Lynchburg’s unique lodge has all the frills of a night away…but still feels like home

A phrase is printed on the notepads at Acorn Hill Lodge: “Your home away from home.” And you don’t have to look any farther than the guest book, sitting atop a baby grand piano in the lobby, to know it’s more than a slogan.

From a family in Austin, Texas: “Such a lovely place to stay!” A Hampton, Va., couple penned, “What an amazing place and sweet hospitality!” A California visitor wrote, “Lovely place, such a homey atmosphere,” and from a South Carolina couple, “Just like home! Thank you!”

Acorn Hill, the Lynchburg Regional Business Alliance’s 2017 “Small Business of the Year” in the restaurant/venue category, has grown over the past 20 years from a massage studio housed in a converted garage to a 10-room bed and breakfast, bistro, salon and event center.

Wanda Brooks-Crocker and her husband, Robert Crocker, bought the property back in 1994. At the time, it consisted of about four acres with what Brooks-Crocker described as a “lovely little cottage” built as a summer home in the early 1900s. That and a two-story garage.

“This was a vision of my husband’s.
We’d talked about doing a bed and breakfast in retirement,” Brooks-Crocker said. “He got a head start on me. He does massage therapy and it was large enough that he could build a massage studio in an adjacent building—a garage at the time.

“So, we started with that and he had the concept to build on more to that building and it evolved into a salon and spa. Then the original house that was here was taken down to build the lodge, which was finished in 2006.”

Acorn Hill Bistro was added in 2013. The 50-seat restaurant serves breakfast Monday through Saturday and brunch on Sunday. The Bistro also does catering and can be reserved for private events. Acorn Hill’s event center has a capacity of about 100 people.

Acorn Hill Lodge also is pet friendly. Brooks-Crocker and her husband live next door, so sometimes guests might see their four Shitzus—Loppy, Luci, Oreo and Coco—or the ducks, which recently had babies.

“It makes us a little different,” Brooks-Crocker said, adding, “It’s just kind of got a good feel about it. A home away from home.”

At the salon and spa, where Robert still performs massages, a variety of services are available for body, nails, skin and hair. Couples packages—including massages and facials, for example—are offered, as are “spa parties.”

Acorn Hill wasn’t initially named Acorn Hill. It wasn’t named anything in particular, that anyone remembers anyway. The home next door had a name, however, which inspired Brooks-Crocker to name her property as well.

“Jubilee, I think it was,” she said. “Great idea to name your property.”

The right name for Brooks-Crocker’s property came literally from out of the sky. “We sat in the back of the house, [with] a tin roof, and acorns were falling,” Brooks-Crocker said. “We were listing all of the [possible] names while listening to all the acorns on the tin roof and Acorn Hill was what stuck.”

Brooks-Crocker said Jubilee’s owner had also compiled a history of the land around the two homes, which is displayed in the Acorn Hill lobby. As written in the history, “The site was a portion of the original Monacan Indian hunting grounds” and also saw action in the Battle of Lynchburg on June 17 and 18, 1864.

According to the amateur historian, “local legend” says that after the battle dozens of bodies littered the neighborhood.

These days the most common visitors to Acorn Hill aren’t Native American hunters or soldiers, but doctors. “Our bread and butter is definitely Centra Health,” innkeeper and general manager Rebecca Daniels said, explaining that companies that schedule traveling doctors, called “locums,” are the “most steady form of business.”

Daniels said other “big clients” include Areva and Lynchburg College. “Job candidates, people on the board, prospective students,” she said, referring to business from the college. “We’re less than a mile from LC. Anytime a department is having somebody come in they call us for a room.”

Brooks-Crocker said “a lot of interesting people” visit Acorn Hill. “It’s almost a think tank at times. Inventors and different people,” she said, adding, “We just really get to know people one on one.”

Daniels said that during her two years at Acorn Hill, one of her favorite guests was David Wisnia, a Holocaust survivor who is in his 90s. Late one night, this past April, Wisnia and his grandson, Avi, arrived in Lynchburg
on the train.

They checked into Acorn Hill Lodge, accompanied by local rabbi John Nimon. Nimon, the rabbi at Temple Agudath Sholom and a regular at Acorn Hill Bistro, had invited Wisnia to speak for Holocaust Remembrance Day.

It was late, after 10 p.m., and Wisnia was craving a snack from Dunkin’ Donuts. Unfortunately, the doughnut shop was closed. The next morning, after asking Avi what kind of doughnuts his grandfather liked, Daniels set off to Old Forest Road for a box of chocolate doughnuts.

“I got to get a Holocaust survivor a box of chocolate doughnuts and he gave me a big hug,” Daniels said.

Nimon said that’s the kind of thing that makes Acorn Hill special. “They greeted him with a box of doughnuts,” he said. “Way above and beyond the call of duty. That’s one of the reasons I go there. They seem to make their guests feel really welcome. They’re really fine people.”