Monday, October 24, 2016

10 fun facts about Morven Park

Morven Park is a place I'd heard of, but wasn't sure what type of historic site it was. On Labor Day weekend, we made a trip out to Leesburg. First we visited the beautiful Oatlands and next decided to stop by to learn more about Morven Park. And we learned a lot.

The home has deep roots to early American history, having been established in 1780 as a simple farmhouse built by Dr. Wilson Cary Seldon. Since that time the home and property has seen many changes and people.

The property possesses an interesting and remarkable history. A pamphlet picked up during our visit states Morven Park is a home that, "captures the essence of Virginia's rural heritage". That it does and so much more. Want to know more about Morven Park? 

10 fun facts about Morven Park

1. Morven Park was home to two governors - Thomas Swann Jr. (served as mayor of Baltimore before being elected as Maryland's governor) and Westmoreland Davis (Virginia).
2. Thomas Swann Sr. bought the land from Dr. Seldon in September 1800.  (I'm not clear on the spelling, I've also seen the surname spelled as "Selden". However, I'm going with the spelling Morven Park uses in its .pdf titled, "Summary of Morven Park Ownership"). Over time Swann would add numerous tracts of land to built up the estate. In 1837 Swann sells the property to his children and Thomas Swann Jr. buys his siblings out in 1842. Swann Sr. passed away in 1840. Swann, Jr. would spent time renovating the mansion between 1858 and 1861.

3.  The property changed hands a few times after Thomas Swann Jr.'s death in 1883. Several members of the Swann family would live in and/or own the estate.

4. Westmoreland and Marguerite Davis bought estate in 1903. They would be the final owners who used the home as a residence.

5. Over the years the simple farmhouse evolved into an amazing 22-room Greek Revival estate - this is what visitors see today. Between the Swann and Davis years improvements had been made by several owners, but the Davis' really left their mark on the property.

6. Westmoreland would go on to be a gentleman's farmer and built the estate and, as he learned, he shared his knowledge with the farming community in order to move the industry into a more modern age. 

7. There is a section at the entrance of the visitor's area of the mansion where the original stone exterior and later layers of stucco can be seen (I always find this type of thing fascinating). 

8. The mansion had Italianate towers for a time and were visible during the Civil War. These were removed on or around 1880. You can see images of this during a Morven Park tour.  

9. The interior of the mansion is wonderfully decorated and reflects the life of Westmoreland and Marguerite. The furniture and d├ęcor is amazing and highlights 16th century Flemish tapestries, European furniture, Asian art and gorgeous china, to name a few. There has been incredible preservation of the possessions and placement of the items.  

10. During the Westmoreland years, the estate was a full-time business and this is reflected in the tour. Perhaps especially when you get to see the kitchen area. With the antique furnishings, while I knew the house was modernized, it was still surprising to see such a massive and "modern" kitchen in a historic property since other properties are typically interpreted in earlier centuries.  

This was a fantastic tour and a gorgeous home, and it was interesting to learn about Westmoreland and Marguerite Davis. Visiting Morven Park again is something I hope to do again sometime in the not so distant future.

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