The original plantation known as Avenel was built circa 1838 by William M. Burwell and his wife, Frances Steptoe Burwell. Located in the heart of the city of Bedford. Avenel has been the centerpiece of social, cultural, and political life for over 150 years. Avenel is listed in the National Register of Historic Places and the Virginia Landmarks Register.

In 1906, Avenel was purchased from the Burwell family by J.W. Ballard. The home remained in the Ballard family until 1985 when it was purchased by the Avenel Foundation. The foundation is a non-profit organization formed by a group of local businessmen and women whose mission was to rescue, restore, preserve and protect historic Avenel, a Bedford legacy and to make this unique landmark available for educational, social, business and other appropriate community uses. Almost 200 years have and the vision has remained. Avenel is one of Bedford’s crown jewels that continues to make history each and every day.


Fun Facts:

  • 1879 author George W. Bagby sent a letter to Kate B. Bowyer which read, “Avenel and its inmates consititute one of the deepest and most beautiful parts of my very life. They inspired the best writing I ever did.”
  • William Armistead Burwell attended William & Mary and was the father of William M. Burwell / Secretary to Thomas Jefferson.
  • Mary Frances Burwell’s nickname was Fan.
  • Catherine Steptoe Burwell’s nickname was Kate.
  • Mr. Burwell gave his daughters a guitar for teaching math to the young servant men.


The Avenel Foundation Board of Directors

Wyatt Walton, President

Annette Kendall, Vice President

Tim Black, Treasurer

Elaine Cuesta, Corresponding Secretary

Linda Benton

John Bond

John Chesson

Penny Clarke

Seth Compton

Jill Hardesty

Rob Jarvis

Clay Luck

Harold Neal

Paul Rhodes, MD

David Sensenig, Esquire

Jennifer Thomson