02 May 2011

Trip to Clover, Virginia

Over the weekend, I finished Rebecca Skloot's The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (2010). As my mother and I discussed it last night, we agreed that it was a story that neither of us could put down. One of the aspects that we found so appealing was that one of the settings was so close-to-home. Henrietta Lacks grew up in Clover and loved it; even when she moved to Baltimore, Skloot describes how she would return to Southside Virginia most weekends.

About ten years ago, I began a summer job at the Staunton River Battlefield State Park in Clover. I received my driver's license in July, and the act of driving was still exciting. Some afternoons after work, I would drive home through Clover (a little bit out of the way) and imagine what it was like when businesses were still in the storefronts and restaurants still served meals. Although Clover lost its "town" status in 1998, it was plain to see that it had been a bustling place at one time. Skloot's descriptions of Clover include the town that I saw in 2001 as well as the town that I imagined. One of the pictures she included in her book is of Clover in the 1930s, around the time that Henrietta lived there.

I decided to go home through Clover yesterday to revisit the community; Henrietta's story renewed my interest in it. Traveling on 360 from South Boston, I turned left onto 92. Although Clover is still quiet, it is not dead. Here is a shot of the town:

Clover was not empty: here is a photo of one of its residents (look very closely behind the steps) visiting Carols Beauty and Barber Shop:

Although Clover is not empty, there are signs that it is no longer what it once was. Here are photos of the former elementary school, now the community center, and an old home:

Finally, knowing that the old bridge that I used to use to get to work was closed, I decided to drive down 92 until the barricade to see if I could see anything. This bridge, constructed in 1930, was closed in 2007 after it failed an inspection. The state has no plans to reopen it, making Clover seem even more isolated.


  1. I am a Clover resident. Honestly, I love the location, but not so much most of the other residents. Its become run-down with vandalism and drug activity. We have 2 gas stations and a post office. Thats about it. Though the Staunton River Battlefield Park is a worthwhile trip, the village of Clover isnt.

  2. Thank you for this. We just finished reading The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, and when we searched for information about Clover, Virginia, we found your entry. Well done!