By John Cowgill, with Kristi Stilen-Lee
The year is 1928, and you have received an invitation to an open house at the home of Westmoreland Davis, Governor of Virginia. You accept the invitation and head out to his estate, known as Morven Park, in Leesburg, Virginia. The governor and his wife Marguerite greet you in the grand entry hall and show you around the Greek Revival style mansion. You end in the wood-paneled billiard room, as the table is being set for your meal in the formal dining room. Throughout dinner, you hear stories of the Davises’ travels to Asia and of their time spent in England.
Well, if you had been alive almost a hundred years ago and lucky enough to receive an invitation to Morven Park, that may have been just how the evening went. These days you do not need a formal invite or special occasion to visit the 1,000-acre estate in Loudoun County.
You can visit Morven Park’s grounds any day of the week, and tours of the Davis mansion are available from 12:00 noon to 5:00 p. m. every weekend. Your tour guide, known as the Museum Educator, will take you through the mansion and give you a complete history of the house from being a plantation to a summer residence, to a permanent residence for the Davises, and its transition to the historic house museum it is today. Once you have seen the mansion, you are free to take self-guided tours of the Museum of Hounds and Hunting of North America and the Winmill Carriage Museum. Once you are back outdoors, you can easily walk up to Turkey Hill Farm to see the recently renovated Farmhand House. You will also want to stroll through the formal boxwood gardens that house the resting place of Westmoreland and Marguerite Davis, the last owners of Morven Park.
Although the mansion is the centerpiece of Morven Park, there are also several hiking trails, an athletic field complex and the Morven Park International Equestrian Center. There are hundreds of events hosted across the Park each year. One of the most popular is Polo in the Park, an arena polo series played on Saturday evenings in the summer, and Morven Park even hosts weddings, as this article from our sister publication, Brides & Weddings of Northern Virginia, describes.
Morven Park is one of the few nonprofit parks in the area. The mansion is open from February to December. (It is closed in January for cleaning and maintenance.) The grounds are open year-round and are popular with local photographers, running clubs and dog walkers. There is a $10.00 admission fee for mansion tours, the carriage museum, the Hounds and Hunting Museum of North America (both are included with the admission price) and for specific events, but the grounds are free. The Park is located at 17195 Southern Planter Lane in Leesburg, just minutes from the restaurants and boutique shops of downtown, and it is close to Virginia Routes 7 and 267 (Dulles Greenway) and U.S. 15. For Park information, you can visit MorvenPark.org.