Setting the Record Straight About the Sale of River Farm
For nearly 100 years, the American Horticultural Society (AHS) has called Alexandria, Virginia home. Our national nonprofit, dedicated to sharing the art and science of growing plants throughout the country, was founded in Alexandria in 1922. In the early 1970s, we purchased and moved our headquarters to River Farm, former farmland that, centuries ago, was owned by George Washington. We feel privileged to be among the stewards who have owned and cared for this property. This past September, due to our organization’s financial challenges, we announced River Farm would be put up for sale.
Since that announcement, there have been widespread rumors and misstatements of fact which we feel compelled to correct.
Contrary to many recent reports and statements, our desire is to not sell River Farm for future subdivision or development, but rather for it to remain a single-use property, preferably with continued opportunities for public access and enjoyment going forward.
We would also like to clear up questions that have been raised about the existence of binding obligations connected to the generous donation from former AHS Board Member Enid Haupt, which allowed us to purchase River Farm for our headquarters. It was at her request, but not a requirement or condition of the donation, that the public could have free access to walk and explore the grounds of River Farm during regular operating hours. While we have found no documents that create an obligation, we have been happy to honor Ms. Haupt’s wishes and have welcomed the community to enjoy AHS’s River Farm grounds at no charge since we established our headquarters here nearly 50 years ago.
Our purpose in selling River Farm is to pay expenses and create an endowment for our long-term survival. Like many small nonprofits, AHS has struggled financially in recent years and the pandemic has all but stopped essential revenue streams needed to maintain our day-to-day operations and our mission-focused programming while also shouldering the tremendous maintenance costs for the early 20th Century homestead at River Farm and its 27 acres of land. These serious financial challenges, among others, led to our board’s decision this fall to sell River Farm. The funds raised will allow our nonprofit to create an endowment that will ensure our organization and our programs can continue indefinitely
We understand the uneasiness our neighbors feel not knowing what the sale may mean for River Farm. Contrary to published reports, we have worked diligently to be as transparent as possible and to have an open constructive dialogue with community leaders. In fact, we have been in – and continue to have – ongoing bi-weekly conversations with Mount Vernon District Supervisor Daniel G. Storck and Paul Gilbert of NOVA Parks, among others, who have been working to put together a purchase offer that could meet both AHS’s objectives and those of the community. We have voluntarily extended timelines and been flexible with other considerations to support these community efforts to protect centuries-old River Farm.
We in turn ask for the community to recognize and support our efforts to protect our century-old, Alexandria-born nonprofit as we strive to keep our national mission alive for the next 100 years.
Terry Hayes, Board Chair
American Horticultural Society