When Westmoreland and Marguerite Davis purchased Morven Park in 1903, they inherited a landscape whose panorama resembled English private park estates – the stately house set above a grand lawn, dotted with naturalistic groups of trees. The road winding through the picturesque landscape passed through magnificent wrought iron gates, which was a gift from the citizens of Baltimore to Mayor Thomas Swann, Jr., the nineteenth century owner of Morven Park who had laid out the sweeping garden. During the time of their residence, Westmoreland and Marguerite Davis revitalized Swann’s park landscape without altering any of its inherent beauty, invigorating the stately grounds with notable agricultural productivity.
The Davis’s added a new dimension to the landscape design of Morven Park beginning in the late 1920’s. They fashioned a terraced, enclosed formal garden, just steps away from the mansion. The garden called to mind many of the features celebrated in the Colonial Williamsburg restorations of the same period. The Davis’s had advertised throughout Virginia for mature boxwood, and had purchased boxcar-loads of massive old shrubs to plant in their new garden, ensuring that the raw grounds would immediately acquire the dignity and substance of great age.
The Westmoreland Davis Memorial Foundation opened the Marguerite G. Davis Boxwood Gardens to the public in 1967. Today, Morven Park offers interpretive programs of early 20th century life in the gardens, and allows visitors to stroll through at their leisure. Additionally, live theatre productions are offered in the gardens in the summertime. Text adapted from research conducted by Victoria Czaplewski
The Historic Landscape
The grounds of Morven Park include over 1,000 acres of lawns, fields, and wooded areas, along with the boxwood gardens. Much of the property has been placed in conservation easements in order to preserve the open space for future generations. Indeed, Morven Park has been called an “oasis” in the midst of Northern Virginia’s rapid development. Areas that once saw slaves working on the plantation, Union and Confederate troops skirmishing during the Civil War, and pure bred livestock grazing in the fields now host thousands of visitors each year attending equestrian events, special activities, guided tours and educational programs.
DID YOU KNOW ?
Westmoreland Davis and his mother Annie witnessed crucial events at the beginning and end of the Civil War. In April of 1861, they were in Charleston as Ft. Sumter was bombarded (leading to the start of the war). In April of 1865, they were among thousands (including Robert E. Lee) fleeing Richmond when Union forces burned the city just days before the end of the war. MORE HISTORY >>>