The National Beagle Club of America, Inc.

History Of Institute Farm

The Institute main building, prior to exterior renovationThe National Beagle Club's headquarters is located on a tract of 512 acres located in Aldie, Virginia in Western Loudoun County.  This property was purchased in 1916 by five men who were members of an organization which had been founded in Boston in 1887, named the National Beagle Club.  These same 5 men formed a corporation named the Institute Corporation to purchase and own the land.  The land is still owned by that same corporation which leases it to The Loudoun Agricultural and Chemical Institute Foundation, Inc. ("The Institute Foundation") which, in turn, subleases the property to the National Beagle Club.

The land is known as The Institute Farm because in the late 1850s the owner of the property, John Hixon Gulick, whose great-grandfather had purchased the land at the conclusion of the Revolutionary War, joined with a local educator named Benjamin Hyde Benton and a local builder named Harmon Bitzer; and they founded the Loudoun Agricultural and Chemical Institute.  To accommodate the activities of the Academy, Mr. Bitzer built the structure which is the present main building at the Institute farm.  According to an advertisement in the June 15, 1855, issue of the Washingtonian, the Academy offered courses 

Rear view of the cabins surrounding the quad behind the Institute main building

which were "varied to suit the farmer, the merchant, the engineer." (Nothing wrong with trying to appeal to everyone.) The Academy appears to have been highly regarded, but the panic of 1857 and the subsequent depression ended its brief life.

When the Civil War broke out, John Hixon Gulick joined the Confederate Army and was killed at the Battle of Upperville on March 27, 1864.  The heirs of John Gulick eventually sold the farm to Isabella Skinner and The Institute Corporation purchased the property from her estate, although an interesting comment by C. Oliver Iselin, Jr., one of the five original founders of The Institute Corporation, raises a question about who the owner was at the time of the purchase. In a 1971 interview, Mr. Iselin said, "We were lucky, in a sense, to obtain the Institute, which we purchased from the estate of a man who had planned to use it for a Hunt Club." Though not completely accurate, there is a proven Titanic connection. The man, Clarence Benjamin Moore, was an avid Foxhunter and Joint Master of the now disbanded Chevy Chase Hunt.  Mr. Moore was interested in starting his own Foxhound Pack and hired a local attorney, Mr. Metzger, to secure sale commitments on seven adjoining properties totaling approximately 2,000 acres. Mr. Moore went to England and purchased a pack of hounds there, reported to be 50 couple, or 100 hounds. On his way back, he went down with the Titanic, although there is no record of hounds, only pets, lost on the doomed ship. Mr. Metzger sued Mr. Moore’s estate to recover his expenses, and the Institute Farm, along with some of the other properties, were tied up in litigation until late 1915.

The deed conveying the property to The Institute Corporation lists J.R.H. Alexander, an Aldie, Virginia, lawyer as substitute trustee for Isabella S. Turner (nee Skinner) as the seller.  According to Eugene M. Scheel, who in 1988 prepared A Conservation plan for The Institute Property, Loudoun County, Virginia, and did some historical research in the process, there was no one named Skinner or Turner on the passenger list of the Titanic

In addition to C. Oliver Iselin, Jr., who was a college student at the time of the purchase, the other four original purchasers were George P. Post, a New York stockbroker and partner in the firm of Post & Flagg; Edward "Ted" W. Clucas, a New York stockbroker; Chetwood "Chet" Smith of Worcester, Massachusetts, who was the brother of Harry Worcester Smith who instigated the famous International Foxhound Match held in the Middleburg- Upperville area in 1905; and John S. Phipps, a gentleman farmer with several large farms in Fauquier County, Virginia.   James W. Appleton, who at that time was president of the National Beagle Club, was one of the original incorporators of The Institute Corporation, but apparently did not contribute $7,500 to the undertaking as did the others.

Front of the Institute main building, after exterior renovation in 2013When the Institute Corporation first took possession of the property, the buildings were in poor repair.  When the trials were held, the men initially stayed in Middleburg, then in tents on the Institute grounds.  According to Mr. Iselin, "We spent two or three weeks here in Middleburg before the trials.   We would put our hounds in crates in the early morning, 

drive over to The Institute, hunt all day, and drive back in the dark . . . We financed the repairs and the building of the kennels by selling stock.  Cattle were using the basement for shelter. The poor state of the building led to the erection of cabins for members to stay in when they came to the trials.  The first three cabins were built in 1917 for George Post, Chetwood Smith and James W. Appleton, who continued to serve as President of the National Beagle Club until his death in 1942.

Mr. Appleton, a proper Bostonian, felt it was not right for women to camp out in such rough surroundings with men, so he decreed that women should not stay on the property during the trials. He was eventually overruled and "Squaw Cabins" were constructed some distance from the main building and the other cabins.   Later, other "Squaw Cabins" were built near the original cabins. Nowadays, men, women, and children who are members of the National Beagle Club come to the Institute Farm and stay in any of the available lodging places.

Between 2012 and 2015, the Institute main building underwent its most extensive renovations to date. A second interior staircase from the second floor to the first floor was installed for fire egress. The floorboards of the main room on the ground floor were removed, appropriate sub-floor drainage was installed, and the floor joists and floorboards replaced.  The yellow stucco exterior of the building was removed, revealing the building's original stone facade, and the mortar repointed. The exterior windows, with many rotted areas due to the moisture trapped by the stucco, were removed and repaired with new handcrafted, historically appropriate materials. Finally, a new portico and staircase were installed at the building's main entrance.

Today, the Institute Farm is used as the site for many activities of the National Beagle Club, including the Spring and Fall Pack Trials for beagles and for bassets, AKC licensed and sanctioned field trials, the AKC National Beagle Specialty by the NBC Supporting Membership (which makes a quinquennial appearance at Aldie), the annual Hounds F4R Heroes two couple beagle test, and the annual Triple Challenge Trial for all types of beagles.

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The National Beagle Club of America, Inc. is a 501(c)(7) not-for-profit organization. 22265 Oatlands Road, Aldie, VA 20105,

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