape design. The talk will show how Colonial Revivalism influenced the Melchers and how it presents itself at Belmont.
On May 3, at 2 p.m., Curator Joanna Catron will offer a free presentation on the prevalence of gardens as subjects among 20th-century American impressionist painters, and the appreciation that the art of gardening garnered during this time period. To stay on top of all that is going on at Belmont, check out their calendar of events here.
And, finally, if you aspire to host an Easter gathering that Corinne Melchers herself would be proud of, here’s a look at her angel food cake recipe, preserved in her very own handwritten recipe book, a collection of recipes gathered from friends and family that the staff at Belmont has preserved.