- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 21, 2003

ELKTON, Md. (AP) — The Historic Elk Landing Foundation says it will meet soon to decide what to do about a letter written by Thomas Jefferson that did not sell this week at a Christie’s auction.

“We’re not in any immediate need for the money,” said foundation President Mike Dixon. He said the nonprofit may offer the letter again for auction in December, when Christie’s holds its next manuscript auction.

The letter, dated July 2, 1801, wasn’t sold at auction Tuesday in New York, failing to attract a minimum, undisclosed asking price. Bidding reached $550,000.

The document, appraised last year by a manuscript expert from Christie’s Auction House at $700,000, was listed in the auction catalog at an estimated value from $600,000 to $800,000.

“This story is far from over,” Mr. Dixon said. “I would be much happier to go home and be able to report that it sold for $1 million, but it didn’t.”

The foundation board will meet to discuss its options, he said.

The foundation could also sell the document to a private buyer. Chris Coover, Christie’s historic-document expert, told Mr. Dixon that a private party called just after bidding closed Tuesday morning to express interest in the Jefferson letter.

“We’ll keep in contact with Coover,” Mr. Dixon said. The letter will remain in Christie’s custody for now, he said.

The letter was found last year in an envelope at the Hollingsworth House in Elkton, a colonial-era home that’s being converted into a museum by the Elk Landing Foundation. Joanna Alford, on her first day as a volunteer with the group, found the letter while cleaning.

The foundation was planning to use cash from the sale for a living-history park at the head of the Chesapeake Bay. When the nonprofit started three years ago, it set a goal of raising $3 million to $5 million for the restoration.

Foundation members estimated that it would take 10 years to turn Elk Landing into a mini-Williamsburg. The foundation has raised $1.7 million toward its goal.

“If the results had been more favorable today, we could have cut our timetable in half,” Mr. Dixon said. “If the letter sold today, I would be on the phone calling the contractors and the architects and saying, ‘Do it.’”

The letter’s content accounts for its value, officials said. It was written shortly after Jefferson’s contested presidential victory and speaks about the benefits of the American Revolution and the imperative for religious freedom.

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