American Horticultural Society Sets the Record Straight About River Farm Sale

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American Horticultural Society shares details on planned sale of River Farm

River Farm, located on the Potomac River in Alexandria, Virginia, is now up for sale.

Our purpose in selling River Farm is to pay expenses and create an endowment for our long-term survival.

The American Horticultural Society (AHS) today released a statement correcting what the organization says is widespread public misinformation regarding the sale of AHS’s Virginia headquarters known as River Farm.

AHS, a national nonprofit dedicated to sharing the art and science of growing plants throughout the country, was founded in Alexandria in 1922. In the early 1970s, AHS purchased and moved its headquarters to River Farm, former farmland that, centuries ago, was owned by George Washington. This past September, due to financial challenges, AHS announced River Farm would be put up for sale.

Since that announcement, Board Chair Terry Hayes says there have been widespread rumors and misstatements of fact.

“Contrary to many recent reports and statements, our desire is to not sell River Farm for future subdivision or development, but rather for it to remain a single-use property, preferably with continued opportunities for public access and enjoyment going forward,” said Hayes in a public statement released today.

“We would also like to clear up questions that have been raised about the existence of binding obligations connected to the generous donation from former AHS Board Member Enid Haupt, which allowed us to purchase River Farm for our headquarters. It was at her request, but not a requirement or condition of the donation, that the public could have free access to walk and explore the grounds of River Farm during regular operating hours. While we have found no documents that create an obligation, we have been happy to honor Ms. Haupt’s wishes and have welcomed the community to enjoy AHS’s River Farm grounds at no charge since we established our headquarters here nearly 50 years ago.

“Our purpose in selling River Farm is to pay expenses and create an endowment for our long-term survival. Like many small nonprofits, AHS has struggled financially in recent years and the pandemic has all but stopped essential revenue streams needed to maintain our day-to-day operations and our mission-focused programming while also shouldering the tremendous maintenance costs for the early 20th Century homestead at River Farm and its 27 acres of land. These serious financial challenges, among others, led to our board’s decision this fall to sell River Farm. The funds raised will allow our nonprofit to create an endowment that will ensure our organization and our programs can continue indefinitely.

“We understand the uneasiness our neighbors feel not knowing what the sale may mean for River Farm. Contrary to published reports, we have worked diligently to be as transparent as possible and to have an open constructive dialogue with community leaders. In fact, we have been in – and continue to have - ongoing bi-weekly conversations with Mount Vernon District Supervisor Daniel G. Storck and Paul Gilbert of NOVA Parks, among others, who have been working to put together a purchase offer that could meet both AHS’s objectives and those of the community. We have voluntarily extended timelines and been flexible with other considerations to support these community efforts to protect centuries-old River Farm.

“We in turn ask for the community to recognize and support our efforts to protect our century-old, Alexandria-born nonprofit as we strive to keep our national mission alive for the next 100 years.”

Hayes says AHS’s goal is to find a new steward for River Farm who will respect the land and its long history.

The current listing with Alexandria realtor, Sue Goodhart of the Goodhart Group of Compass, describes the property as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to own 27.5 acres of riverfront property in the Washington, DC metropolitan area, with unobstructed views of the Potomac River and impeccably maintained gardens.

“Imagine owning an estate renowned for its unobstructed views of the Potomac River and impeccably maintained gardens. Just 20 minutes from Washington, DC, River Farm, a sweeping 27.5-acre property located on the Potomac River, is on the market for the first time in nearly 50 years.

“The charm of the past envelops you immediately upon entering the property. As you wind through the circular driveway you will see the 11,000 square foot stone manor house nestled in an elegant park-like setting. As you gaze across the gardens, you'll take in expansive views of the Potomac River. The existing home is currently being used as offices for the American Horticultural Society, but as you step through the front door of the stately manor house, it's easy to envision its history as a private residence. To the right, you'll find a large parlor with a beautiful view of the river and just beyond the foyer, a dining room perfect for entertaining. Walk down the hallway, a gracious ballroom with a spectacular vista of the grounds. Ascend the stairs to the second level, and you'll find six bedrooms and four bathrooms. The lower level of the home contains ample storage. Original trim, windows and floors are found throughout the home, and the Potomac is visible from many of the rooms. Just off the ballroom is a large bluestone terrace framed on one side by a stately hedge of English boxwood. As you tour the property, you'll encounter a series of perennial gardens, a children's garden, and a naturalistic four-acre meadow. River Farm also includes a carriage house, cottage and two storage garages.”

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Leslie Komet Ausburn
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