A Brief Farmington History

Farmington occupies a portion of 4365 acres of land patented in 1735. In 1758 it was purchased by Francis Jerdone, who came to Virginia as an indentured servant and became very successful in the mercantile business. Jerdone lived in Louisa County and while there is no evidence that he ever lived on the Farmington property, he built a mill with a huge millpond on Ivy Creek and did business there. Jerdone was a Tory, and when he died in 1771, his son Francis Jerdone, Jr. inherited Farmington. At the time of the American Revolution, the Commonwealth of Virginia confiscated Tory properties, including Jerdone’s Jr.’s estate. Jerdone regained his inheritance, and in 1785 sold 3421 to George Divers, who became the first owner to live on the property.

George Divers was a lawyer, farmer, successful businessman and magistrate of Albemarle County. His wife, Martha Walker Divers, was the daughter of Dr. Thomas Walker, an esteemed member of Albemarle society and close friend of the Jefferson family. George Divers’ relationship with Thomas Jefferson is first recorded in 1772, and throughout their lives they were good friends, sharing social connections and an avid interest in farming and horticulture. Besides Jefferson, the Divers had social and familial relationships with Meriwether Lewis, James Madison, James Monroe and others of historical significance.

Exactly when the earliest part of the Divers’ home was completed is unknown, but it is safe to say it was finished sometime between 1785 and 1800. Today that structure consists of the hallway with stairs that leads into the Club from the Terrace, the space known as the Library, and the bedrooms above the library. Thomas Jefferson drew plans for an addition to the house in 1802 for his friend George Divers; his plans for the addition survive. Besides the octagonal Jefferson Room, Jefferson also designed a two-story wing with five guest rooms above, and kitchen, laundry room, spinning room, cook’s quarters, dairy, and root cellar below. These rooms are still in use and contain more original, Jefferson-designed fabric than any other Jefferson dependencies, including those at Monticello.

Following the Divers’ deaths, subsequent owners and property divisions, General Bernard Peyton purchased the property, then 800 acres, in 1852. General Peyton was a hero in the War of 1812 and instrumental in the founding of the Virginia Military Institute. Peyton, like other owners of Farmington, had connections to Thomas Jefferson. As a young man, he helped Jefferson gather the workmen and materials for the building of the University of Virginia and served as Jefferson’s business agent in Richmond.

Mary Ann Miller Wood Harper became the owner of Farmington in 1860. Harper, born in England, came to Charlottesville as a child, and became a friend of Thomas Jefferson’s granddaughters. Mary Ann married an Albemarle County man, had two children, and eventually acquired Farmington. A British citizen, she flew the Union Jack, a sign of neutrality, over the house during the Civil War, thus preventing Farmington’s destruction by Union troops. Her family owned the property until 1927.

On June 1, 1927, the Warner Wood Estate granted an option for the property and on August 27, the State Corporation Commission issued a Certificate of Incorporation for the establishment of Farmington Country Club. Farmington, still an 800 acre estate, was ideally suited for this purpose. Its handsome manor house was recognized as a striking example of the neoclassical architecture of the early American republic. The beautifully planted grounds and views of the Blue Ridge Mountains provided an unexcelled background for a country club in Charlottesville, Virginia.

In 1928, work on the roadways, bridle paths and a steeplechase course was well under way. Renowned golf course architect Fred Findlay had begun work on the design and preparation of the course. Under the guidance of Edmund Campbell, first dean of the University of Virginia School of Architecture, the historic manor house was renovated for use as a clubhouse. The Club and grounds were formally opened on May 15, 1929.