Annual Spring Party will be held at Farmer’s Delight, Middleburg on April 28th
Brief Description of Farmer’s Delight
Maral S. Kalbian 10 January 2023
Farmer’s Delight was individually listed in the National Register of Historic Places and the Virginia Landmarks Register in 1973 for its architectural and historical significance. The house is two-and-one-half-stories tall with side wings. Built in 1799 for Col. Joseph Lane, the original core of the dwelling remains notable as a well-preserved, late-eighteenth-century, Federal-style brick manor house in the Virginia Piedmont with elaborate period grain painting. Colonel Lane served in the General Assembly and the army during the Whiskey Rebellion of 1794. Farmer’s Delight remained with Lane’s heirs until the Leith family acquired it in the 1850s. The Leiths made no significant alterations or additions to the house. In 1919, Henry Frost, Jr., purchased Farmer’s Delight and used the property for stabling and breeding Thoroughbred race horses. The Frosts constructed two Colonial Revival-style brick wings on the north and south ends of the manor house ca. 1925, and later rear brick wings ca. 1940. They also built numerous farm outbuildings on the property, primarily dedicated to raising horses.
George C. McGhee, former U.S. Ambassador to Turkey and Germany, purchased the estate in 1948. McGhee developed an arboretum and formal terraced gardens on the property, designed by landscape architect Boris Timchenko of Washington, D.C. Further additions to the manor house were constructed under Ambassador McGhee’s ownership in 1962. In 2002, he established the McGhee Foundation, a 501(c)(3) non‐profit charitable organization to protect and preserve the property’s historical, horticultural, and agricultural heritage. The Foundation primarily utilized the property as a site for weddings and other special events, leasing much of the land for cattle grazing. Before his death, McGhee placed Farmer’s Delight under a conservation and preservation easement co-held by the Department of Historic Resources and the Virginia Outdoors Foundation.
In 2013, Dr. Betsee Parker purchased the property and began an extensive rehabilitation and study of the main house. The standing-seam metal roofs were replaced, exterior woodwork was repaired, and much of the late-18th-century brickwork required repointing. As part of the rehab work, Dr. Parker confirmed that much of the original interior paints and finishes were preserved beneath subsequent multiple layers of paint, and included elaborate graining, elegant paint schemes, and extraordinary colored plaster in some of the rooms. Historic graffiti was also uncovered. Many of the paneled doors had intact panels of the original graining, meant to resemble mahogany, with painted inlay lines. Based on the surviving evidence, Dr. Parker had the first-period colors and finishes restored, returning the central block of the Farmer’s Delight house to much of its original appearance. Some of the historic painted areas were exposed beneath the multiple layers of paint that were removed and guided in replicating the graining. This paint scheme was developed either contemporaneously or shortly after the house was constructed in 1799 and reflected fashionable Neoclassical tastes of the time that were inspired by 18th-century archaeological discoveries made at Pompeii and Herculaneum. Dr. Parker continues to restore and preserve the main house, outbuildings, and landscape, returning the property to its former glory.