Of the roughly 5 million acres in Virginia granted to the Fairfax family by the kings of England in the 17th century,  just a sliver—merely 600 acres or so—ended up in the hands of the Powell family by 1827. Politicians and gentleman merchants, the Powells built a lovely mansion they called Llangollen, which then passed from one illustrious owner to the next. 

When Donald Brennan, the former head of Morgan Stanley Capital Partners, saw the house at the start of the 21st century, it was one of the pre-eminent properties in blue blood American horse country.

The acreage had been expanded—the plot had become 1,100 acres—and the house enlarged, most notably in the 1930s by John Hay “Jock” Whitney, a gilded age playboy-millionaire.

“I’ve been in lots of places around the world, and I had never been overcome with the grandeur of what I was looking at in the same way,” Brennan recalls. The house, which is about an hour and a half’s drive from Washington, was for sale; Brennan bought it for what he says was $22 million, spending an additional $1.5 million for the home’s furnishings and the property’s heavy machinery and equipment. He and his family officially took ownership of Llangollen in 2006.

Brennan is now putting the property back on the market, listing it with Engel and Voelkers for $34 million.

“I’ve gotten 13 years or so of enormous pleasure and joy watching it flourish,” he says. “Today, it’s in absolutely pristine condition. There’s four miles of stacked stone walls, and I don’t think there’s a crooked stone in any of them.”

Robber Barons
The estate, in its present form, is largely unaltered from when Jock Whitney and his wife Mary Elizabeth purchased it. Whitney inherited his wealth but did an excellent job putting it to good use. He financed Gone With The Wind, was a trustee of the Museum of Modern Art, bought the New York Herald Tribune, and served as ambassador to Great Britain.

The Whitneys founded the Llangollen Race Meeting, a steeplechase that attracted 20,000 spectators, and built ancillary buildings on the property, including the now-famous “horseshoe stables” for their show-ponies. They added a polo field, nine houses for guests, a race track, a training track, and, most impressive of all, a hyper-sophisticated water system that remains to this day.

“The property has about 400 acres of forest that sit on the east face of the Blue Ridge Mountains,” Brennan says. “In order to produce water for the property, there are springs whose water is pumped to the top of the mountain, at which point it comes down through streams that go into a large concrete cistern, which Whitney built into the side of the mountain above the house.”

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