Though he already had a country house near Charlottesville, Minor bought Carter’s Grove in 2007 intending to make it his part-time residence and a thoroughbred farm. He announced a plan to buy racetracks on the East Coast, including Miami’s Hialeah Park and Baltimore’s Pimlico. Moreover, a splendidly renovated Carter’s Grove would have been a fitting stage from which Minor might launch a long-hinted run for the Virginia governorship.
But Minor never moved into Carter’s Grove. It has sat empty and neglected for years. The historic treasure is falling apart.
In February, inspectors from Virginia’s Department of Historic Resources found a leaking roof, broken climate-control system, pervasive rot, cracked paneling and indications that the house is shifting and may be unsound.
“This deterioration has now reached a critical level and is accelerating rapidly,” Minor was warned in a Feb. 24 letter. “Irreversible damage ... has occurred.”
DHR mailed its stern letter to Le Petit Trianon — itself in such disrepair that the city of San Francisco in March 2011 cited it as an abandoned building. DHR lawyer Gillian Bearns says Minor has not responded to the department’s efforts to discuss problems at the property. Nor did Minor respond to several interview requests submitted to his lawyer for this story.
It seems the decline of Virginia’s Georgian jewel is inexorably tied up in the declining fortunes of the imperious man who had such grand aspirations for both Carter’s Grove and himself. And in the wake of it all, a valuable and once-beautiful piece of American history is being lost.
The de-escalation of Minor’s wealth may well be as historic and representative of this era as Carter’s Grove is of Colonial America.
In a series of what used to politely be called “reversals,” Minor lost the bulk of his fortune. That $100 million spending spree collided with the great financial panic of the fall of 2008. And Minor, who had been borrowing heavily, was caught short.
Suits and countersuits followed. Sotheby’s had his accounts frozen as it sought to collect money for art Minor had bought in 2008. Christie’s sued. Merrill Lynch abruptly called a $25 million loan and seized the assets in Minor’s other Merrill accounts; Minor sued, claiming illegal seizure. Suits were filed over the failed Charlottesville hotel.