Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Lady Liz Whitney of Llangollen

Mary Elizabeth Whitney Person Tippett, born Mary Elizabeth Altemus, in 1906, was a well-known American socialite who loved and owned horses. She was an accomplished horse show rider who later became a very successful owner and breeder of race horses. Liz graced the cover of the Middleburg Classic prize list a few years back:

 She was born in Pennsylvania to a wealthy textile business owner and a 1939 Time magazine article described her as "a spirited, devil-may-care rider who has been winning ribbons on the horse show circuit for 15 years."

In 1930 she married Jock Whitney, publisher of the New York Herald Tribune and later U.S. Ambassador to Britain.  For a wedding present he purchased Llangollen, a sprawling estate in Upperville, Virginia, just down the road from Middleburg.  While they divorced in 1940, Liz kept the estate and $3 million.  She lived at the estate until she died in 1988 of cancer at 82.  The property was sold in 1989 for $7 to Roy L. Ash of Litton Industries farm who saved it from developers. The estate was sold again in 2007 after a complete renovation for an astounding $22 million which included about 1100 acres. When Whitney owned the farm it was closer to 4000 acres. Today the farm is in conservation easement.

The estate is impressive and it sits on a knoll facing east but you see it for miles.  The house has 19 rooms.

Here is a photo of the house taken around 1920 or so. Looks a lot different then:

Llangollen, which in Welsh means land's end, also has eight smaller homes where farm workers and grounds keepers lived and six barns, including one shaped like a horseshoe and another that was used as a dairy barn.  The house was built in the 1700's and among those who visited the farm in the early days were George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and the Marquis de Lafayette. 

 ( photos)

Whitney entertained the rich and the famous at her estate including Bing Crosby, Eddie Accaro and Prince Aly Khan among others.  According to writer Vicky Moon, Whitney hosted wild hunt balls and often brought her favorite horse into the mansion's great room.  She had thirty-five dogs and was a real animal lover all of her life.   

Liz successfully bred and raced numerous horses during her lifetime. Among the most successful (of which there were many) was Porterhouse - 1953 Champion 2-year-old colt. He won the Belmont Futurity Stakes, San Carlos Handicap (1955, 1956), Santa Barbara Handicap (1956), defeated Swaps in the 1956 Californian Stakes. Liz also bred Sherluck, winner of the 1961 Belmont Stakes.

Whitney a posthumous inductee into the Virginia Thoroughbred Association's Hall of Fame in 2004.

1 comment:

  1. It is wonderful that this house, unlike so many other historic properties in the area, was rescued, restored, and preserved. God bless the people who do this, saving Virginia's heritage of history for all of us.


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