THE WHITE HOUSE ON THE HILL
Replica Church Welcomes as a Charming and Soulful B&B
By Marsha Canright
Photography by Natalie Lacy Lange
High atop a grassy hill overlooking the pastoral fields of Washington County near Round Top, a steepled structure rises from a rolling grove of olive trees and strikes a vivid silhouette against the wide blue sky.
Here is a quiet, calm refuge pairing the character of a 19th-century country church with the comfort of handpicked furnishings, beautiful views, perfect linens and a breakfast basket of homemade treats. The White House on the Hill, a bed-and-breakfast retreat for one or two guests, was designed and built by Rob Rosenbaum and Linda O’Neal in 2014.
“We both love old country churches, and it was a dream of ours to build a replica that would capture the essence and character of these simple, soulful structures,” Rosenbaum says.
The couple chose a lofty hilltop site with panoramic views above their newly planted grove of 300 olive trees. They worked with Barney Reynolds of Round Top Home Builders to complete the project.
“It’s like stepping out of time,” says New Yorker Amanda Sawyer, who stays in the cottage with her husband, Dave, twice each year during the Original Round Top Antiques Fair. “It’s so romantic and private. It’s a true retreat from our busy life.”
The structure is only a few years old, but the materials are reclaimed from an earlier time and have an aging patina. The main interior room has 25-foot ceilings, shiplap walls and a floor salvaged from a 19th-century Galveston warehouse. The windows are handmade, the stained glass window is an antique from St. Louis and a 200-year-old wooden beam from Iowa is an architectural and structural focal point.
The ambience is all 19th century, but hidden behind cabinet doors is a full kitchenette with a premium espresso and cappuccino machine. There’s also central air and heat and cable television for those who aren’t ready to escape completely from the outside world.
“I want people to love this place so much they want to come back again and again. After all, if it’s not as good as your own home or better, why would you travel to stay here?” O’Neal says.
O’Neal and Rosenbaum selected each interior piece. Most of the furnishings are French antiques, although the chandelier is from New Orleans.
A king-sized bed is topped with linens by Pandora de Balthezar, who is well known at the Round Top antiques fairs for her down Hungarian pillows and quality linens. The adjacent bath features an oversized claw-foot tub, a walk-in shower and a magnificent antique mirror.
Above the tub is an antique print of the Madonna and Jesus, which O’Neal found at Bill Moore Antiques in Round Top. The angel is from France and once hung in a chapel where novices took their vows. For the morning, O’Neal prepares a breakfast basket with homemade blueberry muffins, fresh fruit, yogurt and sometimes Brie and crackers.
“Whatever is fresh and delicious, that’s what we bring,” she says.
Outside there is seating underneath the cedar tree, and the 20 acres of park-like property include a pond that is ideal for fishing.
“The rolling hills are wonderful for walking, and we have incredible sunsets,” O’Neal says.
Rosenbaum has planted fruit orchards, crepe myrtle, cedar, cottonwoods and sycamores, in addition to the olive grove.
The tall steeple was purchased and installed by “the steeple people,” a Texas group that builds new and refurbishes old church steeples. They used a crane to secure it to the building.
The church house is located about eight miles outside of Greenvine, a tiny town with two churches and a bar. It sits equidistance from Round Top and Brenham and is close to Carmine and Burton. The drive from Houston to the countryside retreat is slightly more than an hour.
49th Annual Spring Round Top Antiques Fair
Round Top Area Chamber of Commerce
110 Schumann Lane
Toll free: 888-368-4783
Bill Moore Antiques
1350 N. State Highway 237
Pandora de Balthezar
418 E. Wright St.
Round Top Home Builders
103 Main St.
The White House on the Hill & The Barn