Monday, March 5, 2007

$1.05-Million Gift Funds Historic House Purchase by Washington College

Circa-1735 Building Will Become Residence for Visiting Historians

Chestertown, MD, March 5, 2007 — A gift of more than $1 million has enabled Washington College to purchase an 18th-century house that will be used as a residence for visiting fellows of the C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience.

Located on Queen Street in the heart of the historic district, the circa-1735 structure, traditionally known as the Buck-Chambers House, is one of the oldest buildings in Chestertown, and one of the few to preserve its 18th-century interior substantially intact.

The $1.05 million gift to Washington College came from the Barksdale-Dabney-Henry Fund, a family fund established by Margaret Henry Penick Nuttle. Mrs. Nuttle's husband, the late Philip E. Nuttle, was a member of Washington College's Class of 1929; her daughter, Margaret Nuttle Melcher, is a member of the Class of 1969; and her grandson, Stephen Fuchs, is a member of the Class of 1996.

A longtime benefactor of research in colonial history, Mrs. Nuttle is a direct descendant of the patriot Patrick Henry, and the newly purchased house will be known as the Patrick Henry Fellows Residence.

"The Barksdale-Dabney-Henry Fund is a legacy of my parents, who were charter members of the board of the Patrick Henry Memorial Foundation in 1944," said Mrs. Nuttle. "The gift to Washington College continues that legacy, honoring the memory of Patrick Henry while promoting the history of the Founding Era at one of America's oldest schools."

Mrs. Nuttle pointed out that there is an interesting historical connection between George Washington, Patrick Henry and Chestertown. Washington, Henry and another Virginia representative, Edmund Pendleton, stayed in Chestertown—then known as "New Town on Chester" —on the night of Friday, September 2, 1774, while en route to the First Continental Congress in Philadelphia.

"Mrs. Margaret Nuttle is second to none in her devotion to Patrick Henry and to the other Founding Fathers in whose circles he moved," said Washington College President Baird Tipson. "We are delighted that she has chosen to honor her ancestor and Washington College with this generous gift."

In addition to funding the purchase of the property, the Nuttle family's gift also will enable the house to be renovated and furnished, and will establish an endowment ensuring its permanent upkeep. The house will serve as a residence for visiting historians, who will spend up to a year in Chestertown while working on books on the history and legacy of America's Founding Era. The Patrick Henry Fellows Residence should be ready to welcome its first such resident in fall 2008.

The fellowship program will be overseen by the College's C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience, headquartered a block away in the historic Custom House. Established in 2000 with a grant from the New York-based Starr Foundation, the C.V. Starr Center draws on the special historical strengths of Washington College and colonial Chestertown to explore the early republic, the rise of democracy, and the manifold ways in which the founding era continues to shape American culture, through innovative educational programs, scholarship, and public outreach. In cooperation with the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History and George Washington's Mount Vernon, the Center administers the George Washington Book Prize, a $50,000 annual prize recognizing outstanding published works that contribute to a greater understanding of the life and career of George Washington and/or the Founding Era.

"The acquisition of the Patrick Henry Fellows Residence is a major step forward for the C.V. Starr Center," said Adam Goodheart, the Center's Hodson Trust-Griswold Director. "It will allow us to bring to Chestertown, for extended residencies, brilliant writers on American history of the same caliber as those who receive the George Washington Book Prize each year. We are grateful for the generosity and foresight of the Nuttle family in making this possible."

The house has fascinating ties with American history, and with the history of Washington College, stretching back into the 18th century. An early owner, General Benjamin Chambers, was a Revolutionary War soldier who became the College's first treasurer in 1782, and later served as president of its Board of Visitors and Governors.

In recent decades, the house was the home of legendary English professor Norman James, and afterwards of Ted Widmer, the Starr Center's founding director, and his family. The house was purchased from an owner to whom the Widmers sold it last year.

Mrs. Nuttle, the great-great-great granddaughter of Patrick Henry, has been a supporter of American history at Washington College since before the Starr Center's founding, and has also made major gifts to programs at Princeton, Johns Hopkins and Red Hill, the Henry family house, which was designated the Patrick Henry National Memorial in 1986 by President Reagan. Her daughter, Mrs. Melcher, studied English literature and history, received a master's degree from Washington College in 1977, has taught history, and is active in historic preservation and in the National Society of the Colonial Dames of America. Mr. Fuchs studied drama at Washington College and has since been an entrepreneur in information technology.

As it begins the process of outfitting the newly acquired property, the Starr Center is welcoming donations of antiques, artwork and other furnishings; all donations are tax-deductible and will receive appropriate recognition. For more information, call 410-810-7161.

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