UVA Foundation Protects Morven Land Through Conservation Easement

Arial view of the trees

The conservation easement protects land situated near the historic homes of three presidents. (Photo by Sanjay Suchak, University Communications)

More than 1,150 acres of land situated near the historic homes of three presidents in Albemarle County will be permanently protected by a conservation easement placed by the University of Virginia Foundation, UVA President Jim Ryan announced today.

The rural property adjacent to the historic Morven Farm was acquired by the foundation in 2001 as part of a gift by the late John W. Kluge.

The conservation easement, which is valued at $3,750,000, will protect the property by limiting its uses to those consistent with the conservation values of Morven Farm and Albemarle County and restricting its development.

“This decision will preserve this rural landscape for generations of students, faculty and members of our community to enjoy,” Ryan said. “I am grateful to the UVA Foundation for its vision and for taking this important step.”

The Albemarle Conservation Easement Authority voted in October to accept the easement and restrictions on the property and the easement agreement was recorded by the UVA Foundation this month.

Large portions of the property, known as Morven East, are visible from Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello and share a common boundary with property owned by the College of William & Mary, located across Route 795 from Highland, James Monroe’s home. The property is located in the Southern Albemarle Rural Historic District and is part of a rich historical area that also includes James Madison’s home, Montpelier.

“As we look to the future for Morven and the University, we felt the conservation easement was most appropriate for us and the community and consistent with our stewardship responsibilities,” said Kevin J. Fay, chairman of the UVA Foundation Board of Directors.

“This is a neighborhood of historical homesteads and farms and we wanted to be sure we’re not changing the nature of the area,” UVA Foundation CEO Tim Rose said. “We’re grateful for the support of the county in making this happen.”

The Morven East property has 374 acres of soils designated as “prime” and 565 acres of soils designated as “locally important” for agriculture in the Albemarle County Comprehensive Plan. Agricultural use is allowed under the terms of the conservation easement.

The property is classic Virginia Piedmont, featuring rolling countryside, wooded acreage and a geologic transition to the Blue Ridge Mountains to the west.

The property also contains approximately 11,186 linear feet of streams that are part of the Buck Island Creek watershed, which feeds into the Rivanna River. Protection of the property though this easement will help protect the water quality of these important water resources.

The 2,913-acre Morven estate includes 43 buildings, including the 729-acre Morven core, to be held in perpetuity. The gift also includes the renowned Formal Gardens, circa 1930, and the Japanese Garden constructed in the mid-1990s. The buildings and improvements in the Morven core will be maintainied in perpetuity and lie outside the boundaries of the conservation easement. 

Kluge, an entrepreneur and philanthropist, gifted the land on which Morven sits to the foundation for educational and charitable purpose. Throughout the year, Morven hosts a variety of programs, events and University retreats. 

Media Contact

Wesley P. Hester

Office of University Communications