A treasure chest on the river

Published 8:15 pm Saturday, March 27, 2010

It may look traditional from its exterior, but 8017 Quail Hollow is a treasure chest full of exotic memorabilia waiting to be opened.

The home, which belongs to Vivian and Bill May and is full of mementos from their travels, is part of The Garden Club of Virginia’s Historic Garden Week and is one of five Suffolk homes that will be featured on April 23.

“It’s not the biggest, fanciest house on the tour, but we’re blessed to live on the Nansemond River,” Vivian May said. “And even though Harbour View has been built up on the other side, it still has a very pastoral feel.”

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This year will be the Historic Garden Week’s 77th anniversary, making it the oldest and largest statewide house and garden tour event in the nation. More than 250 homes and gardens open their doors and gates to the public during the event to benefit the restoration of important historic grounds and gardens throughout the state.

All funds from the tour go to help restore Virginia’s historic gardens.

“I took the offer to be involved in the tour, because I’m empathetic to their need and appreciative the monies go to the historical gardens and give people an opportunity to see things in the state,” May said. “It’s one of the reasons I said ‘Yes, I’ll crawl around in the dirt.”

May said as a girl she went on garden tours with her family.

“People went off on bus tours for days,” she said. “It’s a great way to see different parts of our state.”

Now that her own home is in the tour, she has been busy putting things together.

“We’ve had a lot of fun,” she said. “On Wednesday, I had so much to do I didn’t even eat dinner.”

The traditional brick home sits on one-and-half-acres of marsh waterfront property in Cedar Point with panoramic vistas of the junction of the Nansemond and James rivers and Godwin Bridge. Views are enjoyed from a covered porch, patio, lookout landing and interior open-floor plan.

“It’s 20 years old, so it’s not the newest or the largest house,” May said. “Originally, we wanted it to look like a Southern Living beach house, but that very quickly changed.”

Instead, art and memorabilia from Vivian and Bill’s travels to Nepal, China, Africa, Russia, Europe and beyond furnish the home, along with family heirlooms.

A hand-painted Thangka, porcelain animal figurines and an Italian patio set are found among large armoires, china cabinets, end tables and other furnishings from Dr. May’s grandmother’s Deep Creek plantation home. Other heirlooms include tea sets, Civil War pistols and paintings, family portraits and candelabras.

The Mays at one time had an entire bedroom dedicated to Dr. May’s father’s Civil War artifact collection, which can now be found on display at Riddick’s Folly.

All artifacts and heirlooms sit in warm, walled rooms with floral and Asian-inspired wallpaper and hardwood floors.