Charlotte Braxton was particularly astute in her observations of the passing scene. She spoke her mind without hesitation, for which quality her friends admired and respected her as being a truly genuine person. Her facial expressions often conveyed as much of what she was thinking as did her words. She did not tell jokes as such, but she put forth many amusing remarks that often bordered on being hilarious.
Charlotte and her husband, Alf, were natives of North Carolina. After their marriage, nearly 60 years ago, they emigrated to the Nation’s Capital where Alf spent his career in federal service. Before he retired from the Department of Agriculture, they moved to Reedville where they bought the Bailey-Cockrell House, which was built in 1884. For their first years here, Alf left by van from Heathsville each morning for Washington for his appointed rounds in government.
With her creative mind at work full speed, Charlotte turned the house into a fabulous bed and breakfast inn, with rooms filled with antique furnishings and breakfasts that proved her taste for food was as impeccable as her flair for design. To enter the Bailey-Cockrell House with Charlotte as chatelaine was to experience elegance at every turn. When they closed the venerable inn 21 years ago, for many folks a memorable experience passed into history.
While not at the B&B, Charlotte was engaged with her other business venture, what she and Alf initially called The Country House, carrying over a business interest they had begun earlier in Fredericksburg. When they moved the shop around the corner to a larger house more in keeping stylistically with the pieces she they were marketing, they renamed it The Burgess House. The traditional building was an ideal setting for their collections. After his retirement from government service, Alf joined Charlotte full time in the business.
As an entrepreneur, Charlotte knew her trade, what was popular and what was not, which customers needed instructing and coaching, and which did not, where to buy, and where not. The whole gamut came naturally to her. She would say that her customers wanted “The Look” more than the period or history of the pieces they purchased, and she aimed to provide it for them.
She also offered accessories that could help her patrons care for their items. For Charlotte, the whole picture mattered. For many years, she and Alf were assisted in their business by the late Jean Edwards, who died last October, and who shared their dedication to their customer base.
When she was not engaged in her business ventures, Charlotte was equally dedicated to her other pursuit, fishing in the waters of the Bay and its tributaries. If it could be said of anyone, Charlotte perhaps most deserved the phrase, “She loved to fish.” No conversation was complete without her speaking of trying to catch “the big one,” which she often did. Whether she caught anything or not, Charlotte was happy to be on the water.
Ultimately, Charlotte and Alf decided to retire, and they sold The Burgess House, now the retail store for the Northumberland County Animal Shelter, and they moved to a home near the water that their grandson, Joseph Mann, renovated for them.
Their days at the old stand might have ended, but their interests remained alive and well. They continued to keep abreast of what was happening in business, and of course in politics, the latter being second nature to Charlotte, and most importantly, they enjoyed life.
Last month, Charlotte died at the age of 78, leaving an indelible image in the minds of all who knew her, whether personally or professionally. Indeed, Charlotte was one not to be forgotten.
Charlotte Capps Braxton, September 25, 1943–June 28, 2022. R.I.P.