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July 10, 2019

Upperville historic markers honor the Mellon legacy

Photos/Len Shapiro
Clyde Smith, former chairman of the Virginia Board of Historic Resources, and Lawrence Nelson, director of strategic alliances for the Mary Elizabeth Conniver Foundation, unveil the Paul Mellon marker July 4 at Rokeby Road and John S. Mosby Highway east of Upperville.
By Len Shapiro
For Fauquier Now

Three new historic markers, unveiled July 4 in and near Upperville, honor late philanthropist Paul Mellon, his Rokeby Stables and his first wife, the late Mary Elizabeth Conover Mellon.

Under the auspices of a Virginia Department of Historic Resources program, two markers stand at Rokeby Road and John Mosby Highway (Route 50) about mile east of the village and the other stands across the street from Trinity Episcopal Church in the heart of Upperville.

Yakir Lubowsky, a featured speaker at a gathering of about 30 in front of the church for the dedication, praised Mr. Mellon’s generosity.

“My organization, the Fauquier Historical Society — and all of the community’s other conservation actors — were recipients of Paul Mellon’s very important overall financial support, both during his lifetime and after,” Mr. Lubowsky said.

He cited examples:

• Conserving in perpetuity more than 4,000 acres at his Rokeby and Oak Springs Farms in Northern Fauquier, just east of Upperville .

• Consulting on the creation of the Warrenton-based Piedmont Environmental Council and helping fund the organization’s early years. Mr. Mellon also worked with PEC to help thwart the Disney Co.’s plan in the 1990s to build a theme park accompanied by major commercial development just across the county line near Haymarket.

“In so doing, he fostered by far the most significant conservation actor in the region and a model NGO (non-governmental organization) for the rest of the country,” Mr. Lubowsky said.

• Funding “Protect Historic America” and underwriting the publication of “Hallowed Ground,” the pathfinding work that eventually led to the creation of Waterford-based “The Journey Through Hallowed Ground” project and organization.

Mr. Lubowsky described “Journey” as a “celebration of the hugely consequential people, places and things found along the route running from Mr. Lincoln’s battlefield at Gettysburg to Mr. Jefferson’s home in Charlottesville, a historic road passing directly though Fauquier County.”

• Donating to the Commonwealth of Virginia nearly 1,900 acres near the village of Paris for Sky Meadows State Park.

“Sky Meadows has the Appalachian Trail running through it and a historic farm settlement at its heart,” Mr. Lubowsky said. “The park offers public recreation, but its also is a vital museum of early Virginia. And it is the keystone to protecting the entire Crooked Run Valley, which Jefferson called ‘among the most beautiful vistas in Virginia.’

“Mr. Mellon’s is a legacy nearly without parallel in the nation. Here in Fauquier, it created dramatic, durable wonders for his neighbors and for their heirs and successors for all time.”

Another speaker at the ceremony, Diane Murphy said: “We feel the spirit of hope and generosity from the earliest days of our republic to the good works of the Mellon family and we are most grateful.”

Ms. Murphy represented TTR Sotheby’s International Real Estate, a sponsor of the event, which included a reception.

The new markers read:

Paul Mellon (1907-1999)
Paul Mellon, one of the foremost American philanthropists of the 20th century, lived nearby. An heir to the vast banking and industrial fortune left by his father, Andrew W. Mellon, he supported universities, civic improvement projects, conservation efforts, and fine-arts institutions. With his second wife, Rachel “Bunny” Lambert Mellon, he amassed a world-renowned art collection, donated more than 1,000 objects to the National Gallery of Art, and made substantial contributions to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. Mellon achieved international success as a breeder of racehorses. In 1975, he donated land to Virginia for the creation of Sky Meadows State Park, about five miles west of here.

Rokeby Stables
Paul Mellon established Rokeby Stables near here on property purchased in 1931 by his father, Andrew W. Mellon, financier and U.S. secretary of the treasury. Paul Mellon bred and raised champion racehorses, including American Way, Grand National Steeplechase winner in 1948; Arts and Letters and Fort Marcy, Horses of the Year in 1969 and 1970, respectively; Mill Reef, winner of Europe’s most prestigious races in 1971; and Sea Hero, Kentucky Derby winner in 1993. Mellon twice won the Eclipse Award for Outstanding Breeder. He collected equine art and donated many pieces to the National Gallery of Art, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, and the Yale Center for British Art, which he founded.

Mary Elizabeth Conover Mellon (1904-1946)
Mary E. Conover Mellon lived nearby with her second husband, the philanthropist Paul Mellon. Interested in the humanities and deeply influenced by the work of Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung, she was instrumental in establishing the Bollingen Series of books in 1943 to publish Jung’s writings in English and to disseminate works on anthropology, art, literary criticism, philosophy, and comparative religion. She was the series’ first editor and the first president of the Bollingen Foundation, founded by the Mellons in 1945 to support the publishing enterprise and to issue fellowships, grants, and prizes in the humanities. Mary Mellon died in 1946 and is buried here at Trinity Episcopal Church.
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Truepat · July 10, 2019 at 12:13 pm
A great tribute well deserved....
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