|Three Hills Inn
Warm Springs, Virginia
|Three Hills was opened as an Inn in 1917 by Ms. Mary Johnston and her two sisters. The Inn, now on the National Register of Historic Places, developed itself, its breathtaking view of the Alleghenies and the charm of its hostesses. The Inn became a frequent gathering place of Virginia's gentry. Three Hills passed from the Johnston family in 1955 and has continued to receive guests off and on since then. The inn has been officially recognized and honored by the Virgina Business and Professional Women's Foundation, The Foundation for the Humanities and Public Policy as a site on the Women of Virginia Historic Trail.
It is said that Mary Johnston often visited the area baths as a young woman in search of health. It is also said that she built the knoll-top mansion with the proceeds from "To Have and To Hold," thinking more commercial successes were to come. They weren't.
Despite critical acclaim for the Civil War novels, despite the mixed reviews of her groundbreaking feminist novel "Hagar," Johnston couldn't make a living from her writing. Johnston didn't spare expense when she built the house, named for the view of the three hills in the distance - with a backdrop of West Virginia mountains. Its foundation, made of the now-rare American chestnut, has not settled at all, nor has a single termit managed to worm its way in.
In 1923, Johnston wrote an impassioned essay for The Washington Herald promoting mixed marriages-of Jews and Gentiles, rich people and poor. A woman should marry for love, she wrote, or not at all. "On the whole, it seems to me the young woman of today, cigarettes and so on to the contrary, is as wife and mother the superior of the young woman of yesterday," she wrote. But women still deserved equality and Johnston argued that the key to it was economic independence.
The first woman to address the Virginia General Assembly, Johnston shocked people with her outspokenness on the suffrage issue. She also shocked them when she took to mysticism, the subject of most of the later books, including "Silver Cross," "Sweet Rocket," and "Michael Forth."
"I think she was always ahead of herself, which is why she has largely been overlooked," says Anita Firebaugh who has research Mary Johnston. "But you can read 'Hagar,' and... that book's as relevant now as it was back then.