Former owner gets carried away with old mill

DAMASCUS, Va. — A historic gristmill in Damascus that’s served as a restaurant, inn and live-music venue may go back to its former owner. Stuart Wright III, whose family had turned the building into a successful business before selling it, was the high bidder for the property.

The 8,000-square-foot, 12-room Damascus Old Mill was sold at auction April 25. A bank acquired the property for $750,000 at an earlier auction in January.

Damascus businessman Bill Leonard says the property would be a challenge for anyone who buys it. With a restaurant or hotel property, Leonard says the owner “can’t just date it, you’ve got to marry it.”

According to a story in the Bristol (Va.) Herald Courier, Wright said the purchase wasn’t in the family’s plans.

“Actually, we got carried away. We didn’t come here to buy it. We just got excited,” said Wright, a Damascus businessman who said he and his sons, Stuart IV and Michael, do not yet have a plan for how they will run the place. “I never expected it to sell like this. I thought someone would come in and pay more for it.” The Wright family’s winning bid was $475,000.

In 2005, after operating the mill as an inn and restaurant for three years, the Wrights sold the property to a North Carolina businessman for $1.55 million. The building later went into foreclosure.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.