One of Albemarle County’s most historic homes will be renovated from stem to stern, just in time for its 200th anniversary.
About a hundred years after its last full renovation, it’s time to refit and refinish Morven House, a spacious brick home on 2,913 acres at the base of Carters Mountain.
Fred Missel, director of design and development for the University of Virginia Foundation, said the project will help maintain the building and make it easier to host conferences and international groups.
The foundation manages the building on behalf of UVa, which uses the building for events, training and international conferences. Plumbing, mechanical and electrical systems all have reached the end of their lives, Missel said, and despite a few smaller projects over the years, it had become clear that an overhaul was needed.
“A few things came together to nudge forward the need to renovate,” Missel said. “We all felt collectively that strategically, the best thing to do was to take the whole building offline and do a top to bottom renovation.”
Morven was originally part of a 10,000-acre grant to John Carter, the son of Robert “King” Carter, the Virginia colony’s most powerful landowner. The spot previously was called Indian Camp, presumably in reference to a Native American settlement nearby. Thomas Jefferson drew up some of the plans for the house for his friend David Higginbotham, who built Morven in 1821. Higginbotham hired Martin Thacker to build the late Georgian home.
The estate became a renowned horse farm in 1926 under Charles Stone, who added a west terrace and attic dormers to the main house and updated the gardens.
“Morven survives as a distinguished early-nineteenth century country house and farm complex in Albemarle County, and is regarded by many as the epitome of a Piedmont Virginia estate,” wrote Whitney Stone, Charles Stone’s son, in his application to add the estate to the National Register of Historic Places in 1973. “The pleasing proportions of the house and its finely detailed features, such as the modillion cornice, are unusually well developed for a rural house of the period, and serve to emphasize the sophistication of country life in early Albemarle County.”
After Whitney Stone and his wife, Anne Stone, died, John W. Kluge, Albemarle’s biggest landowner at the time, purchased Morven in 1988 for $8.5 million. Then, in 2000, Kluge gave his estate to UVa. It was valued at more than $45 million at the time.
“I have gotten to know the university, to respect its commitment to excellence and to see firsthand how it runs its business,” Kluge, who died in 2010, told The Daily Progress at the time of the donation. “I am entrusting the university with this property because I know that [UVa President] John Casteen and the people who follow him will be good stewards of this gift.”
The UVa Foundation updated curtains, wallpaper and furnishings when the provost’s office began using Morven for events and programs. The historic trimmings will stay, Missel said.
“We are keeping most of the spaces the way they are now,” he said.
The foundation recently issued a request for proposals for a construction manager. According to the document, the project will include updating bathrooms, adding an elevator, creating additional guest suites from the current five and wiring for internet, TV and phones.
The foundation already has hired Glave & Holmes Architecture to provide designs. Missel said the project’s budget has not been finalized and construction is expected to begin in spring 2019.