What's This Doing Here?
June 2, 2008 by Chris Lawrence
Ever since I was a college kid, I’ve lived by the standards of “warm and dry.” Typically those are the two requirements for accommodations that govern where I’ll stay. Over the course of time, I’ve stayed in quite a few dives both here in West Virginia and around the country as a measure to save money. I’ll also toss a tent into the truck and sleep on the ground to save a little cash. You’ll find around the Mountain State there are very affordable rates in the state park campgrounds, provided you can find an open space.
Dining is another area where I typically look toward price as the key factor. More than a few times I’ve enjoyed baloney sandwiches out of a Styrofoam cooler in one of the aforementioned flop houses.
Some call me cheap. I prefer the more generous tone of the term “thrifty.” No matter what you call it when gasoline hits four-dollars a gallon a man has to take the necessary steps to keep his line and lures wet. However, if I’m traveling with a companion—my whole theory on warm and dry is out the window. I have to understand it’s a formula that works for me, but not so much for my wife.
A healthy marriage involves a man understanding that more than every once in a while you and the wife need to get away. Time spent with the spouse is healthy and lets you know just how lucky you are to have somebody who’s willing to allow you to enjoy your own pursuits. It needs to be understood however that she’s invested in the marriage as well and is perfectly within her right to expect a little pampering once in a while.
Recently, I found a spot that fits that bill perfectly. Hidden away in tiny Sutton , West Virginia I recently enjoyed dinner at the Café Cimino and Country Inn. Owners Tim and Melody Urbanic hosted a group of outdoor writers invited to enjoy some of Braxton County ’s attractions. The thought that kept running through my head as Melody showed us the work she and her husband have done to rejuvenate the 17th century home into a showcase of West Virginia hospitality was, "What is this doing here?" The décor, the menu, and the atmosphere makes you think you’re somewhere in New England or possibly even a small village in Europe. Nope—this is Sutton , West Virginia ….literally within sight of Sutton Dam.
The restaurant is lodged in the ground floor of the historic P-J Berry Mansion . Berry was a wealthy merchant who made a fortune bringing dry goods and “city fashions” to West Virginia during the heyday of the coal and timber barons. During those times, the high dollar goods from the big cities were hard to come by in hills and hollows for those who had arrived with the coal and timber companies. Berry found a willing clientele in the wives of those who made their home while working the rich natural resources West Virginia offered.
The Urbanics embarked on a mission to transform the mansion into an amazing weekend experience, not far from West Virginia ’s population centers. The upstairs of the home is retrofitted into bedrooms that rent for the night or the weekend. Each is crafted in amazing oak trim, all of it timbered within miles of the estate. The building that formerly housed the kitchen staff includes two private rooms, retrofitted with bedroom, bathroom, and living room. The rooms include a private deck with a view of the Elk River and the dam during the period of leaf fall. The former carriage house on the property also includes remodeled rooms for rent.
A patio and underground bar are a welcome respite overlooking the river to make for a perfect end to a day of fishing, shopping, or sightseeing in central West Virginia . I’ve referenced the nearby Elk River—the tailwaters of Sutton Dam.
The stream is stocked with trout by the DNR and offer areas for wading and fishing literally within sight of the grounds.
Gasoline prices are nearing crazy levels. However, a getaway with the wife to Sutton, convenient to all parts of West Virginia is an escape that won’t crush the wallet.