Morven Park is in Virginia's Piedmont—literally, the "foot of the mountain"—an area of gently rolling hills and fertile soil perfectly suited to farming. The region attracted Westmoreland Davis, a lawyer-turned-farmer brimming with ambitious plans to make Morven Park a model of progressive architecture.The Finest Livestock
Davis and his wife, Marguerite, purchased Morven Park in 1903 and were soon farming over 1,500 acres. Davis set about remodeling the farm's barns and outbuildings, and used new techniques like deep plowing and crop-livestock field rotation.
Even as the nation struggled through the Great Depression, Morven Park prospered. In the mid 1930s, dozen of laborers worked on the farm in the fields, barns, and in its brooder house—the building to your left. The laborers and their families lived simply, in homes like this one, and worked hard to make Morven Park one of Virginia's finest farms.
"All the raising of animals is here not the fad of men of wealth who would play at country life. It is a serious business, productive of actual profit and a deep-seated satisfaction as continuous and well-grounded as i have ever seen taken by men in their vocation."
—Article on Morven Park, Country Living In America, 1908
with His Turkeys
Davis oversaw all parts of the farm's operation, and his close involvement paid off. As one visitor noted, "Morven Park is... a beautiful estate and everything about the place shows the care and attention bestowed upon it."
New York Poultry Show
First Prize Ribbon, 1938
Davis bred only the best of whatever he raised. His Goldbank Bronze turkeys were "unsurpassed anywhere for either exhibition or market purposes" and sold for $10 and up. They were more profitable than any other enterprise on the farm.
Chicken Brooder House Interior
The brooder house, to your left, was state of the art when it was completed in 1938. Its heating, cooling, and ventilation system provided an ideal environment for the young birds. Newly hatched chicks, or poults, first lived in open stalls upstairs. After a few weeks, they were moved downstairs until they were large enough to be sold or put in outdoor pens.
Welcome to Turkey Hill
Between 1923 and 1937, Davis expanded his poultry farm from "eight turkey eggs" to 80,000 "broiler" chickens and 23,000 turkeys. Poultry was raised in the brooder house, while hundreds of turkey houses once dotted this landscape. Today we call this spot where you are standing "Turkey Hill." By Davis's death in 1942, Morven Park was the country's largest producer of turkeys.
Davis stands in her boxwood garden, with the farm's poultry operation in the background.
The Southern Planter
Westmoreland Davis was a champion of agricultural innovation. In 1912, he purchased The Southern Planter, considered the oldest agricultural journal in America, and used it to share results from his experiments with crops, livestock, and growing methods. He published the quarterly until his death in 1942.
From the very start, Davis's Guernsey dairy cows were the heart of Morven Park. His "large and brawny" herd produced milk with over 5% butterfat, which he sold at top dollar to hotels in New York and Washington for use in ice cream.
Morven Park bred successful racehorses, and by the mid 1930s, the farm was one of the famous Saratoga Race Course's main suppliers. The horses sired by Davis's star stallion, Lucullite, won over three hundred races.
Davis's large white hogs were imported from England. Known for packing on weight better than any other pig, the Yorkshires from Morven Park were soon famous—Davis received orders from as far away as Guatemala.
Percheron Draft Horses
Morven Park's herd of Percheron draft horses did the heavy hauling on
the farm. Davis personally on the farm. Davis personally traveled to France to purchase nine mares and a stallion named Vibraye, who alone cost $4,000.
Davis imported his first ewes from a famous flock in Dorchester, England. His ram, named Morven's Best, produced a whopping 17 pounds of wool each shearing. The sheep acted as lawnmowers on the estate, but were moved around to avoid overgrazing.