The Clifton

Situated on the banks of the Rivanna River just east of Charlottesville is this gorgeous 1799 farmhouse first built by Thomas Jefferson’s daughter, Martha. The Clifton, as it’s since been named, is now an inn and restaurant. It is a truly beautifully preserved historic estate that is a treat to locals and travelers alike.

Historic Virginia Property

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When I got to visit, the snow I mentioned in my last post was still around. It was an absolutely perfect day to see The Clifton all decked out in white!

Apparently the house has been white for some time, although it hasn’t looked the exact same over all these years.

black and white photo of old clifton estate charlottesville virginia
old photo of The Clifton from The Clifton’s website

Martha Jefferson’s Property

When Martha Jefferson and her husband Thomas Mann Randolph first inherited this property from the Randolph family, they initially built a small cottage for Thomas to use for work. (PS years ago I read the historical fiction book America’s First Daughter and feel like I know everything about Martha, who actually went by Patsy. If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend.)

martha jefferson cottage white brick with black shutters and door

Patsy and Thomas went on to have twelve children, eleven of whom lived to adulthood. They built this house although they never really lived happily in it from what people can tell of their marriage. Thomas was an alcoholic and suffered from mental health issues. Patsy eventually separated from him, returning to Monticello nearby.

window with black shutters next to antique wood door

This historic cottage is available to rent as one of the rooms at the Clifton– called the “Honeymoon Cottage.” Look at these original shutters and the work on the bottom. Presumably they still function. Definitely not something you’d see in a newer house, is it?

antique black window shutter alongside historic window

I checked out The Clifton in the National Register of Historic Places. Here’s part of the summary about this house:

Situated on a wooded bluff overlooking the Rivanna River, across from the extinct port village of Milton, the house is the only remaining evidence of Thomas Mann Randolph’s plan to start the sister town of North Milton. Built in the first quarter of the 19th-century, the original farmstead portion is at the center of later 19th- and 20th-century Colonial Revival-style additions and alterations. Today the house stands as one of Albemarle County’s finest examples of early 20th-century domestic architecture, with a core unit and five-bay facade dating to the early 1800s. The property also includes a detailed brick office (ca. 1833-45); ruins of an early 19th-century springhouse; the shaft of a 19th-century stone-lined ice house; an early 20th-century chicken coop and an altered 1920s brick garage, all associated with Clifton’s early history and modern renovations.

The Exterior of the Manor House

When it was originally built, the veranda (below) was an open-air front porch, with guests arriving from the river side of the property. The house was a private home until 1985, when it was purchased by Mitch Willey and converted to a bed and breakfast known as “The Clifton Inn.” Mitch enclosed the porch and the back of the house became the entrance.

The Clifton Inn was immensely popular and Mitch oversaw spectacular renovations, including the outbuildings on the property, adhering to the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation.

country estate surrounded by boxwoods with gravel driveway

Stately Entryway

I love the white cedar shake siding and crisp black contrast. It’s so classic. The extra wide front porch seems perfectly proportioned with the two-story columns.

I also love the simple elegance of the design in the transom window.

close up view of historic black front door with transom window above

Main Hallway

The Clifton Inn changed ownership in 2018, and the new owners enlisted the help of the award winning Blackberry Farm Design team to completely reimagine the Inn’s interior scheme. The vibe now picks up on the calm Blue Ridge mountains nearby but feels edgy and young.

I simply love this wallpaper. (And I love the contrasting dark blue trim and green ceilings. It honors the age of the house but brings so much luxury.)

Modern Meets Historic Living Room

To the right of the hallway is a living room that is designed to be so modern you might think it wouldn’t fit. Except it is perfect.

The juxtaposition of that light fixture and art next to that fireplace mantle and antique wood floorboards is truly well done. I love how this place was designed. I don’t think I would have chosen the modern influences but they add so much fresh energy, and I admire the bold choices.

 

1799 Restaurant Seating Area

Mitch Willey started a restaurant within The Clifton Inn that is now known as 1799. The seating areas for the restaurant basically take up the remainder of the manor house’s main floor. Isn’t this lounge area (below) fun?

Here’s the view looking back out from the lounge through the hallway to the living room.

So much pizzazz.

Bar

Just to the side of the lounge is the bar, which mixes copper and gold and wood and leather and all the things for a fascinatingly polished look.

bar inside of historic house with black and gold barstools and slate floor

Library

The prettiest room, in my opinion anyway, to dine is definitely the library, tucked away to the side of the house.

These bookshelves are exquisite. I’ll let the photo speak for itself:

One interesting (and again, bold) move in the library was painting the wainscoting the same color as the walls. It’s hard to feel how tall the wainscoting is because the ceilings are so tall, but the doorways in the room don’t even go up to the top of the wainscoting. The overall feeling is so cozy yet somehow so sleek. The mantle in this room is painted a metallic gold. I’ve never heard of a metallic gold fireplace mantle and it might not work in a lot of situations, but in this room, it is brilliant.

Private Upstairs

There are many bedrooms upstairs and I’ll just highlight a few that stood out to me. There are two staircases– the main one by the front hallway and a back one by the library. I kind of like this back one with the incredibly tall ceilings that makes this mirror shine.

Traditional Bedrooms with a Twist

Each bedroom at The Clifton is unique, but they all feel contemporary, which is not an easy feeling to accomplish in a house this old

I love the little accents of gold throughout next to the warmth of the hardwood tones.

Most of the bedrooms have their own clawfoot tubs, each of which is painted a matte black. So, so pretty.

I am impressed with the clean feeling in this old of a house. If you look closely, you can see the houses’s age in details such as the antique windows (swoon). This house’s owners have all clearly kept it up well throughout its life.

There are many bedrooms with luxurious accommodations throughout the manor house, each with its own sense of place.

I particularly love the farmhouse style of each of the bathrooms. The below one in particular was my favorite with the wood furniture warming up the space in between the sinks.

I could share dozens more of the photos I took but suffice it to say, each carefully curated space is special.

Grounds of the Property

Outside the manor house, the grounds of the property are just as special. There are old farmhouse features like stone walls (in the front yard area, pictured below), pathways, enormous boxwoods, and mature trees everywhere you look.

Infinity Pool

The property’s fresh water infinity pool looks out over the sloping hills toward the house. It was done beautifully– it feels private but again modern. The edge of the infinity pool was designed to mimic the stone wall in the front yard area.

Old Spring House

In between the pool and the house you can find the ruins of the original spring house. Again, not something you would expect to find in newly constructed houses.

The grounds are kept so pristinely you can’t help but want to explore around the house, all the way from the Rivanna River in back to the vegetable garden in front. There are so many walking trails and helpful signs identifying various plants growing in the flower gardens. I imagine it’s gorgeous in the spring, but it really is spectacular with snow too, isn’t it?

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