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MenNefer is a Historic Luxury Wedding and Event Destination built in 1875 on a sprawling 18 acre estate nestled in Virginia's Allegheny Mountains. Our venue offers breathtaking views and lavish accommodations to make your special day unforgettable. We believe that every love story is unique and deserves to be celebrated in a way that is personalized to the couple. Let us help you create a one-of-a-kind wedding experience that you and your guests will cherish forever.

Our Story

As technology professionals, we have the ability to work from anywhere. This is both a blessing and a curse. It’s a blessing for obvious reasons. It’s a curse because you never have an excuse to call out.

Based out of Florida, we were originally lured to the area by Snowshoe and Liberty University. After looking at some property outside of Lynchburg, we stopped in Clifton Forge for lunch on the way to Snowshoe.

Jack Masons Tavern was the first place in town to win us over! Great food, great atmosphere and great people. We decided to explore the real estate market in town. We had been searching for a place that had that small town feel, had an active community, had low crime, and had good interstate access. Clifton Forge certainly checked all of those boxes… and, have you seen how beautiful those mountains are?!!? 😍

Alleghany County is full of history and beautiful historic old homes. In fact, we can’t stop falling in love here! We’ve purchased and renovated ten of them now - and so far our biggest challenge has been Mennefer.

MenNefer was built in 1875, just after the civil war for the Low Moor Iron Company which was commissioned by A.A. Low, the president of the C&O Railroad. It’s 4 full stories and was built to be a lodge for the traveling high level executives of the railroad and iron company.

The house was in bad disrepair when we purchased it. The roof had failed and portions of the 4th floor were separating (and about to fall) from the main house. The outbuildings were destroyed or in terrible shape. Despite all that, we had a vision.

The house and grounds were splendid. The more we discovered about its history, the more we fell in love. We are so blessed to be stewards to this Alleghany County gem. We are working hard to restore and preserve it. We feel that sharing it as an event space would help sustain it and ensure that it will stay in tip-top shape for another 125 years!


The Estate

The Low Moor Iron Company of Virginia (LMIC) holds a significant place in the annals of American industrial history. The strategic location, nestled amidst abundant natural resources such as iron ore, coal, and limestone, served as the perfect foundation for a thriving iron enterprise. This company played a pivotal role in the development and expansion of the iron industry in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Its rich legacy encompasses the boom and decline of an era marked by technological advancements and economic transformations.

Abiel Abbot Low (1811-1893) had a significant relationship in the formation of the Low Moor Iron Company of Virginia. He was a key figure in the company's history, playing a pivotal role in its development and success. As an expert of trade, Low quickly identified the biggest problem that any newly formed iron company would face, transportation of raw products and delivery of completed products.

As the Director of the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway Company, Low aligned with John Means (Lexington & Big Sandy Railroad), Collis Huntington (Central Pacific Railroad), Jack FlackWinslow (Poughkeepsie and Eastern Railroad) and other capitalists to finance and build a rail line that would eliminate any possible future transportation problem. Low also enlisted the assistance of family relatives, Frank Lyman to aid in the finances of the company and Benjamin Lyman to head a geological study of the area.

Having excellent fore sight, Low took advantage of the abundance of the land and purchased 4,000 acres of Virginia iron ore lands and 11,000 acres of West Virginia coal lands as the rail was being built. A corporate charter was entered on June 13, 1873, for the Low Moor Iron Company of Virginia. The primary location for the office is listed to be “Low Moor, Alleghany County, Va.” (Low Moor Iron Company, Charter and By-laws, 1900.). This is the first reference found to denote “Low Moor”as a settlement or community.

In 1875 a large impressive square house was constructed by John A. Dame wood to house the general manager and his family of the LMIC. It would also accommodate visiting board members and executives.The house is representative of the wealth and social structure of the iron and coal industries.It contained spacious guest rooms and the latest in technology and modern conveniences for the time.The house was named “Winlyme Lodge”after 3 of the influential primary board members of the company. “Win” for “Winslow”, “Ly” for “Lyman”, and “Me” for “Means.”

The Low Moor Iron Company experienced a period of substantial growth and expansion. Low and his partners invested heavily in the company, modernizing its operations, and introducing advanced technologies to improve efficiency and increase production. They all played a pivotal role in transforming the company into a major iron producer, known for its high-quality pig iron.

In 1899, KayMoor (West Virginia) was formed by the Low Moor Iron Company of Virginia. The name is a combination of the company official who would direct it (James Kay) and Low Moor. It featured a coal mine and processing plant. The coal was shipped directly to the Low Moor furnaces via the C&O railway. The first coal shipment from Kay Moor was made on August 23, 1900. Limestone was produced from the Low Moor limestone quarries, in Rich Patch. Iron ore came from the Low MoorMines, also in Rich Patch.

By the early 1920’s the Low Moor Iron Company employed 1,600 workers in Virginia and West Virginia and could produce 75 tons of foundry iron a day. Additionally, it supported the company towns of Low Moor and Kay Moor which combined contained:12 company stores, 2 limestone quarries, 11 iron ore mines, 3 blast furnaces, and a coal and iron sales agency, a jail, 3 schools, 4 cemeteries, 4 churches, 2 theaters, post office, a fire department, a water company, a gas station, and an electric system.

Despite its successes, the Low Moor Iron Company faced numerous challenges, including a declining market and changes in the industry. The rise of steel production and the shift towards more modernized methods affected the company’s profitability. Despite efforts to adapt and modernize, the company faced difficulties in remaining competitive. 

In 1925, the company began to liquidate some of its holdings to provide necessary capital and to specialize in iron production. The profitable Kay Moor coal mines were sold to the Berwinds, but unfortunately, this did not help the company recover. The Low Moor Iron Company was forced to shut down its operations permanently in 1926, marking the end of an era. In 1927, the LMIC advertised a huge sale of its inventory in the Charleston Daily Mail. The company continued to sell off its assets and closed its books in 1930. 

During the time of its operation, 5 general managers and their families called Winlyme Lodge their home. Mr. Henry (Captain) Merry (1890), Mr. Henry (Harry) Merry, Mr. Ellison Cooke Means, Mr. John Brown Guernsey, and Mr. Frank Utt Humbert. Like any other home, the families lived life during their stay at MenNefer which included parties, weddings, new births, and family deaths.

James Lewis “Jim” Blizzard began working for the LMIC around 1918 when he was hired to handle the company’s finances. After the company went out of business in 1930, Jim Blizzard settled the debts. Seeing great potential, Jim bought the majority of the Low Moor village. For a price of $36,750.00, Jim Blizzard procured four cemeteries, the mines, commissary, churches, limestone quarry, jail, waterworks, electrical system, post office, gas station, WinlymeLodge “mansion”, and 75 other LMIC company homes. (Bishop,1998). 

The Blizzards set up housekeeping in the Winlyme Lodge and re-named it to MenNefer. Created by Jim’s wife, Martha Blizzard it is said to be 2 Egyptian words (Men–Nefer) meaning “beautiful”and “long-lasting”. They sold the most mountainous land to the federal government for the George Washington National Forest. Then, the Blizzards stepped into their new role as the landlords of Low Moor. They collected rent from people who had never paid rent from their pockets, the company had always taken care of their housing needs. Eventually, the Blizzards also began charging for water service. This water company was eventually sold to Alleghany County.

Jim Blizzard died in 1942, leaving Martha and their two daughters (Virginia Blizzard Mead and Martha Blizzard Lipsey) to run the entire estate.“To make extra money, the women boarded local teachers and other professionals, taught local school children in their home, and made butter and buttermilk –distributing it in tin lard cans to customers from their back door at MenNefer” (Bishop, 1998). (Even the rooms in the cellar were available to rent.) Martha died in 1954, leaving what was left of their Low Moor estate to her daughters, Mrs.Mead and Mrs. Lipsey, and their five children. 

The two sisters continue to run and reside at MenNefer. They continued to rent rooms to lodgers at MenNefer. Mrs. Lipsey died in 1989 and her sister Mrs. Mead died in 1998. It was listed for sale for the first time privately in 1998 by their heirs, who were also the children that grew up there. The women of the family had been stewards to the home for nearly 60 years.

Mennefer has changed hands 3 times since then. John Curry and Maureen Grant purchased it in 1999 and converted it into a bed and breakfast, The Iron Company Inn. Mrs. Louise Reynolds Florman Belmont purchased it in 2004 and used it as a private residence for herself and extended family. John and Kimberly Fink purchased it in 2018 and currently reside there.

Beginning in 2019, major renovations began to restore MenNefer and save what was left of its outbuildings. There remains an original spring “water” house which sits over a deep fresh water well, an original carriage house, a large foundation to an original brick greenhouse, and the remnants of an original icehouse.There also remains a two-car garage with a full-service pit (cir.1910) that was built to house the general managers (E.C. Mean’s) 1910 REO automobile. A cottage or “caretakers” house (cir. 1940) remains which accommodated Mr. Burton Daweand his family. He served as the caretaker of MenNefer for over 40 years. Brick sidewalks were also restored after being discovered buried in the earth surrounding the house and leading out to several of the outbuildings. 

The history of the Low Moor Iron Company of Virginia is a testament to the transformative power of industrialization and its impact on regional economies. From its humble beginnings as a small iron furnace to its status as a leading iron producer, the company’s story mirrors the broader narrative of American industrialization. It thrived during times of growth and prosperity but ultimately succumbed to the forces of changing markets and technological advancements.

Today, the remnants of the Low Moor Iron Company serve as a reminder of the region’s industrial past. The once bustling furnaces and rail lines have given way to historical landmarks and museums, preserving the memory of a bygone era. The legacy of the Low Moor Iron Company continues to inspire and educate, reminding us of the remarkable achievements and challenges faced by those who paved the way for industrial progress. One element of this legacy is MenNefer. Just as its name suggests, it has remained beautiful, and it is indeed long-lasting.

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