Oakhill Farm Road, Leesburg, Loudoun County, Virginia
This house is best associated with...
Elizabeth (Kortright) Monroe
Mrs "Eliza" Elizabeth (Kortwright) Monroe; First Lady of the United States
His uncle died childless in 1805 and Monroe came into sole possession of their property, giving management of the estate to his younger brother, Andrew Augustine Monroe (1760-1836), who lived at the 6-room overseer's house from 1808 to 1817. James Monroe unsuccessfully attempted to sell 2,000 acres of the estate in 1810 and again in 1825. On both occasions the price he hoped to achieve for the land was not met.
Using the suggestions of Monroe's close friend, the former president Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), the house was designed by James Hoban (1758–1831), the architect of the White House. Monroe named his new home Oak Hill for the six oaks he planted on the front lawn, each one having been presented to him by a Congressman from each of the then six states of America. Officially, Oak Hill was never Monroe's "Summer White House" as he was never accompanied by any of his government staff on his visits. Oak Hill remained unchanged in its outer appearance and was described in 1937:
The home, 50 by 90 feet, is a stately mansion of the old Virginia style, being surrounded by a grove of magnificent oaks, locusts, and poplars covering several acres. A wide Greek portico, overlooking private gardens, fronts south with massive Doric columns, 9 feet in circumference. These columns, 30 feet in height, are beautifully proportioned of hollow brick and stuccoed. The building is cream brick construction, three stories including a basement. Simple, but solidly and beautifully built. The bricks were all burned on the place, and all the inside work was cut out by hand. The marble and mantels in the drawing and dining rooms were ordered for Monroe by LaFayette (in gratitude for saving Madame de Lafayette from the guillotine in 1795 when Monroe was U.S. Minister to France) and sent over to him from Italy.
Shortly before his death in 1831, Monroe attempted to sell Oak Hill one last time to raise some capital for Maria. But, the family were relieved to see the sale fall through, knowing Monroe's emotional attachment to the place as his last slice of land in Virginia - the state in which his ancestors had held land since 1650.
The Gouverneur & Fairfax Families
Maria died there in 1850 and two years later either her husband, or their son Samuel Laurence Gouverneur, Jr. (1826–1880), regrettably sold the estate to Lt.-Colonel John Walter Fairfax (1828-1908) and his wife Mary Jane Rogers (1826-1871). It was Colonel Fairfax who planted the orchard of Albemarle Pippins Apples. According to legend, he sent some of the orchard's produce to Queen Victoria in England, who apparently preferred the apples to any others she had tasted before.
According to a recent article for the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the only damage inflicted upon Oak Hill was to a decorative section of one of the marble mantels, "knocked off by a recalcitrant soldier.. its absence is a constant reminder of the conflict".
At the conclusion of the war, Fairfax's finances were severely affected and he removed to his other plantation home, Bellegrove, before being forced to sell Oak Hill in 1870. However, according to one of his descendants, Edwin Parker Conquest, Jr., the colonel had given first rite of sale to any member of the Fairfax family. It is therefore possible that Oak Hill stayed in the Fairfax family, but one way or another, the 800-acre plantation was repurchased in 1885 by the colonel's son, Henry Fairfax (1850-1916), who had grown up at Oak Hill before becoming a successful engineer and state senator.
Frank Littleton (1920-1948)
In 1896, Henry Fairfax married Eugenia Baskerville Tennant (1873-1966), a noted equestrian and charity-worker, and Oak Hill became known for it's fine Hackney horses and Short-Horn cattle. Following her husband's death in 1916, Eugenia sold Oak Hill four years later to Frank Campbell Littleton (1873-1951) and his wife Henrietta Olive Trowbridge (1883-1924).
The Littletons had previously lived at Olive's family home, Tahoma, in Mamaroneck, New York, but returned to her husband's native Virginia when it became too expensive to maintain. In 1922, they enlarged the wings either side of the main house and laid out extensive 19th century-style formal gardens that included planting 450 American boxwoods.
The DeLashmutt Family (1948-)
In pursuit of his dream, Littleton still fought to reclaim the property but he was unable to match DeLashmutt's offer following the ninety days allowed after the auction. So upset was Littleton, that he refused to leave any of the original furnishings at Oak Hill and put them up for auction too. Luckily the Delashmutts were later able to buy back several of the home's original antiques.
The beautiful 3.5 acre five-tiered bowl garden, maintained by Gayle, has been featured in Virginia Living among other publications. In 2006, Tom and Gayle were rewarded with the "Preservationist of the Year Award" by the Loudoun Preservation Society. Gayle also was featured in Journey Through Hallowed Ground: Birthplace of the American Ideal (2008), published by National Geographic.
Oak Hill was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1960 and six years later it was added to the National Register of Historic Places before being placed on the Virginia Landmarks Register in 1969. Two U.S. Navy ships have been named USS Oak Hill after the estate.
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