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River Farm ca. 1930-1985

Former owner:
Washington, George 1732-1799
Clifton, William
Lear, Tobias 1762-1816
American Horticultural Society
Physical description:
2 folders+ 3 glass lantern slides and 10 35 mm. slides
Mixed archival materials
United States of America, Virginia, City of Alexandria, Alexandria
River Farm (Alexandria, Virginia)
ca 1930-1985
River Farm was first called Piscataway Neck by Margaret and Captain Giles Brent in 1653. During William Clifton's ownership, the property was known as Cliftons Neck. George Washington bought the property in 1760 to lease. The largest track at this time was called "River Farm." Tobias Lear, a renter, had called the property Walnut Farm. In 1859, a century after Washington purchased the property from Clifton, Charles Augustine Washington sold 652 acres of River Farm to three Quaker brothers, Stacey, Isaac, and William Snowden of New Jersey in order to acquire lumber for the ship building. The Snowdens divided the acreage, then known as Wellington, into three sections. In 1866, 280 acres including the present-day River Farm were sold to three men known as "The Syndicate." A writer from The Washington Sunday Star visited the estate in 1904 and referred to it as "this broken and pathetic house." The Wellington property was subsequently purchased in 1912 by Miss Theresa Thompson, a member of a prominent local family. Miss Thompson made changes and improvements at Wellington, but is was for Malcolm Matheson, who bought the property in 1919, to transform it into the early-20th century country estate we know today. The American Horticultural Society purchased River Farm in 1973 and made it their headquarters. The Society maintains display and test gardens on the 27 acre site. The 1757 main house is furnished in period; and the gardens offer identified plants.
Persons associated with the property include: Captain Giles Brent (former owner, 1653); Giles Brent (former owner); George Brent (former owner); Cliftons of Chotank (former owners 1739); George Washington (former owner, 1760); Charles Augustine Washington (former owner); Stacey, Isaac, and William Snowden (former owners, 1859); "The Syndicate" (former owners, 1866); Miss Theresa Thompson (former owner, 1912); Malcolm Matheson (former owner, 1919); and the American Horticultural Society (owners, 1973-present).
There are three 35 mm. slides depicting horticultural details which were not catalogued.
The folder includes a work sheet, site analysis map-1985, article copy and brochure.
Garden has been featured in Frances Archer Christian and Susanne Williams Massie, eds., Homes and Gardens in Old Virginia (Richmond: Garrett and Massie, Incorporated, 1962), pp. 37-39
Local number:
Data Source:
Archives of American Gardens

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