From the May 21 Gazette Virginian:
Oak Grove Plantation is one of the rare bed & breakfasts with an innkeeper whose family has owned the house for generations. Pickett Craddock, who started the Cluster Springs B&B 26 years ago, enjoys telling guests about the home’s history, which dates back nearly 200 years.
The two-story classical revival house house was built from home-grown timber in about 1820 by Thomas Easley, a member of the Virginia legislature. In the parlor is a portrait of Lt. Thomas Easley Jr., a West Point graduate who was killed in the Mexican-American War at age 25. His brother, Capt. William Easley, died in the Civil War.
Succeeding generations farmed tobacco and later other crops on the 400 acres along what is now Cluster Springs Rd. (Route 658), a mile southwest of Route 501. In 1986, Craddock decided to open her home as Halifax County’s first bed & breakfast. A preschool teacher in Washington, D.C., she made the house available to tourists in the summers only, promoting the home as a refuge for people to get away from the city.
“It is a place for people to cure what is now being called ‘nature deficit,’ the need to get closer to nature and to enjoy its plants and animals to reduce the stress of urban living,” she said. “Science has shown nature can improve our health, enhance our creativity and make us feel fully alive. It can promote a sense of awe and wonder that we haven’t felt since we were children.”
Craddock encourages guests to walk or bike on the miles of groomed paths through pine forests on the grounds. They are great for bird watching and spotting turtles, squirrels and even foxes. She particularly encourages families with children to come and climb trees, play on the tire swing, in the sandbox and inside with board games. Dogs are also welcomed to come and play with 7-year-old Bonnie, and new 8-month-old Niko, both standard poodles. Ms. Craddock’s 22-year-old daughter, Sara Doan, is training to become a veterinary technician.
Craddock and her husband, Mike Doan, enjoy promoting area attractions for visitors from as far away as Europe or as close as Halifax County. One guest saw Doan’s mention of “The Sound of Music” at the Prizery in his blog and came just to see the show with her daughter. Several others have had families racing at Virginia International Raceway. One group came from Ohio to visit their former classmate, who runs Gatrell’s Cowboy Up Café in Virgilina. Some have come for the Scottsburg Fourth of July celebration and other special events.
Weddings and reunions are popular among Oak Grove’s visitors. The Virgilina Women’s Club and the Halifax County Women’s Club have met there, and she had a reunion once of classmates from Cluster Springs Elementary School. Craddock had her own book group from Washington stay at the plantation house to discuss a popular novel. “People like to get away into a quiet, peaceful and contemplative environment,” she says.
One of the inn’s chief attractions is its gourmet breakfasts served around the oval dining room table. Many guests prefer the long, leisurely breakfasts to a quick roll and coffee at a fast-food restaurant. Craddock often serves Cluster Springs egg puff, her own dish with eggs and cheese or whole wheat and lemon soufflé pancakes and fresh locally grown fruit. “It’s important to me to get produce and eggs from Halifax County,” she said. “The food is better and it’s better for the environment.”
Oak Grove has three guests rooms, including a ground-floor, handicapped accessible room called the Library and a two-room family suite on the second floor. The inn is open from May 15 to the end of September. Details at www.oakgroveplantation.com. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.