Steeped in History

Chilton House represents generational admiration for the Town

John Chilton McAuliff, co-owner of Chilton House, a charming bed and breakfast in Warrenton, understands how family and history complement and influence one’s life. Chilton House is a five generation venture which is focused on the preservation of their roots while providing a comfortable in-town location for overnight guests. The home has withstood centuries and the owners want to share it with all.

McAuliff was raised here in Warrenton and moved away after graduating college. But his love for Warrenton brought him back to the area. He believes there is a sense of belonging – everyone is somehow tied to or is known by another: “It is a nice existence here. It is amazing and intriguing.”

He said, “I committed myself a long time ago to find a way to contribute to this community; this town has raised 10 generations of my family.” The original idea for the bed and breakfast originated with McAuliff’s grandmother, Bea McDonnell. “Her greatest wish near the end of her life was to keep the house in the family and to share it’s storied past,” remembered McAuliff. McDonnell was former chairwoman of the Fauquier History Museum and loved Warrenton and history. “We [the family] talked for years about the best way to make her wish come true,” he said.

Chilton House is steeped in a dynamic history, one which includes several prominent Virginians: the Horners, Chiltons, and Blackwells. “Few families have such an accessible, well preserved history and Chilton House is designed to share it,” expressed McAuliff. “From The Hearsts, who dominated the 20th century both culturally and politically, to the Horners, a family of doctors and military known to have treated George Washington and General LaFayette, to the Chiltons, who were key leaders in the Virginia in both the Revolution and Civil Wars, to the Blackwells (one of Virginia’s founding families). The Chilton House has been involved in some manner.” The family’ traced its history to England and discovered the first Chilton to arrive in America came over on the Mayflower.

The family considered numerous names for this venture but the determined Chilton House was most appropriate. “We wanted to find something which captured the history and upscale nature of the home,” said McAuliff. “Chilton House memorializes the family branch most closely linked to Warrenton and my grandfather, Dr. Chilton Horner McDonnell.”

Preservation and service is the mission for this venture: “First and foremost, this project was aimed to preserve a rare property. This property dates back to the 1800s and contains original outbuildings in excellent condition. For the benefit of Warrenton and the family who has called this home since 1891, it was important to preserve.”

Recent renovations occurred to maintain and highlight the authentic charm, architecture and history of the building. The entire Chilton family contributed to the project including Mary McDonnell, Barbara McDonnell, Kathy McDonnell, and William McDonnell McAuliff.  “Everyone has added their contributions over the five generations,” shared McAuliff.

Renovations progressed over a year and a half. “We completed some project ourselves and hired out for the more complicated or sensitive areas of the renovation process,” McAuliff shared. Some work consisted of sifting through items left in the home for generations, and determining what familial artifacts were important and should remain.

Originally built in 1891 the structure held a relatively small footprint. In the 1930’s McAuliff’s great grandparents enlarged the home. Original furnishings remain in the space today, complimenting and preserving the character. “Folks love the intimacy and authenticity of the house. There are many rooms in which to curl up with a book,” McAuliff described. Renovations also retained special features of the home such as a service bell installed during the 1930s addition, formal built-in bookcases, and original hardwood floors.

Every guest room provides a written history and family tree for visitors to see. Even the room themselves are aptly named after a branch of the family whose history is displayed inside the room. The art adorning the walls throughout was either provided by family members or created by a family member. An old map of Fauquier County is also on display in the hall, which McAuliff located, rolled up in a drawer, when preparing for the construction. Near the stairs hangs a portrait of the home’s namesake, McAuliff’s grandfather, and a photo of the family’s ancestral home in England, which is also a bed and breakfast and an inspiration and motivation for McAuliff.

The bed and breakfast is focused on customer service and excellence. “When I hired our innkeeper, James Blunt, I was looking for an expert who could be the face of our business to our guests.” said McAuliff. “James has managed guest services for Goodstone Inn as well as other high-end locations in Nantucket.” All staff members are committed to providing top-tier service for guests and experiences which create “only the fondest memories of our town” for the patrons.

Overnight guests are served a hot breakfast and provided with information on local restaurants, shops, wineries, and other recreational recommendations in the area. “James attends to any needs our guests may have,” shared McAuliff. In the future, Chilton House hopes to expand and offer a more formal concierge service as the tourism economy develops in the region.

The opening of Chilton House Bed and Breakfast was not without challenges. “Getting the permits for this project was extremely difficult,” McAuliff remembered. “In my opinion, Chilton House is really and truly owned by the people of Warrenton. It’s our history, and so many people stepped up to offer their support and time for free, and to speak on our behalf at the Planning Commission and Town Council meetings. Without them, especially our business community here, there’s no way it would have happened. There’s nothing I’ve ever been more thankful for.”

“I believe our authenticity and location separates us from other regional B&Bs,” he said. “We are not the most grand or expansive one in the area, but Chilton House was a home first, and a B&B second. It retains the charm — through original furniture and artifacts — of an 1800’s upscale Virginia family home with modern amenities.”

McAuliff hopes to keep the family’s stories alive and share them with overnight travelers. He determined there was a need for this type of service in Old Town Warrenton; one Chilton House could provide. Plus the Old Town location is ideal for guests to explore the town. Both weekday and weekend travelers, and even locals who need a place to stay are the ideal client for McAuliff. “We make a good stopping point, especially if someone flies into D.C. and is traveling south to Charlottesville,” he said. “The more we can make Warrenton that stopping place – the more people tell others of their positive experience and word will spread. It adds up being valuable to Warrenton and our overall business community.”

The bed and breakfast model allows the family to not only fulfill McAuliff’s grandmother’s wish, but to offer a new service in Old Town. Ultimately McAuliff aspires Chilton House to become a fixture in Old Town Warrenton. He wants to draw visitors and residents alike to town. An entrepreneur by nature and profession, McAuliff’s skill sets enable him to create, develop and realize a vision; all at the very young age of 25.

For more information on Chilton House Bed and Breakfast, or to reserve a room, visit or call them at 540-680-3208. The Chilton House is located at 97 Culpeper Street in Warrenton.

Guests have four rooms to select from at Chilton House. Each room is named after the same family, just different branches, which adds a touch of history and intrigue to all the options. Additionally, all accommodations include smart TV, tea and coffee as well as a hot breakfast. The B&B is open all year long and overnight accommodations range from $100 to $200 per night and do vary per season.

  • Horner Room – was named for one of Virginia’s oldest Military and medical families, who lived in the house during the 1800’s. Much of the artwork displayed in the room was painted by the family that lived here. Features include a queen sized- bed and a shared oversized bath.
  • Hearst Room – was named for one of the most illustrious occupants of Chilton House, Austine McDonnell Hearst, wife of William Randolph Hearst Junior. This is a queen room and includes an oversized shared bath.
  • Blackwell Room – was named for a Virginian family who lived at Chilton House in the early 1800’s. The room features a beautifully renovated private bath and fireplace.
  • McDonnell Room – was named after a military family who lived in the house during the 20th Century. The room features a beautifully renovated private bath, canopy bed, and a fireplace.

“During our first six months, we’re keeping it simple. A perfect night’s sleep, and a delicious breakfast. As we mature, we’ll be offering packages that include historic tours of Old Town, a Wine & Dine dinner and winery package, a Bunk & Brew brewery tour, a variety of romantic packages, and my personal favorite, a Bunk & Bears Shenandoah National Park tour,” McAuliff shared. “If we have any Falconers in Fauquier, I’d love to work with them as well. There’s so much Fauquier County offers that I’d love to create special packages around.”  

McAuliff has also written a book on Chilton House which is available for purchase at their location, and on their website this coming spring.

Debbie Eisele
About Debbie Eisele 63 Articles
Debbie Eisele is a freelance writer and the Community Outreach Coordinator for Hero’s Bridge, a nonprofit serving older veterans. She lives in Warrenton with her husband and twin daughters.

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