A president, a queen and a prince were among the select few to receive a highly sought-after invitation to Oak Spring Farms, the sprawling estate of Rachel Lambert Lloyd Mellon in Upperville, Va.
Mellon, whom everyone called Bunny, was fiercely private and publicity averse. She shied away from the spotlight even though she counted among her friends some of the world’s most famous people, including John F. and Jacqueline Kennedy, frequent visitors to the 2,000-acre property, and Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Charles, who dropped by for tea.
Oak Spring Farms belonged to her husband, Paul Mellon, the only son of financier Andrew Mellon. Paul Mellon built the 10,000-square-foot neo-Georgian mansion, designed in 1941 by architect William Adams Delano and known as Brick House for his first wife, Mary Conover Brown.
Bunny Mellon, who died in March at 103, was born to wealth and married wealth. Her grandfather made his fortune producing Listerine mouthwash. Her father was president of Gillette. She married Paul Mellon, a second marriage for both of them, in 1948. Paul Mellon died in 1999 at 91.
The Mellons had several homes around the world, but Oak Spring was where they spent most of their time.
After they were married, they built a cottage on the property where they resided and used Brick House to display their vast art collection, which included several hundred paintings by artists such as Picasso, Seurat, Hopper and Homer. The Mellons’ collection is being auctioned in November by Sotheby’s, which estimates it could fetch more than $100 million.
Oak Spring was well-suited to their interests. Bunny Mellon, a self-taught horticulturist, had a passion for gardening. Her gardens were featured in Architectural Digest and Vanity Fair. She also, at the request of the Kennedys, restored the Rose Garden and the East Garden at the White House. The flowers for President John F. Kennedy’s funeral cortege were arranged by her.
Paul Mellon was keen on horses, especially for fox hunting, and became a top breeder of race horses. A bronze statue of his Kentucky Derby winner, Sea Hero, can be found on the grounds.
Along with the greenhouses and equestrian facilities, the property includes a working dairy farm, a clock tower, a pool house designed by I.M. Pei and a private airstrip. The guest house where the Kennedys often stayed is one of two-dozen residential structures on the estate.
The Mellons’ primary residence, the cottage designed by H. Page Cross, is not part of the sale. The home, 100 acres of land and Bunny’s 10,000-volume horticultural library were bequeathed to the Gerald B. Lambert Foundation.
The estate is listed at $70 million.
Listing: Oak Spring Rd., Upperville, Va.
Previous House of the Week