River Farm, the northernmost tract of property that once belonged to George Washington, currently serves as the headquarters for the American Horticultural Society. Given the current owners, the state of the gardens are beyond imagination: a bench made of earth, a whimsical children’s playground with a pirate ship and underground tunnel, a circular garden maze path, sweeping vistas of the Potomac, and yes, bald eagles soaring overhead.
For whatever reasons, this creative tract of land calls to mind the deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum (Lincoln, MA), Gunston Hall (just a boat ride down the Potomac), and The Orchard (Cambridge, UK).
As you arrive, you’ll see a set of iron gates (near entrance of the main building) that stood in front of the White House for 120 years. The gates were installed during the 1819 renovations to repair the damages incurred when the British set the White House on fire (1814) during the War of 1812 (which technically lasted through 1815).
Sitting directly across the Potomac is Harmony Hall Mansion, or as it’s known to Marylanders, “the Mount Vernon of the Maryland side of the river“. George Washington and his family would have visited their (river) neighbors and dined together on freshly caught fish from the Potomac.
Also, it’s important to note, and (posthumously) thank, Enid Annenberg Haupt, for saving River Farm and honoring George Washington, an avid gardener and one of America’s very first horticulturists. In 1971, the Soviets expressed interest in purchasing the property when Malcolm Matheson, its then owner, put River Farm up for sale.
Americans were outraged and protested the sale of land that once belonged to George Washington to the Soviets. Ultimately Congress and the Department of State got involved, called Malcolm, and asked/told him to delist the property. Enid, gracious patriot/philanthropist, enters and secures River Farm for the AHS. And in 1973, First Lady Patricia Nixon joins Enid along the Potomac to plant a ceremonial dogwood tree and celebrate the preservation of this place for future generations.