The eight-gabled house sprawls at the top of the hill, overlooking the farm. A “one horse open sleigh” filled with fresh cut evergreen sits on the porch. The fragrance of freshly cut greenery takes guests back to childhood before artificial trees became prominent.
Sue Clark opens the door of her home. Ron Clark, her husband, is at the fireplace adding more wood to the fire. When asked if he would call his place a manor, Ron Clark said, “I just call it ‘home.’”
The house is dressed for Christmas. Sixty poinsettias line the stairs, thirty on each side of the steps. Father Christmas, seven feet tall and dressed in a white fur coat adorned with pine cones and gold ribbons, stands at the bottom of the stairs. Appearing to have been freshly cut from a snowy woods, the 12-foot flocked fir in the foyer glistens with gold ornaments. The art pieces that usually hang on the walls at Fox Briar have been replaced with festive seasonal paintings and framed cards. One, in particular, is an official White House greeting card from President George W. and Laura Bush.
Sue Clark explained the task of such extensive decorating. “The day after Thanksgiving while the family is still here we bring up the decorations,” she said. Many of her paintings and art pieces feature foxes; one bears the name “Fox Briar Farms-Inn.” She comments, “We had that painting and had never noticed the name on the sign until after the place was named.” Mitchell Tolle, a Kentucky artist from near Berea, is one of her favorite artists.
Sue Clark shared a bit of Fox Briar’s history. “Sixteen years ago Ron and I were in Gatlinburg. We saw a building under construction that we thought would probably be a lodge. The next year we visited again to see the finished building. It was called Eight Gables Bed and Breakfast. For our 30th wedding anniversary we bought the plans to build our own bed and breakfast here.” The Clarks have hosted guests from all over the world. Fox Briar has been featured in Southern Living and several other publications.
Each of the guest rooms with a private bath is given a name with decor that carries out a theme. Upstairs the “Fishin’” room looks out over the lake where guests can watch ducks and Canada geese. Other rooms are “Time for Tea” and “The Shaker,” influenced by Sue Clark’s love of Shaker Town. “The Hunt” has an English fox hunting motif. An English saddle, horse collar and brass fox horns are part of the room’s decor. On the bed is a hounds tooth duvet cover. “Mountain Trapper” features Old West art, Native American relics, and willow tree furniture.
Not surprisingly, most of Sue’s quilters prefer the “Quiltin’” room. A quilt frame sits on the decorative ledge in this room and a Mitchell Tolle painting of quilters adorns the wall.
“Mellie B” seems to be the room of which Sue is fondest. Mellie B. was Ron’s grandmother who taught Sue cooking and home canning skills among many others. Pictures of the beloved grandmother, a garden gate that represents her love of flowers, and even her snuff box decorate the Mellie B. room.
The upstairs parlor is a gathering place with a TV and game table. Here visiting quilters enjoy showing their purchases and talking about their quilt show experiences.
Downstairs “The Briar Patch” is the favorite room for the Clarks’ children and grandchildren when they come for sleepovers. Looking out this window, guests see the blood-red maples in autumn that decorate the yard. Peach walls and carpet lend a serenity to this room.
Off the porch is the final guest room. Here the Clarks display favorite memorabilia from their travels to Hawaii, Charleston, and Jackson Hole. Stained glass designed by Sue and a whirlpool tub add to the romantic air of “Promises of Love.”
Five years ago Fox Briar closed its doors as a Bed and Breakfast; however, the Clarks still host quilters during Quilt Show week. Their Paducah business project, which consists of eight buildings downtown, keeps them busy. In 2002 they opened Market Pavilion Gifts. They also own D. Starnes Barbecue, Fox Briar Inn and The Ice Cream Factory, which is open March through October.
Sue’s kitchen is ready for making candy tonight; then tomorrow night in Fox Briar’s dining room she will host thirty of her sons’ employees at their annual Christmas party. Their son, with his wife and two children, live on the farm that adjoins Fox Briar. Then the family festivities will begin when their daughter flies in from Vermont and their other son and his wife arrive from Mississippi. With friends and family the Clarks will celebrate another Christmas. “Some of my favorite memories are of us singing around the piano with friend Bernard Lewis playing carols,” Sue reminisces, and adds “The house bustles at Christmas.”
Then another holiday season will end, the decorations will be stored, and as Sue says, “It will just be us two old people and two cats.”