HISTORY AND RACEHORSES IN VIRGINIA HUNT COUNTRY

If you would appreciate an historic house decorated with rare antiques and having a Thoroughbred racing theme, then the Long Branch mansion in Millwood, Virginia, is for you. It is located on 400 acres in the scenic Shenandoah Valley at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia Hunt Country about sixty miles from Washington, DC. I went there over this past weekend.

A young George Washington helped to survey the property on which Long Branch was built around 1811. The property was owned by famous men of their time—Lord Culpeper, Lord Fairfax, and Robert “King” Carter. Robert Burwell Carter built the Long Branch mansion with the assistance of the famous Benjamin Henry Latrobe, who was an architect on the U. S. Capitol. The house survived the U. S. Civil War and was owned down through the years by Mr. Carter’s descendants. The estate also had a number of other owners, including Abram Hewitt, an industrialist, philanthropist, congressman, and mayor of New York City.

By the end of the 20th century, Long Branch was in disrepair. It was saved by Harry Z. Isaacs, who purchased it in 1986 and spent millions on its restoration. Mr. Isaacs owned I. C. Isaacs & Company—a clothing manufacturer–in Baltimore until 1984. He made his home at Brookfield Farm in Glyndon, Maryland. Mr. Isaacs raised Thoroughbreds and specialized in the blood of Fair Play and his son Man o’ War. Two of his best known racehorses were Intentionally, who won 18 of 34 races and $600,000 in the late 1950s and early 1960s, and I Rejoice, who won the Kelso Handicap at Belmont Park in 1989.

When Mr. Isaacs learned that he had incurable cancer, he accelerated the Long Branch restoration and established a non-profit foundation to preserve the estate for posterity. He died in 1990, having spent less than fourteen overnights at Long Branch.

Long Branch is furnished with 18th and 19th century antiques personally selected by Mr. Isaacs in Europe and the United States. The house has hand-painted wallpaper in the Hunt Room and is exquisitely decorated throughout with elaborate fabrics and equestrian paintings and sculptures. The silver trophies won by Mr. Isaacs’ racehorses can be seen in nearly every room. The tour guide gave great attention to detail in informing her visitors of the particulars of every room and its contents. She told of the fate of some of Long Branch’s inhabitants, such as the young man who left to fight in the Civil War and did not live to return.

A visitor can sense history at Long Branch, from its early years in Colonial times until the present. The drive to reach the estate through rolling hills and small towns is worth the journey. Today, Long Branch is the site for guided tours, wedding receptions, and a therapeutic riding facility.

Click here for the Long Branch website.

While in Hunt Country, I also stopped by the Middleburg Tack Exchange in Middleburg, Virginia, that is owned by Graham Motion’s mother. This was only hours before Mr. Motion was to saddle Animal Kingdom in the Belmont Stakes. As one would expect, Graham Motion’s very friendly mother and sister were excited and anticipating the big race, although they were concerned about how the muddy track conditions would affect a deep closer like Animal Kingdom. The colt should have several chances yet to come to make a stronger showing and nail down 3-year-old of the year honors.

Copyright © 2011 Horse Racing Business

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