In 1930, as a wedding gift to his bride, John Hay “Jock” Whitney gave Mary Elizabeth “Liz” Altemus the sprawling hunt country estate known as Llangollen. Now, nearly a century later, the Upperville, Va., property is on the market for $27.5 million.
Leven Powell received title to the land from Lord Fairfax and built the house in 1795, calling it Llangollen, after a town in Wales. Powell, who founded Middleburg, Va., made his fortune off tenant farmers and enslaved labor. His son Cuthbert Powell inherited Llangollen in 1810 and added on to the house in 1820.
After the Civil War, Llangollen fell into decline before Harry Toulmin, the attorney who secured the patent for Orville and Wilbur Wright’s “flying machine,” bought it in 1908 and undertook a lavish rehabilitation of the manor house 10 years later.
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The Whitneys shared a passion for horses, among their many other pursuits. Liz was an accomplished horsewoman before her marriage and introduced thoroughbred racing to Llangollen. Jock was a scion of the wealthy and socially prominent Whitney family and later became one of the richest men in America — as well as U.S. ambassador to the United Kingdom, publisher of the New York Herald Tribune and trustee of the Museum of Modern Art. He brought polo to Llangollen.
The Whitneys founded the Llangollen Race Meeting, a steeplechase that attracted 20,000 spectators. They transformed the manor house in 1931 and added nine guesthouses, a polo field, a racetrack, a training track and the estate’s famous horseshoe-shaped stables.
Over the years, Llangollen became the center of the area’s social and equestrian scene, welcoming such notable guests as Bing Crosby, Doris Duke, Sen. Joseph McCarthy, heavyweight boxing champion Gene Tunney, jockey Eddie Arcaro and Prince Aly Khan, who married film actress Rita Hayworth.
The Whitneys’ marriage lasted 10 years. Liz would marry three more times. Llangollen thrived under her stewardship, becoming one of the major racing stables in the United States. But by the time of her death in 1988, Llangollen had fallen into disrepair.
Roy Ash, a California businessman who was a budgetary adviser in Richard M. Nixon’s and Gerald Ford’s administrations, acquired Llangollen in 1989, saving the manor house from developers who wanted to tear it down to build houses. Ash restored the house and modernized it.
Donald Brennan, the former head of Morgan Stanley Capital Partners, and his wife, Patricia, bought Llangollen in 2006 for a then-record $22 million, the highest amount paid for a hunt country estate at that time. The Brennans added three polo fields and an arena. The estate was most recently home to Virginia International Polo Club, started by their daughter, Maureen.
The 12,500-square-foot manor house has 24 rooms, 17 fireplaces, nine bedrooms and 11 bathrooms.
The 1,100-acre property, which has been added to the National Register of Historic Places, is in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. It includes eight tenant houses, a jockey guesthouse, a three-car stone garage with a two-bedroom apartment, stables for 100 horses, nine run-in sheds, an ice house, a potting shed, a smithy, eight ponds and six miles of roads.
- Bedrooms/bathrooms: 9/11 (manor house)
- Approximate square-footage: 12,500 (manor house)
- Lot size: 1,100 acres
- Features: The 1795 manor house was added on to and renovated in 1820, 1918, 1931 and 1989. John Hay “Jock” Whitney and his wife, Liz, turned the estate into the center of the area’s social and equestrian scene, welcoming guests such as Bing Crosby, Doris Duke and Prince Aly Khan. The property includes eight tenant houses, a jockey guesthouse, a three-car stone garage with a two-bedroom apartment, stables for 100 horses, nine run-in sheds, an ice house, a potting shed, smithy, eight ponds and six miles of roads.
- Listing agent: Peter Leonard-Morgan, Hunt Country Sotheby’s International Realty