Joseph B. Thomas leased Burrland from 1911 to 1912, during which time he operated it as a fox-hunting inn. He held the organizational meeting of the American Foxhound Club at Burrland in 1912.
William Ziegler Jr., the sole heir to the Royal Baking Powder fortune, bought Burrland in 1926 and transformed it into one of the area’s most successful thoroughbred breeding and training farms. He hired New York architect William Lawrence Bottomley to design an addition to the 1879 main house. Bottomley reportedly also designed the barns.
Using mule-drawn graders, Ziegler installed a three-quarter-mile track made of clay covered with a sand mixture and encircled by white board fencing. There is a movable starting gate, and furlong poles are interspersed along the track.
The track was the site of the 1931 Burrland Race Meet, a horse show, race and barbecue sponsored by Ziegler. Before 1956, it was the main track used by area racehorse trainers, with 80 to 100 horses exercising on it daily, according to National Register of Historic Places documentation.
Because the track is in the front yard of the main house, what used to be the manager’s house, it is possible to watch the horses train without leaving the comforts of home.
The original main house, with the Bottomley-designed addition, was destroyed by a subsequent owner, Eleonora Randolph Sears. The wealthy socialite acquired Burrland Farm in 1955 and sold it in 1966. Sears’s 1968 obituary in the Washington Star called her “one of the world’s pioneer sportswomen.” She won trophies in tennis, squash and horse show competitions. She was one of the first women to fly an airplane, crossing Boston Harbor. She also was listed among the best dressed women in America.
Because of a dispute over property taxes, she burned down the main residence in 1961, according to National Register of Historic Places documentation.
The structure that is on the site of the original main house was moved to Burrland in 1972. It was built in 1907 in Norfolk for the Travelers Protective Association as part of the 300th anniversary of the first permanent English settlement in North America. After the exposition, the building was dismantled and moved to Middleburg, where the United Daughters of the Confederacy used it as a meeting place. James P. Mills, who bought Burrland in 1966, moved it to the farm. It is now used for events such as weddings.
Mills’s wife, the former Alice duPont, renamed the property Hickory Tree Farm after an old hickory tree used by Confederate Col. John S. Mosby’s partisan cavalry as a rendezvous spot during the Civil War, according to “The Middleburg Mystique,” a book by Vicky Moon. The tree has since been destroyed by lightning.
The property includes the four-bedroom, six-bathroom main house, a heated saltwater swimming pool, a pond, two 20-stall barns, a 28-stall barn with a Belmont-style indoor track, a nine-stall polo barn, a six-stall stallion barn, a six-furlong track with movable starting gate, 20 paddocks, five fenced fields, five tenant houses, a two-bedroom guesthouse, a hall with a flagstone terrace and gardens, equipment sheds, storage buildings and an underground fire-suppression system. The land is protected by a Virginia Outdoor Foundation Conservation easement. It is listed at just under $8 million.
Listing: 2120 Burrland Lane, The Plains, Va.
Previous House of the Week
More Real Estate: