Posted on Mar 16, 2016 in Historic | No Comments

Morven Window Restoration Project Under Way

Dating back to the colonial era, Morven is a historic estate located in southeastern Albemarle County. The historic dwellings, the Claim House and the Main House, were constructed in the early 19th century and remain preserved today. Though it has changed hands many times, each owner maintains and improves the estate for future generations.

Morven was once part of a 9,350 acre land grant claimed in 1730 by John Carter, Secretary of the Virginia Colony. A 1,334 acre tract known as Indian Camp was divided from the original land grant and sold by William Champe Carter in 1795. Thomas Jefferson purchased Indian Camp for William Short, whom Jefferson referred to as his “adoptive son.”  Short served as Jefferson’s private secretary during Jefferson’s term as US Minister to France. As a career diplomat, Short was often abroad, remaining in France after Jefferson’s departure, then as Minister to the Netherlands and to Spain. In Short’s absence, Jefferson oversaw the estate, finding tenant farmers, collecting rent and paying taxes as needed. Indian Camp, situated four miles south of Monticello, was purchased for Short in the hopes that he would settle there upon his return to the country. When Short decided to live in Philadelphia instead, the estate was deeded in 1813 to David Higginbotham, a prominent merchant and friend of Thomas Jefferson.

Higginbotham renamed the estate to “Morven.” The Claim House was built around 1815 as a temporary structure to oversee the construction on a larger house. Jefferson drew up the initial designs for the Main House, which included three octagonal bays, but the plans were never constructed. Higginbotham employed Martin Thacker, a master builder, to construct a more conventional design instead. Thacker built a five bay brick structure fronted by a one story Tuscan portico which protected the main entry to the house. Completed in 1821, the architectural pattern utilized for Main House was a combination of late Georgian, Federal, and Roman Revival.

Morven received its first renovation in the early 1900s. Owners Samuel and Josephine Marshall engaged the services of Baltimore architect Howard Sill to expand the Main House. Sill added a two morven windows removedstory, three bay brick Colonial Revival addition on the north side of the Main House.  Further updates were performed in 1928 under owners Charles and Mary Stone. The Stones commissioned Boston architect Joseph Chandler to add a west terrace and attic dormers. These modifications bring Morven’s Main House to the appearance it bears today. Morven’s addition to the Virginia Landmarks Register and the National Register of Historic Places in 1973 formalized its care and historic preservation. When John Kluge gifted the estate to the University of Virginia in 2001, he ensured that Morven would be preserved for educational purposes in perpetuity.

Morven’s present owner, The University of Virginia Foundation, undertook a window preservation project in 2015. Morven’s historic windows were mended and rehabilitated by Martin Horn with the expert assistance of Richmond renovation contractor Dixon Kerr of Old House Authority. Quinn Evans Architects of Washington, D.C. provided detailed specifications on the removal and repair of Morven’s antique windows. The use of chemical strippers and damaging physical treatments, such as sandblasting, were strictly forbidden. Kerr used a steambox to uncover the original wood from over 100 years of paint. Martin Horn combined modern technology with vintage materials to restore the windows to operable function while retaining its historic glass and sashes.

Martin Horn is proud to manage this project and to be part of the window restoration team for Morven’s Main House. We’re happy to forge connections with dedicated and knowledgeable specialty craftsmen like Dixon Kerr. Through these relationships, we are able to protect and enjoy historical places like Morven for many generations to come.