Those who don’t know her can soon enjoy the same level of hospitality at the Salamander Resort & Spa in Middleburg, set to open Thursday. Salamander Farm is the inspiration for the newest resort to be developed by Johnson, who is chief executive and founder of Salamander Hotels and Resorts.
“I bought this property in 1996 because my daughter was spending a lot of time riding horses,” Johnson says. “I fell in love with the view, too. It was a natural time to leave D.C., to regroup with the kids and get out of the noise of the city and that life. My daughter’s a professional show jumper now and practices here almost every day.”
References to Johnson’s varied interests, businesses and philanthropic work can be found throughout Salamander Farm. Johnson, a founding partner of Black Entertainment Television, is vice president of Monumental Sports & Entertainment and president and managing partner of the WNBA’s Mystics. She is also part owner of the Wizards and the Capitals. She’s a partner in ProJet Aviation, an aviation consulting firm, and a partner in Mistral, which makes luxury bath, body and home products. Johnson has served as executive producer of four documentary films and has been on a variety of boards to support humanitarian, educational and arts issues around the globe. She’s also an accomplished violinist.
Salamander Farm, which has about 177 acres, including stables, barns, guest cottages, a pond, a riding ring and meadows, was originally named by previous owner Bruce Sundlun, a telecommunications millionaire and former governor of Rhode Island whose nickname was “Salamander” when he was a World War II bomber.
“When I found out the old name of this farm, I reached out to Bruce and asked if we could bring the name back,” Johnson says. “It just spoke to me, because a salamander is the only animal that can walk through fire and come out alive. It stands for fortitude, perseverance and courage, all qualities that are important to me.”
The salamander symbol can be found repeated in various places in Johnson’s home, while a double salamander serves as the logo for the resort. Johnson says the double salamander symbolizes reconnecting with yourself or with others, something she achieves at her home and hopes guests will achieve at her resort. Creating her serene home and the resort has taken years of work with architects and landscape designers as well as collaboration with interior designer Thomas Pheasant. The original sections of the manor home are more than 100 years old.