The American Horticultural Society is planning to promote its 25-acre property and historic constructing, River Farm, as a part of an acquisition by a nationwide commerce affiliation.
In a statement posted on its website, officers from AHS, a membership-based group that focuses on American horticulture, wrote: “Immediately we discover ourselves at a important crossroad. Monetary challenges on quite a few fronts, significantly magnified by the COVID-19 pandemic, require us to rigorously discover choices for the way the AHS mission can proceed to reside on for the following 100 years, and past.”
The AHS could also be acquired by the American Public Gardens Association, previously often called the American Affiliation of Botanical Gardens and Arboreta. APGA is knowledgeable commerce and advocacy affiliation of public gardens and public backyard caretakers, not a public membership group like AHS. Some AHS board members reportedly have connections to APGA.
“To perform this, AHS would promote our 25-acre property and residential to our headquarters, River Farm. Proceeds from the sale of River Farm coupled with different AHS belongings would offer for the continuation of AHS as a part of APGA by supporting an enhanced vary of gardening and sustainability packages lengthy into the long run,” AHS officers wrote.
Alexandria Residing has reached out to AHS interim Government Director Bob Brackman for extra info. Brackman joined AHS in late 2019 after retiring from the San Antonio Botanical Backyard after which serving because the interim vp of horticulture at Holden Forest and Gardens in Cleveland. He has additionally labored in Dallas and in Nashville.
The true property itemizing for River Farm is predicted to be reside subsequent week with an estimated worth of $15 to $30 million.
Historic Constructing Dates to the 1750s
River Farm is a large historic property with lovely gardens and lawns overlooking the Potomac River. The house on the property, with massive home windows and porches, dates to the late 1750s and is usually used for social occasions, weddings and conferences.
George Washington purchased the property in 1760. After his dying, the property modified arms quite a few occasions earlier than the American Horticultural Society acquired it in 1973 and moved its headquarters there from the Metropolis of Alexandria.
The property was nearly offered within the early 1970s to Soviet pursuits, which was fairly regarding to quite a few individuals as the US was nonetheless within the Chilly Battle.
“Amongst these involved by the potential sale was Enid Annenberg Haupt, philanthropist, gardener, and member of the Board of Administrators of the American Horticultural Society. By way of her exceeding generosity, the Society was capable of buy the 27 acres then comprising the Wellington property, agreeing to maintain the property open for the enjoyment of the American individuals,” in keeping with the group’s web site.
On the time, it was granted to AHS with the stipulation that it all the time be open to the general public freed from cost.
Residents Involved About New Possession
River Farm is listed on the Fairfax County Inventory of Historic Sites, however that stock doesn’t present the property with any particular protections. In response to Fairfax County’s historic stock web site, being listed is an “honorary designation, and doesn’t impose restrictions or limits as to what an proprietor can do together with his property. The Fairfax County Complete Plan … encourages their preservation when attainable.”
Regardless of its age, the property just isn’t listed on the Virginia Landmarks Register or the Nationwide Register of Historic Locations.
Whereas the property could be prime land for a major improvement, AHS officers wrote on the web site that they might be on the lookout for a purchaser “who respects the encircling neighborhoods in addition to the conservation and historic worth of the property.”
A consultant for AHS wrote in an e-mail to Alexandria Residing Sunday night: “AHS has engaged a Realtor who has been tasked with figuring out a purchaser who will perceive and respect the historical past of the positioning and the significance of compatibility with surrounding neighborhoods and adjust to all land use restrictions on the positioning.”
Nevertheless, residents who reside close to River Farm have stated on the dialogue board Nextdoor that they’re involved that zoning may change after the sale, which may result in improvement and lack of the peaceable, open area.
Katherine Ward, president of the Wellington Civic Affiliation, stated that on Nextdoor, “There was a ton of rebellion. Individuals are very sad with this.”
The Wellington Civic Affiliation, which incorporates the River Farm neighborhood, has had intensive involvement with AHS for many years, together with internet hosting neighborhood occasions on the property.
Specifically, native residents have stated they’re involved that a developer might need to reduce up the property and put quite a few houses.
Underneath present guidelines, not all the property could possibly be developed — there are conservation easements in place, Ward stated. East Boulevard is owned by the Nationwide Park Service.
“It’s non-public property, in the event that they need to promote it, that’s actually their proper, however what we gained’t be proud of is that if they promote it to some developer who needs to construct who-knows-what on it,” Ward stated. “My neighborhood won’t need to see a number of homes.”
Within the meantime, the property stays open for excursions and occasions. Upcoming occasions embody yoga within the backyard, a garden-based skincare workshop and a wildflower watercolor workshop. (See the AHS events calendar here.) AHS additionally hosts the favored Spring Backyard market and an annual gardening awards ceremony. Till coronavirus restricted journey, the group additionally hosted a number of worldwide garden-focused journeys.
River Farm is open to the general public from 9 a.m. to five p.m. Monday by means of Friday. Admission is free however donations are accepted. Group excursions could also be organized for a payment.
Be taught extra in regards to the property and AHS at AHSGardening.org.