The long-awaited move from Troutville to Salem is underway!
The White Oak Tea Tavern, a popular destination restaurant known for its teas and light fare, will open in Salem on May 1, 2017 with a ribbon-cutting at 9 a.m. and opening to the public from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. White Oak is setting up operations at Preston Place, located at 1936 W. Main St., Salem, Va.
Dr. Esther Clark Brown, one of the first female physicians in the Roanoke Valley and a Preston family descendant, was the last to live in Preston Place. Her heirs donated her home, built in 1821, to the Salem Museum & Historical Society in 2014. Since then, the organization had been working to renovate the house, which it will continue to own, while searching for the right tenant to make the renovation sustainable.
“Two years after we began work on Preston Place, we were fortunate to find our ideal tenant—the White Oak Tea Tavern,” said Fran Ferguson, executive director of the museum and society. “They have been incredibly successful in their Botetourt County location, and we’re excited to welcome them to Salem.”
The Tea Tavern was previously housed in a historic but very small log cabin in Troutville. Kim Arney, the owner of the Tea Tavern, was looking for a historic structure where she could expand the kitchen and dining areas. “Preston Place is the perfect fit for our old-fashioned tea room,” said Arney. “Our ‘new’ old home will triple our space. We are expanding our gift shop and we’ll be able to offer outdoor seating on the patio.”
White Oak serves lunches, bagels and scones, but it is especially renowned for its array of teas, including its own tea label and other unique blends. One of its dining rooms is designated for groups. “We have lots of bookings already for bridge clubs, book clubs, showers and events for small groups who are looking for that intimate, historic atmosphere,” said Arney.
Renovations to the home were extensive, from the structural work necessary to provide a suitable kitchen and ADA access, to electrical work, new HVAC, landscaping and a fresh coat of paint throughout. Required archeological investigation in the rear of the home and finding a way for a full-size fire truck to turn around posed special challenges.
“The Salem Museum & Historical Society is so grateful to the Brown family for their incredible gift of the home and grounds, to the City of Salem for its assistance, and to all the donors to the project and hardworking volunteers who made this dream come true,” said Ferguson. The museum and society’s Preston Place Committee that brought this project to fruition includes Dave Robbins and Ginny Savage – co-chairs – Alison Blanton, Dave Foster, Spencer Frantz, George Kegley, Whitney Leeson, John Long, Cindy Miller, Marlene Preston, Mike Pulice, Marsha Shortell, Jack Susser and Chum White.
“The mission of the Salem Historical Society includes saving Salem’s historic structures, and Preston Place is one of the best known of these,” said Ferguson. “Opening day is a great day to celebrate a great success—a historic property saved and accessible to the public, and a wonderful new restaurant and business—unlike anything already here—moving into our community and contributing to more growth in Salem. We invite the whole community to visit the White Oak Tea Tavern soon!”
-Submitted by Fran Ferguson