Gentleman's estate start
Our story begins with Harry Connelly Groome, a wealthy Philadelphia native who purchased this land in 1899 to build his “Airlie House,” named after a castle in Scotland. The stunning three-story grand Georgian Revival structure with its formal gardens was featured not long after in House and Garden Magazine. Airlie House and Farm was operated as a modern gentleman’s estate, boasting pastures with purebred livestock in addition to the property’s extensive gardens.
In 1924, a catastrophic fire consumed Airlie House. Undaunted by this tragedy, Groome rebuilt his residence—this time as a two-story manor house—which stands virtually unchanged to this day. Even the boxwood-edged formal gardens follow many of the same patterns and plotting as the original did well over 100 years ago.
Island of Thought era
In 1961, Airlie House and Farm became Airlie Center and began making history almost immediately with LIFE Magazine declaring it an “Island of Thought” just one year after becoming a conference center. The Center’s conference facilities were like none other in the nation—attracting changemakers in the fields of education, public health, environmental research and social progress.
Thought became action as numerous local and national civil rights activists, including Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., met at Airlie to fight segregation and inequality. In 1988, over 150 gay and lesbian leaders assembled for The War Conference to advance human rights. Over this same period, the Airlie Productions film company was founded and produced over 250 documentaries to promote positive change in the world.
The Airlie of today
Our rich past lives very much in the present here. With historic charm and gracious Virginian hospitality going hand-in-hand with the luxury and convenience of a modern resort. We’re proud to be recognized as one of the Historic Hotels of America, a program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
Even as we continue to build on our proud agricultural heritage with our production farm and uphold our legacy of progress and innovation, we are also looking forward. Airlie will soon undergo a complete transformation to elevate our status as a premier getaway destination, wedding venue and social gathering site.