George Washington’s Farm

Our most recent renovation, 8708 Camden Street, is located on historic land. The home is located in the Stratford Landing neighborhood, a part of what was once River Farm. In the mid 1650’s, English Captain Giles Brent acquired 1800 acres of land for his son, Giles Jr. The Captains wife was a member of the Piscataway tribe of Native Americans, and the huge parcel of land was named Piscataway Neck. Years later in 1679, Giles Jr returned to England after conflicting with the local Douge tribe and separating from his wife (the first separation in the state of Virginia). He passed away that year, and the land went to his cousin, George Brent, and afterwards in 1739 to a brother-in-law, William Clifton.

Clifton renamed Piscataway Neck as Clifton’s Neck. After experiencing business losses, Clifton began selling parts of the land. His neighbor from nearby Mount Vernon, George Washington, eventually obtained the entire 1800 acres for 1,210 British pounds at Clifton’s bankruptcy sale. Washington renamed the land to River Farm, adding it to his already extensive land holdings. However, our first President never actually lived or worked on the land. At first, he leased it for crop production, and then to various friends and family. In 1859, a century after Washington’s acquisition of the land, his great-nephew Charles Augustine sold 652 acres of River Farm to Quakers from New Jersey. The area attracted them due to its plentiful timber (for the New England shipyards) and the abundance of slave labor in the area.

The Quakers named their property Wellington.  In 1912, Miss Theresa Thompson of the locally owned Thompsons Dairy purchased Wellington, and subsequently sold it to Malcom Matheson in 1919. In 1971, Matheson sought to sell the property, and the Soviet Union offered to buy it. As the Cold War raged on, it made many Americans uncomfortable to think that the farm of our first President could land in the hands of the Soviet Union. Thus, Congress and the Department of State asked Matheson to remove his home from the market. One of the concerned Americans was Enid Annenberg Haupt, a philanthropist, gardener, and member of the Board of Directors of the American Horticultural Society. She purchased the remaining Wellington estate for the Society, for the enjoyment of generations to come. Then First Lady Patricia Nixon, together with Mrs. Haupt, planted a ceremonial dogwood tree in the garden to celebrate.