By the Side of the Road, the City of Harrisonburg’s first official bed and breakfast in Virginia, offers a unique combination of the pleasures of a peaceful country retreat and the convenience of a location within minutes of the amenities and entertainment of our thriving city. Innkeepers Janice & Dennis Fitzgerald and Anna Fitzgerald Bergey invite you to be their guest in this historic home.
If walls could talk, those at By the Side of the Road Bed & Breakfast would surely share some interesting tales of war and peace in the heart of Virginia’s beautiful Shenandoah Valley. Having served as the home of a prominent conscientious objector and early leader of the Mennonite Church, and later as a Civil War hospital following General Philip Sheridan’s devastating “burning of the Valley,” this large, post-Federal-period structure has provided shelter to many with opposing points of view.
Well-known Mennonite Bishop Peter Burkholder and his son and successor, Martin, were residents of this historic home. Burkholder was the author of “The Confession of Faith,” a book which included a reflection on non-resistance: “But in no wise do they (the Mennonites) thereby intend or wish to oppose the government, or rise up in rebellion against it; but on the contrary are well wishers to their country and all men, and holding the government to be an honorable institution, and an ordinance of God and without which no land or country could stand or subsist. Moreover, they are ready and willing, as loyal subjects to submit to and obey government in all things lawful, and that does not oppose the doctrine of Christ and the dictates of their conscience; and are willing duteously to pay tribute according to the doctrine of Christ. But when we are demanded to take up the sword, and go to war against our enemies and slay them, we think it our highest duty in this to obey God rather than man.” Although he was a pacifist, Bishop Peter was courageous in his leadership, being the first to dare to preach in English to his predominantly German-speaking congregation.
During General Philip Henry Sheridan’s devastating “burning of the Valley” in 1864, this once pastoral abode was transitioned to a makeshift Civil War hospital. Because of its interior brick walls, it survived three attempts by Sheridan’s raiders to ignite the flame-retardant locust-wood foundation timbers, and the sturdy building served as a shelter to soldiers and burned-out neighbors alike. The nearby Lineweaver family farm folklore reveals that during the “hospital period,” soldiers would cross Possum Twist Hollow Creek, dividing the two properties, and steal Mrs. Lineweaver’s pies off her windowsill! John B. Wenger, who owned and occupied the house in 1864, is documented to have been a Union sympathizer and one who could be counted on to provide a hiding place from the Confederates in our war-torn valley. As one of the few large structures to survive the raid, the house was a natural refuge for the wounded and homeless.
Today, though the surrounding property is reduced to eight acres and feels the pressure of encroaching Harrisonburg City growth, the inn stands as at tribute to the hearty individualists whose construction has stood the test of time. A sturdy Shenandoah Valley bluestone foundation and a crude, Flemish-bond brick style have served all its inhabitants well. Currently in use as a luxurious bed and breakfast named for its location, By the Side of the Road still shelters all who come. Now these guests relax in feather beds and over-sized spa tubs and breakfast on gourmet fare. By the Side of the Road Bed & Breakfast Inn is an enduring reminder of war and peace in Virginia’s historic and hospitable Shenandoah Valley.