Capital Region Land Conservancy has entered into a contract to purchase Malvern Hill Farm for the appraised value of $6,562,000.
The property consists of 875 +/- acres in Henrico County and Charles City County and is owned by descendants of William Heighler Ferguson Sr. (1885-1984) who originally purchased Malvern Hill Farm in 1939.
The Virginia Landmarks Register and the National Register of Historic Places first listed Malvern Hill in 1969, recognizing its role in Virginia and United States history dating to the late 17th Century. Thomas Cocke (1639-1697) built the first Anglo-American residence there about 1690 and the architecturally significant ruins are well preserved today. The Marquis de Lafayette (1757-1834) encamped on the property in the summer of 1781 and the Virginia Militia also made camp there during the War of 1812.
But the name “Malvern Hill” is more strongly associated with a climactic moment in the American Civil War when the entire property lay behind the front infantry line of the Union army during the Battle of Malvern Hill on July 1, 1862. This deadly clash of armies ended with 5,650 Confederate and 2,100 Union casualties, bringing the Seven Days Battle and the Peninsula Campaign to a close and prompting President Abraham Lincoln to draft the Emancipation Proclamation.
According to the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR), Malvern Hill Farm ranks as “very high” in its vulnerability model. In 1993, the Civil War Sites Advisory Commission listed Malvern Hill in the Top 10 of Virginia’s battlefields that are highly threatened. Despite its proximity to downtown Richmond and development pressures in the Varina district of Henrico County, the property has remained mostly unaltered in appearance since 1862.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s soil maps show Malvern Hill Farm contains nearly 400 acres of prime farmland and more than 150 acres of “farmland of statewide significance.” Coupled with the “very high” ranking on Virginia’s Forest Economics Model as well as DCR’s evaluation of Ecological Cores and habitats of endangered species, the property is a priority for land conservation.
The National Park Service (NPS) has long sought portions of Malvern Hill Farm for inclusion in the Richmond National Battlefield Park. The United States Congress has approved roughly 443 acres in its legislatively authorized boundary for the park. “Acquisition and preservation of this farm would be a critical step forward in ensuring the long term integrity of such an historic place” noted David Ruth, Superintendent of the Richmond National Battlefield Park. DCR specifically names Malvern Hill in its Virginia Outdoors Plan for provision of public access with walking and biking trails and a Turkey Island Creek canoe/kayak launch to reach the James River, the Captain John Smith National Historic Trail and the Presquile National Wildlife Refuge. Likewise, nearly 2 miles of the Virginia Capital Trail along scenic Route 5 passes by and/or traverses Malvern Hill Farm.
The Capital Region Land Conservancy has secured more than $2 million in funding towards this important acquisition. This includes $687,500 from the Virginia Land Conservation Foundation (VLCF), $400,000 from the Virginia Battlefields Preservation Fund (VBPF), $500,000 as a two-to-one challenge grant from The Mary Morton Parsons Foundation, and $500,000 as a two-to-one challenge grant from the Cabell Foundation. CRLC is actively applying for other grants and seeking private donations to support this important acquisition. The Conservation Fund is also considering financing for the project.
In September, Governor Terry McAuliffe announced the awarding of the VLCF grant to CRLC citing the Malvern Hill project’s protection of “Virginia’s biodiversity, history and way of life while enhancing public access to our natural resources.”
Director of Virginia’s Department of Historic Resources, Julie V. Langan, awarded the VBPF grant in November and commended CRLC for its “dedication and commitment to protecting important Civil War Battlefields for the future of Virginia and the nation.”
“In one transaction CRLC is taking a giant step in protecting the natural and historic land and water resources of our region” said Parker C. Agelasto, Executive Director of Capital Region Land Conservancy. “Malvern Hill Farm represents a significant opportunity to conserve prime farmland, native forests, nearly three miles of perennial streams, and more than 325 years of history while also opening the property to public access for outdoor recreation. I am delighted that CRLC could be the champion to lead a multifaceted effort to permanently protect this property forever.”
The consortium of organizations assisting CRLC in the acquisition of Malvern Hill Farm include American Civil War Museum Foundation, Chesapeake Conservancy, Civil War Trust, James River Association, Richmond Battlefields Association, Richmond National Battlefield Park, and Virginia Capital Trail Foundation. Donations to support the acquisition of Malvern Hill Farm and contribute toward the challenge grants should be made payable to the Capital Region Land Conservancy and mailed to P.O. Box 17306, Richmond VA 23226.
Every $1 donation will be matched $0.50.