Preservation & Conservation

Morven Park’s 1,000 acres, 50 buildings and collection of more than 10,000 objects present many opportunities to preserve and protect treasured historic resources. In 2011, Morven Park completed a six-year, $6 million restoration of the iconic mansion, parts of which date back to 1780. Today’s elegant residence originated as a small fieldstone farmhouse. When you visit the mansion, you can see the original stone exterior and subsequent layers of stucco when standing inside the entryway of the visitors’ entrance. Other buildings were added as years passed and later connected to create a larger home in the early 1800s. Generations of the Swann family left their marks on the home’s architecture through the 19th century, at one time adding Italianate towers, which were present during the Civil War. The towers were short-lived, though, removed by Mary Mercer Carter, the daughter who inherited Morven Park from her father Thomas Swann, Jr. in 1880.

Inside the mansion itself, an eclectic mix of furnishings reflects the Davises’ travels, including 16th century Flemish tapestries, Asian arts, art nouveau pieces, and the couple's original collection of family silver and china. From the most prized statuary to a simple typewritten note to staff, the collection reflects the personalities of its most recent private owners, Gov. and Mrs. Westmoreland Davis. 

Two centuries of water runoff from the Catoctin Ridge took a toll on the mansion, undermining the foundation, rotting floor joists, and damaging the stucco exterior, necessitating a complete restoration. The work included adding geothermal heating and cooling, rebuilding the foundation, and constructing a retaining wall and new drainage system to prevent future water damage.

With more than 50 buildings on site, Morven Park relies on generous donations to continue our preservation work.

In 2017, work has begun restoring the estate's old Gate House, located along Old Waterford Road.  This quaint circa-1901 building was formerly used as staff housing and had suffered decline over the years.

Other renovations planned for this year include the charming Coachman's House, now used as a bride's ready room, and the Groom's Room, once a tack room in our elegant Coach House used as a pre-ceremony location for wedding groomsmen.   

Another recent restoration project focused on a small tenant farm house in an area known as “Turkey Hill Farm.” This four-room home opened to the public in spring 2014 and includes photos and interpretive panels describing the lives of Morven Park's farm workers.  We will begin working on the sweet little "Calf Barn" located at Morven Park's Turkey Hill, thanks to a generous donation from a Morven Park supporter.

CURRENT PROJECTS: Laundry Dairy Building Rehabilitation

Rehabilitation work is underway at Morven Park’s historic laundry / dairy building! The scope of work for 2017 includes replacement of the failing stucco, repair of the rotted woodwork and replacement of the outdated roof. All the work will be completed in accordance with the Secretary of the Interiors Guidelines for Rehabilitation as well as Morven Park’s own high standards of preservation and conservation.

Morven Park staff currently believes that the building is one of the original 19th century outbuildings constructed either by Thomas Swann, Sr., around 1820, or by his son, Thomas Swann, Jr. during his renovations of 1858-1861. The building is constructed of local fieldstone and lime mortar and was clad in lime based stucco with a scored finish resembling cut sandstone blocks. This method of construction and finishing was popular during both the 1820s and 1850s. The finish on the Laundry Dairy building matched the c.1825 finish on the Greek Revival mansion.


Portions of the original lime stucco remain on the building, especially near the top of the wall, just under the eaves. Lower down the wall Portland cement was used to patch damaged stucco, starting around the turn of the 20th century. In the mid-1960s, when the property was being prepared to open to the public, an elastomeric coating was applied to the exterior of the building. This rubberized coating was intended to protect the fragile historic stucco from water infiltration. Unfortunately, this coating also held water in and along with the rigid Portland cement, accelerated the rate of deterioration of both the lime stucco and lime based mortar.

To ensure the building remains standing for generations to come, Morven Park has removed the stucco, Portland and elastomeric, exposing the stone construction for the first time in over 150 years. In doing so, we discovered "secret" doorways that had been hidden under the stucco, now clearly visible to visitors to Morven Park. Archeological work continues on this mysterious building.

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