The mansion at 303 Berkeley Place has been historically known as the Catlett House; named for its first occupants. “The Catlett House” is considered “Staunton’s best example of the Shingle Style of architecture. Although there are elements of Queen Anne and turn-of-the-century classicism, its serene and well-proportioned design exhibits most of the characteristics of the Shingle Style – strong overall horizontality, stone foundation and first floor, patterned shingles, grouped windows and dramatic roof line.”
– Historic Staunton Foundation
The City tax rolls claim there was a structure on the property in 1896 but other books state it may have been in 1897. Richard Henry Catlett owned the property but didn’t have the opportunity to enjoy the beautiful mansion much, if at all, as he died March 21, 1898 of Bright’s disease. His obituary stated that he was one of Staunton’s most prominent businessmen – “He was born in Fauquier County seventy years ago, the son of Robert Catlett. For a while he was in business in Orange County, and then moved to Lexington, where he was treasurer of the Virginia Military Institute, and while here studied law under Judge Brockenborough. While in Lexington he was the intimate personal friend of Gen. Stonewall Jackson.” At the time he died, he was married to his second wife Fanny Bolling Gay Catlett, a descendent of Pocahontas.
According to “Historic Houses of Staunton, Virginia,” R. H. Catlett “served on Virginia Governor Letcher’s staff when the Civil War began and then served as a major in the Confederate Army. He stopped in Staunton in 1865 with General John Echols and was persuaded by Major Henderson M. Bell to form a partnership, Echols, Bell and Catlett, attorneys-at-law.”
Other Notable Catlett Trivia:
- R. H. Catlett’s first wife was Mary Mercer Patton who’s great grandfather, Hugh Mercer, was a friend of George Washington and a Revolutionary War Hero.
- Charles Catlett, first son of Richard and Mary, donated funds in 1896 to construct a three story addition to King’s Daughters Hospital. He was one of the founders of the Woodrow Wilson Birthplace Foundation that opened the Birthplace to the public in 1932. Charles’ major legacy is Betsy Bell Park. He donated 50 acres in 1941 for the park as a “perpetual memorial…” and specified the site be maintained in its natural state.
The house at 303 Berkeley Place remained in the Catlett family until 1973, with Amy Pendleton Catlett and her sister Elizabeth Gay Catlett living here until their deaths. It then passed to Ida Showker who used it for an assisted living home until the early 1980’s. Dan and Susan Ruffner bought it from Mrs. Showker and continued providing care to the elderly and disabled (Dan and Susan now run a B&B in Pennsylvania) until 1992 when they sold the house to Bob and Glynda Barker. Bonnie and Jeff bought the house from the Barker’s late 2013 to turn it into the Staunton Virginia bed and breakfast you see today.