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Cover of Spring - Summer 2002 Issue

 

Mary Farley Ames Lee's bequest to
Longwood is more than just a gift ... it is

A Gift for Future Generations

Mary Farley Ames Lee '38
Mary Farley Ames Lee '38
"It is my hope that it will remain protected from overdevelopment and continue to bring joy and happiness to those who now live here and for others in the future."

- Mary Farley Ames Lee '38

When Mary Farley Ames Lee penned those words in 1990, little did she know that her memoirs would provide a true vision for the future of her beloved Ames Hull Springs Farm. When she passed away in December 1999, she bequeathed the Farm plus a $1.5 million operating endowment and nearly $1 million in scholarship funds to Longwood College, a gift that Dr. Patricia Cormier, president of Longwood College, said was "an extraordinary gift from an extraordinary woman." This extraordinary woman was born in 1917 in Arlington, Virginia and graduated from Longwood College (then State Teachers College) in 1938 with a degree in education and later earned a graduate degree in business from the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill.

Following college, Mary Farley returned to Arlington where she worked in her family's retail lumber business for a year. During WWII, she was personnel director for the Fourth Civil Service Region in Winston-Salem, NC. In 1947, she returned to Arlington and was hired as the registrar of voters for the county, a position she held until 1973. But throughout her career, the Farm was always a part of her life and a place where she spent "many, many happy summers."

Down on The Farm

Ames Hull Springs Farm
Ames Hull Springs Farm
Situated in the eastern part of Westmoreland County, Ames Hull Springs Farm (known locally as Hull Springs Farm) includes over 600 acres of land with houses and barns, fields and woods, creeks and bogs. The land is on the Northern Neck, a quiet place between two rivers. A place where land meets water. A place where future generations will enjoy opportunities for research in land management, marine science, and the study of virtually undisturbed ecosystems.

The Farm has a storied history and has always been used for "good works." First purchased by her grandfather, Nathaniel Turner Ames, in the early 1900s, it was her father who "made the farm a very active place." Again, from her memoirs, "My father brought people to the farm for work as part of their program of rehabilitation (in Alcoholics Anonymous). He also constructed a camp on one of the points of land and it was used as a summer camp for underprivileged children from Washington, DC. He was always aware of the beauty of the place and kept it in good condition by planting flowers, bushes, and trees."

Over the years, the farm would serve in traditional roles as well, as her father raised Hereford cattle, grains, corn, and other crops. But it has always been managed with an eye toward conservation and preservation.

In 1952, her father gave her an acre of land which began Mary's vested interest in the farm. In 1986, she and her brother, Williams Patterson Ames, Jr., purchased the rest of the farm from family members.

Plans for the Future

A family of ospreys returns each year to nest on a piling in front of the main house
A family of ospreys returns each year to nest on a piling in front of the main house.
Longwood College has great plans for Hull Springs Farm. In fact, Longwood's education connection to the Farm goes back to 1993 when Mary Farley invited faculty and students to use the Farm as a field laboratory for archaeology, ornithology and botany studies. According to Dr. Carolyn Wells, professor emeritus and former Chair of Department of Natural Sciences at Longwood, "It's a great site for classes ... great for research, too." Dr. Wells, who sponsored many of the field excursions, believes that the land's diverse habitat allows for the study of various environmental systems, including wetlands and forests. Students and faculty from the Longwood Field Ornithology School have identified at least 130 species of birds, including American bald eagles. A family of ospreys returns each year to nest on a piling in front of the main house. More than 150 species of plants have also been identified on the Farm. "It's really unusual to find this all in the same place," Dr. Wells stated. And "you've got the physical facility to put your students up."

Longwood will use the Farm as a land and water laboratory. Structures on the property include The Cottage (a ranch-style bungalow that has been used as a private retreat), The Camp, which sleeps 25 people dormitory style, and The Big House, built in 1914 and renovated in 1994, which served as the family residence. Overlooking all is a 375 year-old golden oak that was a resident of the Farm long before the American Revolution.

Possibilities for research include sustaining forestry and farming with sound environmental practices, controlling pests in a balanced system, applying fertilizers that will not contaminate ground water, and sequencing crop rotation more efficiently. Additional research can answer questions about species living at aquatic-terrestrial interfaces. Bird counts and water monitoring will continue.

The Farm will also be a resource for organizations such as Clean Virginia Waterways, and Longwood is reviewing possibilities for other collaborative relationships that could include a developmental environmental education program for elementary and secondary school teachers in environmental sciences.

Many of these plans, which were primarily the environmental vision of Dr. Wells, were submitted to Mary in 1999 as part of a proposal to ensure her legacy and her wishes for a valuable future for the Farm. Dr. Cormier said recently that the college's continuing and new programs will be "an appropriate recognition of the passion with which the Lees have protected the natural state of Ames Hull Spring Farm. Longwood will continue her legacy by being a good steward of the land. Ames Hull Springs Farm will be used for environmental education and preserved for the people of the Commonwealth forever."