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White House Turkeys to Come Home to Roost at Morven Park

Governor Westmoreland Davis would be so proud.

In the early 1900s, the 55th governor of Virginia operated one of the largest turkey raising enterprises in the country, and now his home, Morven Park, will be the “forever home” of the White House Thanksgiving turkeys.

Although the origin of the White House turkey tradition is unclear, the ritual goes back to at least the time of Harry Truman, when in 1947 he accepted the gift of a Thanksgiving turkey. However, the first president to bestow an official “pardon” was George H.W. Bush in 1989.

On Nov. 27, 2013, the National Turkey Federation will present a turkey (and its alternate) to President Barack Obama during White House ceremonies, after which the two turkeys will spend Thanksgiving and the winter holidays at Mt. Vernon. In early 2014, the turkeys will move to their permanent home at Morven Park’s Turkey Hill Farm, joining “Franklin,” a bronze heritage turkey who has lived at Morven Park for more than a year.

The two-acre Turkey Hill Farm is being developed as a demonstration garden area as well as a place in which Gov. Davis’s accomplishments as a farmer can be interpreted for the public. It is
centrally located within Morven Park’s 1,000 acres. Open to the public since 1967, the Park is operated by the Westmoreland Davis Memorial Foundation, a non-profit organization established by the wife of Gov. Davis following his death.

In addition to Turkey Hill Farm, which will have its formal opening ceremony in late spring 2014, Morven Park’s grounds include three museums (including the Gov. Davis Mansion), an equestrian center, an athletic fields complex, a Civil War encampment site, and hiking trails. Programs are scheduled year-round and, like Turkey Hill Farm, reflect the accomplishments of Gov. Davis, based on his strong sense of civic duty, his commitment to improve the lives of his neighbors and fellow farmers, his love of equestrian sports, and his belief in the restorative potential of nature and open space.