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Morven Park

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c. 1780. c. 1830, 1858, c. 1908. 17638 Old Waterford Rd. Open to the public

This sprawling house began as a fieldstone farmhouse constructed by Wilson Cary Seldon, which is contained in one wing of the present structure. In 1808 Judge Thomas Swann purchased the property and in the 1830s made additions, including the massive Greek Revival portico and a wing. The architect for this relatively sophisticated essay remains unknown. In 1858 Thomas Swann, Jr., a Baltimore banker and later governor of Maryland, hired the firm of Edmund G. Lind and William Turnbull Murdoch to design further additions, which included a series of Italianate towers that resembled Osborne, Queen Victoria's house on the Isle of Wight. A rendering of the proposed fantasy is on view in the house. A portion of the additions was carried out by the successor firm of Murdoch and his new partner, William T. Richards. The Civil War intervened, and the project was dropped with only one smaller tower completed. Westmoreland Davis purchased the property in 1903 and with his wife carried out remodelings; it is essentially their interiors one views today on tours. Davis became a political powerhouse in Virginia, serving as governor in 1918–1922, and the house became an entertainment center on a grand scale. The interiors are in the usual period vein of the turn of the twentieth century, with elements—fireplaces, moldings—of the earlier house showing through. The hall is loosely described as “Renaissance,” the dining room as “Jacobean,” and the drawing room as “French.” The house also contains a “foxhound collection”—a museum of hounds and hunting—as well as a collection of horse-drawn carriages. A large boxwood garden carried out in the 1930s adjoins the house. The estate encompasses about 1,200 acres and illustrates some of the ambience of Upper Piedmont “hunt country” mansions. Although the house is ungainly, the great portico helps to unify it and dominate the landscape.

Writing Credits

Richard Guy Wilson et al.


What's Nearby


Richard Guy Wilson et al., "Morven Park", [Leesburg, Virginia], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

Print Source

Buildings of Virginia: Tidewater and Piedmont, Richard Guy Wilson and contributors. New York: Oxford University Press, 2002, 101-102.

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