Cloverlea Farmhouse and Virginia Claytor Memorial Gardens

  • The Virginia Claytor Memorial Gardens with the Blue Ridge Mountains in the background
    Virginia Claytor Memorial Gardens

The historic Cloverlea Farmhouse is the original estate of the Claytor Nature Center. The grounds offer a stunning panoramic view of the Peaks of Otter and Blue Ridge Mountains. The six-bedroom, 3.5-bathroom house is occasionally available for overnight lodging and private events like weddings and retreats. Outside of reservations and special events, the farmhouse is generally not accessible to day visitors.

Visitors may explore and enjoy the grounds and gardens during normal operating hours, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. The grounds and upper garden nearest to the house, including the Ash lawn, may be occasionally closed to the public for private lodging or events. Hiking trails located near the farmhouse include the Bog Garden Trail and Pine Forest Trails, which are open to the public during operating hours.

View a virtual tour of the Cloverlea Farmhouse.

HistoryInteriorGrounds and GardensWeddings and Special EventsPhotography
Though renovated and added onto over the years, the original farmhouse dates back to the late 1780s. The center portion, now referred to as the great room, was the earliest structure, with just a modest story-and-a-half farmhouse and outbuildings. These buildings showed up in county records in 1790. Older floor plan documents and evidence from joints in the wooden floor indicate that a set of stairs went up the center of the room and the original fireplaces were used to heat the two separate rooms.

The “buttermilk house,” or wing on the south side of the house, was erected in the 1850s, paid for from profits of buttermilk production from the active dairy farm on the property at the time. At some point in the early 1900s, the main portion of the house was completely renovated and raised to be a true two-story dwelling connected to the buttermilk wing with a beautiful back porch with tall columns.

After purchasing the property in the early 1950s, the Claytors built the east wing in the mid-1960s, which now houses the relocated kitchen, dining room, reflection room, and two bedrooms that were once used as an office and a den or library. The kitchen was remodeled in the 2000s with a black-and-white farmhouse aesthetic. When Mr. Claytor gifted the property to the University in 1998, he maintained life rights to the house until his passing in 2009.

Since this property was an active farm during the Civil War, we know that enslaved persons worked and contributed to the land and have been mentioned in county records. We have a collaborative goal to tell the story of the land and the people who lived and worked there in a meaningful way, including honoring the indigenous people of the area.

Claytor Nature Center is partnering with the University of Lynchburg History Department to further investigate the ownership timeline of Cloverlea farmhouse as well as property and land use. Documents and artifacts from the Claytors found in the attic have sparked interest in different branches of the family and farm history, and that interest gained momentum when several items were found in the attic of the farmhouse.

Because the house was added on at different points in its history, the layout is unique. Since Mr. Claytor’s passing in 2009, the University has redecorated the house and repurposed or renovated some of the rooms. Some of the rooms that are available for lodging now were not originally intended for that purpose. Many of the antique furniture and works of art throughout the house were generous gifts from donors. Each area offers its beauty and history.

The great room is the oldest portion of the house, although renovated in the early 1900s, and provides a beautiful large sitting area with French doors leading to the back covered porch and ash lawn, with mountain views. The collection of art in the great room is by artist Katharina Bergdoll, a Virginia native who chooses the subject of trees in her paintings because she believes she can feel their souls. The buttermilk wing foyer has an entrance off of the roundabout driveway and another leading straight out to the big ash tree, a staircase connecting the two floors, and step transitions back into the center portion of the house on both levels.

The east wing connects to the great room with a hall and staircase leading up to the best room in the house, the reflection room, with cozy seating, gathering space, and a gorgeous lofted view of the gardens and mountains in the distance. Just under the reflection room is the dining room, where portraits of Boyd and Virginia Claytor adorn the walls, forever looking out the beautiful paned windows into the memorial gardens. At the end of the east wing is the inviting kitchen and breakfast nook, stocked with ample dining and cooking wares. The University-red door off of the kitchen hall leads to the front porch with Adirondack chairs, then to the roundabout driveway and parking on the side of the house.

There are six bedrooms: two on the lower level and four upstairs. The east wing lower bedroom just off of the kitchen has a full-size bed, while the upper bedroom has a king-size bed, beautiful natural light, a desk, and a seating area. The buttermilk wing lower bedroom has a queen-size bed with ample floor space and a seating area, while the upper bedroom has two twin beds with seating and a bathroom with a shower just at the top of the stairs. The south-facing bedroom in the main, upper portion of the house has a full-size bed, and the north-facing bedroom, which was the master room, has a king-size bed and seating area. An en suite corridor connects the main upper bedrooms and the upper East Wing bedroom, connecting to two full bathrooms with tub/shower combos. Because the three upstairs bathrooms are accessed through shared hallways, none are true private en suites. There is also a powder restroom in the hallway across from the dining room.


As you approach the house from the Cloverlea Lane entrance, you are greeted with an allee of young trees. These American elm trees were planted in early 2021, and are more resistant to disease than the ash trees that once lined the driveway. Due to the devastation of the emerald ash borer beetle, those grand trees were removed in 2020. In several years, the elms will again create a beautiful canopied approach to the farmhouse.

In the center of the roundabout driveway stands a large gum tree surrounded by boxwoods. Boxwoods can also be found throughout the lawns and gardens. Next to the farmhouse stands one of Virginia’s largest green ash trees — hence the name “Ash Lawn.” (You can learn more about the tree here!) Perfect with a wooden plank swing hanging from one of the trunk-size branches, this gigantic specimen is a native Virginia species that stands over 90 feet tall and has grown to a diameter of more than 200 inches. The landscaping and brickwork of the driveway, the upper rose garden between the house and garage, and the ash lawn were installed by the owners who preceded the Claytors.

Virginia Claytor Memorial Gardens

As part of the gift agreement from Mr. Claytor, and in memory of his late wife, Virginia Claytor, the memorial gardens were installed and planted in the lower area of the garden lawn. The gardens have five separate meticulously maintained sections, each including a variety of plants, flowers, and herbs. Fanning out toward the panoramic mountain landscape view in the center of the gardens is the stunning, picturesque reflection pool, alive with lily pads and flowers, plus amphibians in the spring and summer.

We offer special event packages for couples who wish to celebrate their wedding celebration at Cloverlea. We can accommodate up to 170 guests, with several beautiful outdoor ceremony location options and our outdoor reception space adjacent to the gardens, where a tent is usually situated during the peak seasons of April-June and September-early November.

Cloverlea is also a beautiful venue for your family reunion or gathering.

For pricing and scheduling information, please contact the Office of Conferences, Events, and Support Services.

There are endless picturesque spots for professional photography sessions within the gardens and grounds of Cloverlea, and we can accommodate these sessions during and after normal hours. In support of the Claytor Nature Center’s nonprofit mission to ensure the appreciation and study of nature, a session fee is required for the use of the grounds for any professional photography. (Professional photography includes when a photographer is hired for a shoot, or they’re using the space for their portfolio, or if the photography is for their own or another’s marketing purposes.)