The historic Morven Park mansion is an impressive Southern-style plantation house that sits on a hill just north of Leesburg, VA.
Not only does it offer spectacular views of rolling fields and distant mountains, Morven Park provide valuable recreation and green space in a county that has grown at a rapid pace over the last few decades.
I have a number ties to Morven Park, so read on to find out everything you need to know about the Morven Park mansion and its rich history.
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Morven Park Mansion History—Swann’s Castle
Impressive. Stately. Majestic. Those are a few of the adjectives that came to mind when my gaze first fell upon the historic Morven Park mansion.
Built in 1781 by a prominent Alexandria lawyer, the magnificent Greek Revival house started as a tiny fieldstone farmhouse. It was expanded by succeeding owners including Thomas Swann, who was a former Maryland governor, U.S. representative and founder of the B&O Railroad.
Swann used Morven Park as his summer home while serving as mayor of Baltimore before he became governor. Due to a large black tower that stood in the back of the mansion house during the Civil War, it was referred to as “Swan[n]’s Castle.”
The Stately Morven Park Grounds
Today the Morven Park mansion grounds encompasses more than 1,000 acres of lawns, fields, boxwood gardens and wooded areas.
Luckily, most of the property is in conservation easements so the open space will be preserved for future generations, no matter how much the area continues to grow.
Morven Park not only works to preserve and protect the mansion, but it also encourages the public to enjoy the outdoors with its walking trails, gardens and vast swaths of open land.
Morven Park Mansion Featured On Book Cover
The Morven Park mansion has witnessed a lot of history, including serving as a camp for Confederate troops during the Civil War. Between the summer of 1861 to March of 1862, the large, sweeping lawn in front of the mansion was used as a parade and drill grounds.
I fell in love with the beautiful architecture the moment I saw the Morven Park mansion, and featured it on the cover of my Civil War novel, The Lion of the South.
Published in 2018, the Lion of the South went on to win the prestigious John Esten Cooke Award for Southern Fiction, given by the non-profit heritage organization the Military Order of the Stars and Bars.
Visitors to the mansion can also walk trails that feature reproductions of the cabins that the infantry soldiers from South Carolina built during the Civil War.
I loved walking the two-mile loop and thinking about the history that took place there. The trail is wooded, fairly flat and not crowded. Dogs are welcome on a leash.
Morven Park Mansion Tours
Westmoreland Davis At The Morven Park Mansion
Westmoreland Davis, governor of Virginia from 1918 to 1922, purchased the Morven Park mansion property in 1903. During the governor’s residency, his wife Marguerite Davis filled the home with unusual and opulent antiques from the couple’s world-wide travels.
The Davis furnishings that are now on display include silver pieces, Hudson River Valley paintings and a variety of Asian treasures.
Perhaps the most famous and visual of these heirlooms are four tapestries that hang in the entry hall. Woven in 1540 for the holy Roman emperor, the ancient textiles show scenes from wars fought by ancient Rome and Carthage. (That is impressive)!
Other memorable historical items are an ornate stone fireplace from James Monroe’s White House and a Dutch clock from the early 16th century.
During the house tour, visitors hear stories about the Davis family and their lives during the first half of the 20th century.
Morven Park Mansion Tour Facts
The living areas that can be seen during the tour are on the first and second floors. The room include a lavish entry hall, ornate drawing room, dining area, grand billiard room, and well-stocked library, as well as an expansive kitchen and personal quarters.
The mansion tour also includes other rooms that reveal interesting stories of the employees who were responsible for the daily work necessary to keep the estate running.
The house tour is offered Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday and takes about 45 minutes.
Tickets are $16 with those under 18 being free. Tours start at 10 a.m., 11 am., 1 p.m., 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. Tickets give you access to the Museum of Hounds and Hunting of North America as well.
An interesting fact of the Morven Park mansion house tour is that there are no ropes or barriers. Guests are free to walk throughout the house.
Tickets must be purchased in advance online.
Morven Park Mansion Gardens
The expansive mansion lawn and surrounding rolling fields are remnants of Morven Park’s 19th century landscape.
The formal Colonial Revival boxwood gardens were installed by Marguerite Davis, the last owner of Morven Park, in 1930. The gardens were created during a boxwood renaissance in America that was largely inspired by the restoration of Colonial Williamsburg.
Marguerite and Westmoreland Davis purchased mature English boxwood from estates throughout Virginia for the garden, but in the late 1960s a boxwood blight struck the Morven Park gardens, killing off much of the English boxwood.
To retain the original look and feel, American boxwood was brought in to replace the lost plants.
It’s a real treat to venture off the main path in the gardens to discover some of the hidden features such as the reflecting pool, the boxwood allées (or pathways), and the sundial surrounded by seasonal flower beds.
Other Things To See At Morven Park
The Morven Park mansion house is only one of the museum collections that can be visited at Morven Park.
The Museum of Hounds & Hunting of North America is located in three rooms of the Davis Mansion. The museum preserves the art, artifacts, and memorabilia of foxhunting’s rich history, and honors Morven Park’s deep equestrian heritage.
There was also a private collection of 70 antique horse-drawn carriages at Morven Park once owned by Viola Winmill.
That collection has been donated to several carriage museums including Studebaker National Museum in New York and the Buggy Barn Museum in Texas, to name a few.
Other Buildings At Morven Park
The Coach House Complex at Morven Park is composed of a stone barn, a carriage house, and four wood-frame towers arranged around a courtyard.
The stone barn, which dates to around 1820, remained in continuous use until Westmoreland Davis’s death in 1942.
Today it functions as an event space for corporate gatherings and educational programs.
The four wood towers, built around 1861, once served as horse stables and tack rooms.
Morven Park Equestrian Center
As an added bonus (especially if you’re a horse lover like me), the Morven Park International Equestrian Center is located adjacent to the Morven Park mansion grounds.
The Morven Park Equestrian Center is a premier competition venue that serves all levels of competition from beginners to some of the world’s top riders.
The center hosts multiple disciplines year-round, such as hunter/jumper shows, dressage competitions and even carriage driving events. They also feature twilight polo games and a variety of other horse sporting events throughout the year.
The Morven Park Equestrian Center grew out of the renowned Morven Park International Equestrian Institute, one of the world’s most prestigious riding academies.
The Equine Medical Center At Morven Park
Another interesting side note is that the Morven Park Mansion is located adjacent to the Marion DuPont Scott Equine Medical Center, where I worked as a brand new equine veterinary technician graduate back in the 80s.
The medical center, which is now a well-known state-of-the-art equine hospital facility, had just opened and employed only two vet techs at the time.
It has expanded several times and provides top-notch medical care to horses throughout the region.
What’s Close To The Morven Park Mansion?
The Morven Park mansion is right outside of Leesburg, VA, which is a charming historical town to visit. I recommend taking a private walking tour where you’ll learn about local churches, museums, and historical buildings.
Walking will also let you get a better look at the restaurants, pubs and antique shops that can be found in Leesburg.
A short drive southwest of Leesburg will take you to the small town of Aldie, which has a fascinating old mill that you can tour. If you’re looking for unique shopping opportunities, pubs or wineries, keep heading west to the quaint town of Middleburg, VA.
If history is what you’re looking for, you won’t believe the buildings in nearby Waterford, VA. It’s like stepping back in time.
Need A Place To Stay Near The Morven Park Mansion?
If you’re looking for a place to stay near the Morven Park mansion, I recommend the Welbourne Inn. It’s a historic building that is now managed by an 8th generation innkeeper.
Here are some other lodging choices: 👇👇👇
Morven Park Weddings And Special Events
With a backdrop of the magnificent Morven Park Mansion and other historic buildings, Morven Park makes a stunning wedding venue or place to hold other special events.
From gardens of magnolia, holly, and boxwood to the expansive lawn that opens up to views of a forested ridgeline and horse pastures, the property offers lots of photographic opportunities.
The 100-year-old brick walls punctuated by wrought-iron gates also make great backgrounds for photos. (Be sure to check the Morven Park website for information about commercial photography).
Morven Park offers everything from conference-style meeting rooms to scenic outdoor space for special events.
The Park is conveniently located only 15 miles from Dulles Airport and 35 miles from Washington, D.C. and is close to over 40 wineries and 20 breweries, fabulous restaurants, shopping and hotel accommodations.
Wrap-Up Of Morven Park Mansion
The Morven Park mansion and surrounding acreage continue to be an oasis in the middle of Northern Virginia’s rapid development.
If you’re looking for a day trip from Washington DC or the surrounding area, the Morven Park mansion property is a great place to visit. The grounds and gardens are free to visit and are open from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Whether you stop by to walk the nature trails, enjoy the serene gardens or tour the mansion house, you won’t be disappointed.
Morven Park is located at 17195 Planter Lane, Leesburg, Va.