The History of Morven Park
Morven Park first opened to the public in 1967, under the operation of the Westmoreland Davis Memorial Foundation. Marguerite Davis, who with her husband Westmoreland purchased the property in 1903, established the Foundation in order to preserve their home and its stunning grounds for the benefit of the public and to ensure that the work and ideals of her husband lived on.
What is now known as the “Davis Mansion” began as a small fieldstone house, built in about 1780 and expanded upon through the following decades until it became the 22-room Greek revival mansion we see today.
Throughout the 1800s, Morven Park was the home of the Swann family, beginning with Thomas Swann Sr. in 1800, who was appointed Attorney General for Washington, DC, in 1833. Not long before his death, Swann distributed and sold portions of Morven Park to his children, and in 1842, Thomas Swann Jr. purchased his siblings’ properties to become sole owner of Morven Park.
Swann Jr. made his primary residence in Maryland, keeping Morven Park as his summer retreat. During the first winter of the Civil War, as the Confederate 17th Mississippi Regiment camped for one month at Morven Park, Swann remained in Baltimore, where he had previously served as mayor of that city. Following the war, he became Governor of Maryland and then served in the U.S. House of Representatives for five terms.
A few years after his death in 1883, Swann Jr.’s daughter, Mary Mercer Carter, took ownership of Morven Park and she remained owner until 1898. By the time Westmoreland and Marguerite Davis purchased the estate in 1903, it had changed hands several times, but they became its most influential and its final owners.