By Sarah Allen
Nestled at the intersection of two country roads is a brick house that is a part of history — and that is continuing to make history in its own unique way.
Just off Anderson State Road is the Brown County Inn. The house has stood at 4843 Brown County Inn Road — in St. Martin, outside of Lynchburg — since it was constructed in 1853.
Originally built as an inn, the stately brick home was sold to the Sisters of the Ursulines of Brown County in 1879, according to the Brown County Inn’s website. The Sisters used the inn to house students and visiting relatives. The nearby school eventually became today’s Chatfield College.
The historic building is now home to Julie and James Lynch and their children. From the property, they operate Commonwealth Book Company Inc., which buys and sells new, used and rare books. They also publish books on local and regional history.
They are also continually renovating the Brown County Inn — “room by room, brick by brick, board by board,” as stated on the inn’s website.
And, once a month, that dedication to history is coupled with a passion for music during the inn’s regular home concert series. The concerts will be postponed until fall, however, during current renovations, all of which are documented in a blog.
“We’d never heard of people having concerts in their homes before,” Lynch said of the inn’s series. She said the idea first began when she and her husband were trying to find a band for a reunion picnic.
Since then, the concerts have become a staple of their home, like the curving maple staircase or the surrounding tree-lined landscape.
The Brown County Inn has been hosting home concerts for almost two years, Lynch said, with a focus on folk rock and singer/songwriters.
“It’s really unusual, (and) a lot of fun,” she added, describing the intimate home concerts as having “more of a sharing dynamic.”
The artists, Lynch said, “sing right there in front of you in a living room … it’s just so much fun, and then you get to eat and drink with the artist afterward, porch sit, and buy their CDs. … You get to know them as people.”
Between 25 and 70 people typically attend the concerts, Lynch said. The event begins with a potluck dinner. A suggested donation of $20 goes directly to the performing artists. Reservations are required for the concerts due to limited seating.
The “all-volunteer operation,” as described by the inn’s website, has hosted a variety of artists, including Grammy award nominees and winners, as well as two singers who have appeared on NBC’s “The Voice.”
In order for artists to perform at the Brown County Inn, they must have at least two albums of original work and must be able to play at least two hours of their own music.
Lynch said the artists who perform stay overnight at the Brown County Inn free of charge; however, the inn is not a bed and breakfast and does not regularly host other house guests.
Some of the artists who come to the inn, Lynch said, are only beginning their musical career, with the two-album minimum. Others are more established, with as many as 20 albums.
One such veteran performer was Ellis Paul, whose music has been featured in the film “Me, Myself, and Irene.” He has performed at the Brown County Inn two years in a row, Lynch said.
Paul, she said, has a very dedicated fan base “from all over the place.”
And, Lynch added, one of Paul’s performances was especially memorable for her.
Paul had asked for requests during a September concert, and Lynch had promptly asked to hear one of her favorites, “Mary, Mary,” a Christmas song.
Paul then proceeded to grab his guitar, pull up a chair in front of Lynch, and sing her the song.
“He sang it right to me,” she said. “It made me cry. It was so fabulous.”
Another highlight of the inn’s concert series, Lynch said, was one featuring actor/folk musician Ronny Cox. That concert had the “best turnout,” she said. In addition to his music, Cox has also appeared in films such as “Robocop” and “Total Recall.”
During his performance, Cox shared movie experiences “that were very funny,” Lynch said. “He’s a great entertainer.”
But each performance, Lynch said, is memorable in its own way. The natural closeness of such an informal concert, she said, is like “some magical experience.”
“Everyone comes out glowing,” she added.
BROWN COUNTY INN