Not only does Halifax County have four wineries, it now has a distillery producing corn whiskey and rum.
Springfield Distillery, along River Road, produces corn whiskey and rum for sale by the bottle, and it provides tours and sample drinks in its tasting room Thursday through Saturday from noon to 6 p.m. and Sundays from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Besides the alcohol, the distillery has outdoor concerts and special events in a beautiful setting overlooking the Piedmont scenery of Southside Virginia.
Unlike local moonshiners of long ago, Springfield Distillery produces liquor on the up and up. “The people who sold us the house told us there were stills in the area and at least two on the property itself,” says James Gordon, who moved with his wife Kelly from northern Virginia in 2013. Gordon learned the trade from his father, who made liquor in his boyhood home of South Africa, and his work later took him to Northern Virginia.
“Kelly and I were looking for a place with at least 20 acres and some historical significance and Southern charm,” says Gordon. “Springfield and Halifax County were the perfect place.” The farm was established in 1799, and the antebellum house was built in 1842. It contains some of the architectural elements made by well-known craftsman Thomas Day.
The Gordons bought the distilling equipment from a company in Maine and began service last year. The distillery uses grain from local farms, and the spent mash is returned to the same field to be eaten by local cows.On a night we visited in July, there was a concert with a guitarist and singer in the outdoor arena, a truck selling hamburgers nearby, and tastings taking place in a restored log cabin. Guests could try out tasty mixed drinks like honey scratch and ginger, bloody scratch and honey scratch and lemon.
More details at www.springfielddistillery.com.
What attraction in Halifax County is the most unique? I would say Robert Cage Sculpture Farm, which has an amazing collection of whimsical art created by cast-off industrial materials.
I often drive friends and guests to this amazing garden, with a goat bridge over the main driveway and dozens of large sculpted pieces.
Cage, who died in 2014 at age 91, led a remarkable life. He had been a Marine in World War II and had jobs in widely varying locations, ranging from a veterans’ hospital in Miami, oil wells in Texas and a tennis club in Beverly Hills. Returning to his native Halifax County, he won the world championship in tobacco auctioneering in 1984.
Visiting Rhodesia, as part of his tobacco work, Cage obtained a degree in fine arts at the Salisbury School of Art and studied art for a summer in Paris. Then he started turning out these art works, which are scattered throughout the county and were displayed after his death at the Portsmouth Art Center.
Where did he get these industrial materials? “He took me to a junkyard on our first date,” says his widow, Sandy Rusak Cage. Others he got from highway projects and contributions from the community. Today the farm is maintained by his 3 children, 2 of whom live on the property, and one of Cage’s friends, a long time employee.
Much of his art can be seen on this website, www.robertfcage.com. To get to the sculpture farm from downtown South Boston, drive east on U.S. 360, past Ernie’s Restaurant, make a U turn at the next intersection Highway 854, and turn right onto Cage Trail. –Mike Doan
A note from Barry Kolen, a visitor to our art exhibit last month:
“Craddock,” she said, as she reached for her card. “I dropped the Mary,” As in Mary Pickett. Too many women in her family were also named Mary. As for Pickett, her name reminded me of one of the Civil War generals. “Graduated last in his class at West Point,” Pickett informed me.
I listened closely as Pickett explained that her family had occupied the Oak Grove Plantation in South Boston VA “for 200 years” according to th
e attractive flyer I’d been given. Three of its rooms were available for rent since Pickett had made the plantation house and its 400 acres a bed and breakfast. One featured half-teaser headboards on its pair of twin beds.
Pickett’s living quarters comprised a sizable wing in the back of her historic home.
“See the solar panels,” she said as she pointed to two banks of them just beyond her living quarters.
Oak Grove was immaculate. It served as a perfect setting for a house-wide display of paintings and giclees by one of America’s most talented water color artists, Karen Shelton. As I toured the upstairs with Pickett, Shelton’s high school classmate,
I noticed exceptional woodwork.
“Thomas Day did that” she mentioned. Days’ shop had been in nearby Milton, N.C., (He was a free black furniture and cabinet maker before the Civil War.)
South Boston News & Record, June 5:
Oak Grove Plantation Bed & Breakfast in Cluster Springs consciously appeals to the ecotourism traveler — a group that now includes guests who roll up in Tesla electric vehicles.
In late summer 2016, the historic Cluster Springs inn became one of a dozen inns in Virginia to be fitted with Tesla charging stations, making Oak Grove a natural draw for people who want to see the countryside while riding around in their high-tech sedans.
What makes Oak Grove an even more appealing stop for green energy advocates is the source of much of its electricity: solar panels.
In a given year, solar energy powers anywhere from 50 to 75 percent of the inn’s electrical needs.
Originally built in 1820, Oak Grove has a long history of running off its own energy sources. More than a century ago, the home utilized a giant Delco Electronics battery in the basement, powered by a windmill behind the house where the solar panels stand now.
Converted into an inn in 1988, the idyllic Cluster Springs plantation possesses a strong “self-sufficiency tradition,” says innkeeper Pickett Craddock, whose ancestors lived in and tended to the home for close to two centuries.
Admittedly, the archaic windmill powered only the home’s light bulbs, but it was part of a longtime devotion to being green and close to the land. The house was built with timber felled on-site and bricks made locally, Craddock said. Much of the interior woodwork was done by Thomas Day, the master woodworker in Milton, N.C.
As for why Tesla funded a free charging station at the B&B, it goes back to the design of its vehicles. Electric cars use high-capacity batteries to power their motors, getting anywhere from 100 to 250 miles per charge. While Tesla owners can charge their cars at home, on the road they need special stations to juice up their batteries once the charge gets low. Tesla decided to strategically place recharging stations along major highways and travel routes.
“I think Tesla really jumped at the chance to put one here,” said Michael Doan, Craddock’s husband.
Besides the beautiful views from Oak Grove Plantation Bed & Breakfast, visitors this year will have an added visual attraction: Art work created by a nationally recognized local water colorist.
It’s the perfect match for two women who grew up together in Halifax County: Artist Karen Shelton and innkeeper Pickett Craddock. You are invited to a reception showing off Shelton’s work on Thursday, June 22, at 5:30-7 p.m. at Oak Grove.
“At an inn that specializes in buying local, it seems fitting to have a local artist’s work’s adorning our walls,” says Craddock. Each of Shelton’s works is for sale to both tourists and townspeople who may want to come and visit.
Shelton’s art is in museum and private collections in most of the 50 states and several other countries. For the past 30 years, she has received over 50 “Best in Show” honors and many rave reviews.
Shelton was born in Winston Salem, N.C., but moved to South Boston at the age of 7 with her family. Her father was in the tobacco industry, and her mother worked at Lantor’s, the popular women’s fashion store. It was at a fashion show where Karen met Weldon Shelton, whom she married and who was her muse up to his death in 2012.
Describing her work, Shelton says: ”I am driven to paint, fascinated by light and shadow and living, vibrant, growing things that capture the eye and fill the soul with beauty.” Her current work is, for the most part, realistic still life. “I do enjoy creating mixed media pieces with watercolor, acrylic, colleage and even gold leaf.”
Craddock thinks the local paintings will add to the atmosphere of the 200-year-old house, built by ancestor Thomas Easley, a Virginia legislator. The former tobacco plantation has 400 acres of pines and trails, popular for nature walks. The three miles of trails are teeming with wildlife…crickets, birds, frogs, box turtle and an occasional fox.
When you think of Wine Country, you don’t generally think of Southern Virginia. But Halifax County has three great wineries that are worth your visit on a stay at Oak Grove Plantation Bed & Breakfast.
Enjoy strolling through the vineyards and sitting on a barstool sampling the vintage products that are only available locally. You will probably be served by the friendly owners of the local wineries.
Best of all, we will serve local wines to you in our wine package For a lovely evening of romance, let us decorate your room with fresh flowers and provide a bottle of local wine to share from one of the wineries. We’ll also provide cheese, crackers, fruit and hors d’oeuvres for your pleasure. Please ask for this $40 package when you book your room.
You can buy their wines at the Halifax County Visitors’ Center in South Boston, as well as at the wineries.
We are quite proud of the reviews we have been getting on TripAdvisor and other review sites. We are rated a perfect five stars from the average rating given by our guests. Some examples:
- “This homey and classy place ranks high among the bed and breakfasts we have enjoyed. We were especially grateful for the hospitality for our dog.”
- “Pickett was a wonderful host at this historical and environmentally friendly B&B.”
- “This is a serene and positive place.”
- “Solar panels are very forward thinking. She has installed them behind the house to assist with power needs.”
- “Our dogs enjoyed romping through the trails on the property and we enjoyed just sitting in the sun with good books, good wine, and good company.”
- “Oak Grove Plantation is perfectly suited for children – and anyone who wishes to get away from everything stressful and modern for a few days (there is, however, free Wi-Fi and excellent cell phone connection).”
- “Dark enough to see as many stars as southern Utah, little light pollution.”
- “Situated on 400 acres of land, it’s very quiet, immaculately maintained, and beautifully furnished. “
- “We would definitely recommend Oak Grove Plantation for a weekend respite.”
(We would encourage you to rate us on TripAdvisor too, but it is easier on a computer than on a phone. TripAdvisor’s mobile app is difficult to navigate. We are also highly rated on Yelp and Bedandbreakfast.com.)
For a lovely evening of romance, let us decorate your room with fresh flowers and provide a bottle of local wine to share from one of Halifax County’s three wineries, Bright Meadows Farm Vineyard & Winery, Greenwood Vineyards, Hunting Creek Vineyards. We’ll also provide cheese, crackers, fruit and hors d’oeuvres for your pleasure. Please ask for this $40 package when you book your room.
Stay with us while you take fascinating classes this spring at Hudson Heritage Farms, just 15 minutes away in Elmo. At the livestock farm’s Farm Studio, you can enroll in the following classes: