In 1987, Maria McDonnell purchased a 50-acre pre-Civil War-built farm on Catharpin Road in Spotsylvania which she would name Revatone Farm. The farm, named after her and her daughter, Eva, would be where she’d bring her horses, donkeys, sheep and other animals.
Renovation started with the property’s old dairy barn, which was constructed nearly a century ago in the 1930s.
“She basically gutted it, and then added on to it,” says Eva McDonnell.
Maria kept a lot of the original wood to maintain its original aesthetic. Once completed, four years later, the structure earned an award from the county.
For the next 30 years, Maria would work to improve the property. In 2016, she died of cancer, leaving the property to daughter Eva, who moved into the farmhouse with her daughter, Eva Gizella.
“She put her blood sweat and tears into this place, and when she passed away, I was left with it,” says Eva. “I used to live just a mile up the road from her, and we would do a lot of things together. We were best friends.”
Struck with a sense of purpose and a desire to honor her mother’s memory through the farm, Eva decided to open Revatone Farm up as an events venue where people all around could experience the joy of the farm her mother loved.
“I wanted to turn it into something great,” she says.
Events held at Revatone Farm have included baby showers, bridal showers, birthdays, weddings, proms and Christmas parties.
“I had a huge holiday craft fair, where there were 101 vendors here,” Eva says. “That was surreal. I had over 1,000 people here throughout the day. That was great exposure.”
But almost didn’t happen.
Shutdowns, Setbacks & Scarcity
Eva opened her business on March 13, 2020—the day Virginia Governor Ralph Northam closed public schools for two weeks. Ten days later, all schools and nonessential businesses were mandated to close due to the COVID-19 pandemic event. It was nearly a fatal blow to her business.
“I literally started the business March 13, 2020, which was the week before the lockdown started. I didn’t know what was coming. I’m about to get out of the job I was working at UPS to make this happen, and then [COVID restrictions] happened,” she says.
Eva applied for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and was denied funding—another disappointment.
“I tried taking advantage of the PPP loans and things but because of the timing of when I had started the business, they wouldn’t give me any of that money,” she says.
In one of those moments of throwing up her hands, when all seemed lost and client bookings were falling through, her first wedding client moved forward unexpectedly and married at Revatone despite the pandemic.
“We were breaking down scaffolding the day of the first wedding,” she says. “Bless their hearts. They were great people, and they were so happy with the results. It was pretty special that they would book a wedding under those circumstances.”
Feeling a renewed sense of faith in her vision, she turned her attention to improving the barn to make it more event-ready and ran into her next logistical challenge—inflation.
“Inflation made the project take much longer because of availability. It cost twice as much as I originally budgeted for, so, it was a long year-and-a-half,” states Eva.
Relaxed Restrictions & Renewed Hope
Her saving grace came in the form of fresh guidance from Richmond in the spring of 2021—relaxed restrictions on outdoor gatherings. It’s breathed life into her young business.
“It’s something people crave when everybody’s locked up, and they can’t go anywhere—people want to be outdoors. It’s beneficial to me. There were many times I wanted to give up because I just didn’t think it was going to happen,” Eva says.
For Eva, seeing this vision through and providing event space for businesses, families, couples and the public to enjoy means a lot to her. She wants Revatone Farm to also become a place where children can roam in nature untethered and kids can learn in an outdoor atmosphere.
“Kids love it out here. I have all the animals; bunny rabbits, donkeys and things they can pet. I love catering to kids, and getting them outdoors to interact with the animals,” she says.
“I have a teacher who reached out to me. She does theater at the school she works at. They’re going to start doing activities weekly here at the farm. I would like homeschool groups to have classes or outings here. I would be open to that.”
This spring, she’s looking forward to hosting the Spotsylvania High School prom.*
“We’re going to have it here at a big tent, and we’re going to open the barn doors up and let those 400 kids have a good old time out here. So that’s going to be fun,” says Eva.
10828 Catharpin Road, Spotsylvania, VA 22553
* A brief note to our readers: As we are all well-aware by now, the situation surrounding COVID-19 is a fluid one. When we spoke with Eva McDonnell, she provided information and plans based on the past and the present at the time of our conversation. Circumstances in terms of positive cases and protocols may change from the time the interview took place to when this story was published and beyond. Please check Revatone’s wenbsite for changes and updates.