- - Thursday, April 19, 2012

A mixture of politics, equestrian pursuits, architecture, art and spectacular gardens make Ashleigh, a 98-acre estate in Delaplane, Va., one of the most unusual properties to come on the market in years.

The land of Ashleigh, originally part of Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall’s Oak Hill estate, is graced with an elegant stone-and-stucco Greek Revival home built in approximately 1840. Margaret Marshall Smith, Marshall’s granddaughter, designed this elegant country estate for herself and her husband and commissioned master builder William Sutton to build the residence. Sutton is known for having built other local estate homes, including the Maples and Woodside.

Ashleigh, listed at $3,495,000, is at the intersection of Winchester Road (Route 17) and Route 55 in Fauquier County.

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places and Virginia Historic Landmarks Register, Ashleigh’s main residence rests on a knoll that maximizes the impact of the expansive four-season gardens.


The grounds include massive boxwoods that are trimmed biannually by the Boxwood Society, gardens with mature plantings and perennials, and a charming, partially covered path lined with peonies. Outdoor sculptures also are part of the grounds, many of them part of the collection of the last owner of Ashleigh, the late Sandra Whitney Payson, an art collector and trustee on the board of the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City.

In addition to extensive gardens, the Ashleigh property includes a heated swimming pool surrounded by a stone patio. Adjacent to the patio is a two-bedroom, two-bath pool house with a full kitchen and a family room. Close to the main house is another guest cottage with two bedrooms and two baths.

Payson, an active philanthropist, art collector and political activist, enjoyed entertaining at Ashleigh along with enhancing the property. In the 1970s, she brought Manhasset Stable, a thoroughbred breeding stable, to Ashleigh. The stable includes several barns and tack rooms, run sheds and a machine shed. Attached to the largest barn are two living quarters for farm managers. The stable ceased operations upon Payson’s death in 2004.

The main residence, which has five bedrooms, five full baths, a powder room and seven fireplaces, has been expanded and renovated several times. The columned front portico offers spectacular views of the grounds as well as an elegant setting for greeting guests.

The grand hall, a 36-by-12-foot space, includes wide molding, heart pine floors and a nearly 13-foot ceiling. Eight-foot heart pine doors open into a light-filled double drawing room with a fireplace at each end of the room and a wet bar. Floor-to-ceiling windows open onto decorative iron balconies that overlook the stone terrace, fountain and gardens.

A second entrance to the home, used most often by friends and family, leads into the English basement level. Smith designed the home to fit into its surroundings and into a hillside, so the lower level is above ground yet stays cooler in the summer.

The lower-level entrance leads into a gallery with a stone floor and a tile mural commissioned by Payson. The mural, by local artist Joan Gardiner, depicts Payson’s family on a hunting trip in Georgia.

The gallery leads to a generously sized sitting room with an entrance into the formal dining room. The dining room includes French doors that lead to the terrace. Also off the sitting room is a library, which is finished with pine paneling reclaimed from the White House during the Hoover administration by Dr. Edmund Horgan when he owned Ashleigh.

Ashleigh includes two wings connected by a stairway, with the west wing including a kitchen with upgraded appliances and cherry cabinetry. Next to the kitchen are a sun-filled breakfast room, an office and the powder room.

The upper level of the west wing includes a private master suite with a foyer, including extensive closets and a powder room. Next is a sitting room with 10-foot ceilings, heart pine flooring and a fireplace. The suite also includes a generously proportioned master bedroom and a full bath.

The upper level of the east wing, accessed from the grand hall, has two bedrooms and two full baths. In 2001, Payson added a 28-by-28-foot octagonal library to house her collections of art and books. This addition also has a wood-paneled elevator and a full bath. On the lower level of this wing are a walk-in safe, a wine room, a second kitchen, two bedrooms, a full bath, storage rooms and access to the garage.

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