The Curious History of Dean Runk’s 18th Century Home and How To Stay There

February 26, 2024 By Jane Kelly, Jane Kelly,

The surname Runk is familiar to many at the University of Virginia.

Benjamin Franklin Dewees Runk, known as “Dee,” was the school’s dean of students from 1959 to 1968.

He left a lasting impression at UVA.

A dining hall is named for Runk, who was also a biology professor. There is a B.F.D. Runk Professor of Botany, an honorific held by Edmund “Butch” Brodie III, director of UVA’s Mountain Lake Biological Station.

Related Story

Portrait of Benjamin Franklin Dewees Runk on the Lawn with the Rotunda behind him

Benjamin Franklin Dewees Runk was UVA’s dean of students from 1959 to 1968. (UVA Library)

“‘Dee’ Runk had an excellent relationship with the students; he was the recipient of the first IMP Award, given by the IMP Society ‘to a faculty member who had been outstanding in promoting student-faculty relations and perpetuating the traditions of the university,’” Virginius Dabney wrote in his 1981 book, “Mr. Jefferson’s University.”

About six miles from UVA up U.S. 29 stands a historic home he once owned.

Making a Home

It was 1937 when Runk, then 31, bought a handsome, federal style farmhouse on 300 acres. He lived there with his mother and sister for 30 years.

Built in stages over the years, the original portion of the home is a 1780 log cabin once occupied by Hessian prisoners. In 1913, a man named John Jefferies bought the home from Thomas Carr and built a large Federal-style addition. In all, the manor home, originally called Hollymead, is about 8,500 square feet.

Today, 1984 UVA alumna Pam Calary and her husband, William own the home. The two purchased the property in 2018 in an auction and operate it as Hollymead House, a bed-and-breakfast steeped in history.

Excellence Here Goes Everywhere, To Be Great and Good In All We Do
Excellence Here Goes Everywhere, To Be Great and Good In All We Do

“I never wanted to leave Charlottesville,” said Pam, who majored in sociology and statistics. She and her husband made a life in Tampa, Florida, for 30 years and raised their daughter Lily there. Over the years, they made regular summer trips to Charlottesville and dreamed of moving to town. Once their daughter left for college those dreams nagged at them more than ever.

“We spent time here looking all over the place and realized that it had become a destination for weddings or wine. And so, we kind of thought we could make it work that way,” Pam said of making the move. “I don’t think we thought it would ever happen. But after a series of life-changing events, we just said, ‘It’s just time. It’s time to do it.’” 

Restoring History

When he purchased the house in 1937, Runk hired Milton Grigg, known for his restoration work at Monticello and Colonial Williamsburg, to renovate Hollymead. 

Exterior of the Hollymead House and front yard

Hollymead House has six guest suites. (Photo by Sanjay Suchak)

“He had Milton Grigg completely redo it,” William said. “He’s the one who put in plumbing and electrical and built a few additions on either side of it and really made it the beautiful house that it is.”

In the intervening years, it operated as Hollymead Inn and later the Silver Thatch Inn. The Calarys were determined to return the house to Grigg glory.

The restoration took dedication and determination. They pulled out old carpet, did lots of painting and tore down wallpaper. The Calarys did all the work themselves.

Hollymead House Hallway in 1967Hollymead House Hallway in 2024

The entryway, left, as it appeared in the 1967 sales brochure for Runk’s home. At right is the refurbished area, complete with a grandfather clock and duck decoy. (Right photo by Matt Riley, University Communications)

“I’ve painted every inch inside and out of this place, and I’m still working on it,” William said. “Most of the carpentry I’ve done myself.”

“It took three years,” Pam added.

The couple has filled the manor home and accompanying guest cottage with age-appropriate antiques. There are Windsor chairs, grandfather clocks and canopy beds with custom-sewn covers and luxury linens.

The Runk Room

Hollymead House has six guest rooms. Four are in the guest cottage, which was built in the 1980s. Each of the cottage bedrooms is named for one of the previous owners of the original manor home.

An exterior blue door
In a nod to UVA, the Calarys purchased a set of doors that was made for a Lawn room, painted them with a brilliant blue and hung them on an outbuilding on their property. (Photo by Matt Riley, University Communications)

The Runk room is on the second floor, its walls painted a soothing shade of yellow. It features a framed photo of the former dean of students carrying the UVA Mace on the Lawn in 1964.

Guests of Hollymead House enjoy a hearty, healthy breakfast that includes macerated fresh fruit, honey-flavored yogurt, granola and homemade biscuits.

The Calarys say they love being close to the University and, since they have opened their doors to inn guests, they have enjoyed hosting many UVA families who come to Charlottesville for all sorts of events.

Left a close of the word Runk on the room door, right a photo of the four post bed in the Runk Room
The Runk room is in the guest cottage. (Photo by Matt Riley, University Communications)

Pam said she cherishes staying involved with the school, serving on the Board of Governors for the Colonnade Club, the Benefactor’s Society Board of the College Foundation, and the Charlottesville Symphony Society at UVA.

“My experience at UVA was awesome. I loved walking to class every single day. I just knew that I wanted to come back here,” she said.

Media Contact

Jane Kelly

University News Senior Associate Office of University Communications