Story By Niambi Davis
Photography By Kiyah C Photography
Down a long tree-lined country lane, Kent Island Resort stands as a witness to the sentiment that “life is good on the Eastern Shore.” To many Kent Island locals, the property’s past is as important as its rebirth.
Deborah Terhune, Kent Island Resort Corporate Sales Manager, knows as much about the history of Kent Manor Resort as she does about the current property.
“I’ve done extensive research on the house, the genealogy of its families and its history,” said Terhune. “It’s a story of family history, principles and a series of 19th and 20th-century home improvements.”
According to Terhune, Dr. John Smyth owned the original property. His daughter Sarah married Dr. Samuel Thompson, who built the left side of the house in 1820. When Sarah passed away in 1843, she left the 309 acres and the house to her son Alexander.
Between 1861 and 1864 Alexander built the middle section. Because Alexander’s brother John was Stevensville’s Episcopal priest for 16 years, and because the family did not believe in indentured servitude or enslavement, the land was never a working plantation. Instead, it remained a working farm. When Thompson passed away his third wife and two daughters sold the property in the late 1800s.
From that point, it passed through several families and many names. It was owned by the Bright family, and was known at one time as Pennyworth and later Kent Hall.
“We’ve found artifacts on the property that carries the name Kent Hall Farm,” said Terhune, noting the property stood empty for years until a third wing was added in 1987.
In October 2020, the VivaMee Signature Collection purchased Kent Manor Inn. In French, the name translates to restoring the soul; in this instance, restoration became synonymous with renovation.
Chicken coops were transformed into office and conference meeting spaces. A beautiful barn was constructed from the ground up with a capacity for 300 guests. The garden house and pavilion, overlooking farmland and Thompson’s Creek, are the resort’s latest renovations. The building originally constructed by Dr. Samuel Thompson in 1820 now houses the 18Twenty Bar and Restaurant.
The reputation of Kent Island Resort, both as a premiere wedding and corporate destination can be counted in last year’s numbers.
“We had 178 weddings this past season, and 82 corporate events between May 1 and Dec. 31,” said Terhune. “We do not have a Friday or Saturday night available in the barn for 2023.”
Behind this success are teamwork and the determination to give clients and guests the best experience possible. Cheyenne and Naomi, Resort wedding coordinators, want each bride to feel as if they’re part of the family. That means answering a 9 p.m. email or phone call, if it will make brides feel at ease and that they have the team’s undivided attention. As much as it’s work, in their opinions, it’s also fun to work with the couple, the chefs, the florists and the bands to create the couple’s vision for their wedding.
“When I think of an Eastern Shore wedding, I think of Shore hospitality in a setting incomparable to anywhere else,” Terhune said. “Among the resort’s most memorable weddings was a ceremony for which the entire wedding party arrived by boat. We’ve had everything from simple elegant ceremonies to outrageous, colorful and extravagant celebrations.”
Perhaps equally as memorable was one weekend with two weddings on Friday, two on Saturday, and two on Sunday with 780 people on the property at the same time.
“And everything went off without a hitch.”
As much as the Kent Island Resort is known for its weddings, its corporate, social and family events are equally as popular and crafted with the wishes of its clients in mind. Near the top of individually crafted events was a 106-person, 5-day family reunion with a crab feast, a big banquet, and a day spent at Talisman Therapeutic Riding Center. More than a horseback ride, it was a hands-on experience in which the family helped build paddocks and cleaned tack.
“It was one of our most memorable events,” Terhune said.
What makes all this come together is the company’s core values — what it means to be a team and to give their guests a fabulous experience. They’ve all pitched in to do each other’s jobs.
“There’s no such thing as ‘it’s not my job.’ We do what’s necessary and if that means washing a bathroom floor in your Easter dress it gets done,” Terhune emphasized.
The Kent Island Resort has become involved with the Queen Anne’s County Office of Economic and Tourism Development, supported Talbot County’s Waterfowl Festival as a hospitality sponsor, and partnered with Talisman Therapeutic Riding Center.
On March 4, the resort will host a gala featuring Jason Morton for the Giving Edge Foundation. The group’s mission is “to help young people to grow into successful, caring, responsible, and productive adults by building partnerships and community support.
“We’re trying to promote goodwill in the community and county,” said Terhune.
The Kent Island Resort will also be home to the inaugural Under the Veil & Beyond the Bowtie 2023 wedding trend reveal event, hosted by Chesapeake Bay Wedding magazine, which will take place on Sunday, Feb. 26, from 1-4 p.m.
To find out why you should plan an event, a weekend, or a day at Kent Island Resort, go to kentislandresort.com for a complete listing of activities at this “lovingly restored Eastern Shore gem with a 200-year legacy of hospitality.”