June 8 -June 21, 2001
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Kluge donates historic estate to the University
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Kluge donates historic estate to the University

Staff Report

Billionaire businessman and philanthropist John W. Kluge received a standing ovation in the Rotunda Dome Room May 25 after
announcing that he was giving the University of Virginia Foundation his 7,378-acre Albemarle County estate. This includes historic Morven Farm, 10 working farms and more than two dozen houses and modernized farm buildings.
Valued in excess of $45 million, it is the second largest single gift in the University's history, and more than doubles the land holdings of U.Va. and its related foundations in Central Virginia.

Kluge, a longtime University benefactor, wants U.Va. to develop the core of the property for educational purposes and to sell its surrounding land to fund an endowment to support that core as well as future University programs. U.Va. President John T. Casteen III and Kluge have held a series of discussions on the gift over four years.

Casteen called the Kluge property "an invaluable treasure that will advance the University's academic mission as well as the public interest for generations to come. It offers unprecedented opportunities to help the University realize the goals of Virginia 2020, our long-term planning process."

Casteen said the gift has the power to transform many sectors of the University.

"John Kluge's magnificent gift, and its far-reaching intent, matches the University's mission and philosophy about learning," he said. "The uses may include residential facilities for advanced practitioners in the fine and performing arts, evolving over time to include performance and exhibition venues. There will be research spaces for architecture, landscape architecture, architectural history and environmental sciences, with some reserved open space dedicated to sustaining examples of the region's ecology. And, for the future, our hope is to create spaces for conferences, seminars and other small gatherings related to the University's academic programs."

Casteen will ask a planning group of faculty, students and administrators to explore the opportunities for the Kluge gift and to work within the University community to recommend and design programs that reflect both the goals of the donor and the University.

Morven Farm

The main house at Morven Farm, a Virginia Historic Landmark, is a 6,412-square-foot historic brick building built in 1821 and enlarged over the years. According to architectural historian Edward Lay's book Architecture of Jefferson Country, Morven received its first renovation at the turn of the 20th-century under the care of Baltimore architect Howard Sill. In 1930, a subsequent owner began her own painstaking restoration of Morven's formal gardens. The grounds were again rejuvenated under the direction of Kluge, who greatly expanded them as well.

Next to the main house are a number of outbuildings, including an historic kitchen. A short walk down the entry driveway is a 5,000-square-foot recreation barn with meeting rooms, dining space and a small movie theater. Also on the Morven property are extensive flower gardens, eight farmhouses, a half-dozen barns, a guesthouse and the exquisite Japanese Tea Pavilion and gardens built by Japanese craftsmen in 1995. These gardens, including a walking trail and waterfalls, cover three acres.

A second historic house, which Kluge will retain for three years, is on nearby Ellerslie Farm. Built in 1842 and remodeled in 1985, this 4,000-square-foot manor house has been the center of the farm operations for the entire estate. A nearby renovated barn has become a 7,000-square-foot administration building. Adjacent to it is a 5,500-square-foot livestock show pavilion, overlooking a lake, that includes meeting and dining space for 100.

Kluge is general partner, chair and president of Metromedia Company, one of the nation's largest privately held companies. Born in Chemnitz, Germany, in 1914, Kluge immigrated to the United States in 1922. He moved to Albemarle County in 1981 and bought Morven Farm seven years later.

"I have gotten to know the University, to respect its commitment to excellence, and to see firsthand how it runs its business," Kluge said. "I love this property. And I must tell you I will give it to the University knowing that … Dr. Casteen and others will implement my dream," he said, his voice choked with emotion.

Terms of the gift state that the U.Va. Foundation, which provides management of some of the University's real estate holdings, must preserve in perpetuity approximately 749 acres of Morven Farm, designated as the core property, for educational uses of the University. Kluge will retain use of the core property, plus an adjacent 490 acres of farmland, throughout his lifetime.

The working farms not included in the core property — Ernscliff, Maxwell, Viewmont, Church Hill, Spring Hill, Seven Pines, Oakwood, Maple Hill, Lone Oak, and part of Ellerslie — are being leased. Proceeds from the eventual sale of these properties will be used to maintain and operate the remaining properties and to establish ongoing educational programs.

Under terms of a 1986 agreement with Albemarle County and the City of Charlottesville, property owned by the U.Va. Foundation remains on local tax rolls until it is used for academic purposes. This year, the foundation will pay $146,000 in real estate taxes to the city and $797,000 to the county.

Kluge gifts

Over the years, Kluge has given more than $4.7 million to the University’s Health System, primarily for programs to aid disabled and chronically ill children. His most recent gift, made earlier this month, was $500,000 from the Kluge Foundation to expand the Health System’s Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Program. In 1988, the University dedicated the Kluge Children’s Rehabilitation Center. In the 1990s, he created a professorship in urology and provided generous support for prostate cancer research in the School of Medicine. Kluge also has funded scholarships for minority medical students and has supported programs in family medicine. Three years ago, Kluge gave the majority of his collection of 20th-century Australian Aboriginal art to the University. The collection, made up of more than 1,570 pieces, was valued in excess of $5 million.



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