The Story of Colthurst Farm
Colthurst Farm, part of an original Crown Grant located in the heart of Albemarle’s horse country, represents a restricted, carefully guided residential development in the rolling hills west of Charlottesville.
Colthurst Farm has a history dating to pre-revolutionary times when Michael Holland of Hanover received from King George II of England a grant of 4,753 acres lying on both sides of Ivy Creek. These lands included the later sites of Farmington Country Club, Birdwood, St. Anne’s-Belfield School, and a number of large farms. In 1758 Mr. Holland deeded his entire holdings to Francis Jerdone of Louisa, but due to Jerdone’s Tory sympathies, the Revolutionary government confiscated all of his lands in 1779. An adjustment was reached in 1785, however, and the land was sold to George Divers of Philadelphia.
During the 19th century the lands comprising the original grant were divided and sold to various purchasers, among the most prominent being the Garth family, who at one point owned all the land along Garth Road up to The Barracks, one of the Garth houses. This farmland became renowned for horse breeding, training and hunting. Inglecress, with its huge barn and training tracks, and Ingleside, the famous Billy Garth stud farm, were two of the most well known Garth properties.
Adjoining Ingleside was a working farm acquired from one of the Garths by an Englishman, the Hon. William B. Colthurst. Pursuant to his will the farm was sold in the early 1940’s to two local sportsmen, M. A. Cushman and William Garth Jones. In 1957 the farm was sold again to Nicholas R. Dupont, Robert Sherwin, and Peter D. Furness of Wilmington, Delaware who planned to develop the 131 acre farm into a residential community. They employed the Charlottesville engineer, O. Robbins Randolph, to design water facilities and a road system to serve up to 60 residential sites ranging from one to three and a half acres. William T. Stevens collaborated in drafting the protective covenants, and his firm, Stevens & Company, was designated as sales agent for the sites. A. B. Torrence of Elkton received the contract for constructing and paving two and a half miles of winding drives.
With a high ridge through the middle of the tract and the wooded slopes of Mt. Falcon (formerly Stillhouse Mountain) along the eastern section, the land in Colthurst Farm affords views across the hunt country to the distant roll of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Mary Helen Jessup Recalls Colthurst History
When Mary Helen and Jimmie Jessup took a Sunday drive along Barracks Road in the early 1960’s to inspect property recently offered for sale at Colthurst Farm, they knew they had found the right spot. Not only did this wonderfully varied and rolling land offer spectacular views of the Blue Ridge Mountains and surrounding countryside, but it was also convenient to the center of Charlottesville and rich in local history. The Jessups recognized the land’s value and purchased both the spec house that had been built at 103 Tally Ho Drive as well as the site of the original farmhouse, now 201 Colthurst Drive, where they subsequently built their home. The clumps of daffodils that still spring up each season in the adjacent meadow mark the route of the original drive, and Mary Helen still finds remains of crockery at the site of an old ice pit on the property.
Not long after the Jessups completed their purchase, the DuPont group offered all of Colthurst Farm for sale due to pressing financial commitments. Mary Helen and Jimmie, seeing the need to guide the future development of Colthurst, made an offer and bought the property.
Jimmie Jessup was a native of Charlottesville. In 1908 his family founded the local bottling plant for Pepsi Cola, a business that became the oldest family owned franchise in the country. Mary Helen grew up in southwest Virginia and shared Jimmie’s love and respect for the area’s natural landscape and wildlife.
As the new owners of Colthurst, the Jessups began where the engineers had left off. They handled all the initial site sales themselves, and Jim kept the meadows mowed. During this time, with the land as yet unoccupied, the Farmington Hunt still proceeded through Colthurst – outward after the foxes, and then back. Mary Helen recalls retrieving many a hound that would take off after a deer instead of a fox during the chase.
As Colthurst has developed, the fox hunters have shifted their courses to the west, and the Colthurst landscape has filled in with houses, maturing trees and mowed lawns. Mary Helen notes a change in the wildlife too. The numerous skunks, possums, meadowlarks, whippoorwills and quail that used to flourish on the land have been replaced by increasing numbers of “feeder and lawn friendly” birds – chickadees, cardinals, bluejays, titmice, robins, mockingbirds, and the hawks that prey on them.
For all these years Colthurst has been Mary Helen’s love. “We didn’t want to live anywhere else,” she says. It was indeed the perfect setting in which to raise a family and to pursue a very full life.
I asked Mary Helen if bringing the hunters back, with their calls of “Tally Ho!” as they galloped across our lawns, would help to ameliorate our current “deer problem”. She and I both agreed to leave that question a moot point.
— Florence Fitzgerald interviewed Mary Helen for the June, 1993 Colthurst News