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Photograph courtesy of Shannon Bell

Begun in 1804 and embellished over the next two decades, this monumental mansion, along with its numerous outbuildings and extensive gardens, forms one of the nation's most elaborate Federal estates. The complex was developed by George Carter, one of the scions of prominent Tidewater families who migrated to Northern Virginia after the Revolution. Carter developed the mansion's design from illustrations in William Chambers's A Treatise on Civil Architecture (1786). With its stuccoed walls, demi-octagonal wings, parapeted roof, and a portico of slender Corinthian columns added by Carter in 1827, the house has a special lightness and elegance. The airy rooms with their intricate Federal ornamentation complement the exterior.

Prosperous and newly married during the 1840s, Carter made interior changes that echoed the popular Greek Revival style of the time. A miller's residence, brick manufactory, blacksmith shop, store, school and church soon followed as Oatlands quickly grew into a 3,000-acre working plantation. Other structures built by Carter include the stone and brick staircases and walls, a smoke house, a brick greenhouse with a hot-water heating system, and a granary. Oatlands's gardens were also designed by George Carter, who constructed ingenious connecting terraces which, by sheltering the area from wind, extended the growing season to supply food for the plantation.

Historic view of Oatlands, date unknown
Photograph courtesy of Virginia Department of Historic Resources Archives

Oatlands fared well during the Civil War compared to many other plantations, but after the war George II and Kate Carter, beset by mounting debts and numerous dependents, began operating Oatlands as a summer boarding house, a country retreat for affluent Washingtonians. This didn't produce the income needed to sustain a great home like Oatlands, and in 1897 they were forced to sell. Oatlands was briefly owned by founder of the Washington Post Stilson Hutchins, who never lived on the property. In 1903 Oatlands was sold to William Corcoran Eustis, grandson of banker and philanthropist William Wilson Corcoran and his wife Edith, who restored Oatlands to its former splendor.

Although Mr. Eustis died in 1921, Mrs. Eustis remained at Oatlands until her death in 1964. The Eustis daughters presented the estate (which had been reduced to 261 acres), house, and furnishings to the National Trust for Historic Preservation in 1965. Oatlands was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1972.

Oatlands is located south of the junction of Rtes. 15 and 651 in Leesburg. The property is a National Historic Landmark. It is open Monday-Saturday 10:00am to 5:00pm, Sunday 1:00pm to 5:00pm April-December. There is a fee for admission. Call 703-777-3174 or visit their website for further information.


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