By Elaine Anne Watt | Photos by Joanne Maisano
The overcast morning and scattered showers disappeared just as we pulled into the long driveway of Rose Marie Bogley’s Peace and Plenty Farm at Bollingbrook in Upperville, Virginia, just a bit further out Route 50 West past Middleburg. The tree-lined gravel drive offered a sense of permanence and structure as we approached the grand white façade of the circa 1809 manor house.
Just a couple of weeks ago, the grounds had welcomed over 2,000 eager participants as part of this year’s Historic Garden Week tour, but today the serenity of the property nestled into the rolling hills and woods of hunt country gave credence to its name. And, as we entered the 100-foot long entry hall bedecked with gorgeous furnishings, chandeliers and artworks everywhere, Bogley approached us with a genuinely relaxed and welcoming smile to what is clearly not meant to be a showcase, but her home.
Jennifer Richards was on hand to introduce us to Bogley and to share stories of some of the many charitable events hosted at Peace and Plenty. We were instantly at ease as we began our tour and met a few of the menagerie of pets that have found their way into Bogley’s devoted care.
A Fairy Tale Cut Short
Born and raised in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, Rose Marie Parker was the eldest of five children, three girls and two boys. Her father left the family when she was 12, and with a devoted mother and a lot of hard work by all of them, the children completed Catholic high school and went on to higher education. Her mother insisted that she learn typing and shorthand along the way, and after majoring in English at the University of Pittsburgh, she was ready to move on from Johnstown and pursue new interests.
“My friend said I wasn’t tough enough for New York but would be OK in Washington [D.C.],” said Bogley with a laugh.
After passing her secretarial agency exam, she worked for the Air Force for six months before landing a position working for Senator Styles Bridges of New Hampshire, either in his senatorial offices or in the tiny original Supreme Court chambers located in the Capitol building when Congress was in session.
“I came from a family of athletes, two of whom were great golfers, and I played well, too,” she said. “I was meeting a lot of people between work and socially.”
Two major things happened in the months leading up to the inaugural of President John F. Kennedy. Bogley met an attractive divorced father of three 14 years her senior, Samuel E. Bogley, and then her Georgetown house burned down as the result of an accidentally broken light bulb while trying on gowns to wear to the big event. Some months later Rose Marie and Sam married and created a home of their own.
Samuel was an attorney who instead of practicing law became highly successful in the Washington real estate market, and as a former Master of the Potomac Hunt, was a skilled horseman. “I’ve always loved animals, and I looked around and saw that I was missing out. So Sam bought me a horse,” said Rose Marie.
The original land grant for the house in Potomac that they bought together called the property both “Peace and Plenty” or “Mud Hill.” For obvious reasons, they adopted the former. In 1961, Sam bought Rose Marie her first racehorse, a growing avocation she shared with her husband, and the following year they were blessed with the arrival of their daughter, Hilleary, and it seemed as if all their dreams were coming true.
“When Hilleary was only nine months old, Sam said that if she was old enough to walk, she was old enough to ride, so we put her in her first horse show,” recalls Rose Marie. “Our daughter looked like Sam and started to take after him in other ways—still does.”
Tragically, the fairy tale was cut short when Sam and Rose Marie were out foxhunting with the Blue Ridge Hunt the weekend after Thanksgiving in November 1966. Sam’s horse stepped in a hole, and the resultant injuries led to Sam’s death 44 days later. Rose Marie never remarried and said only “that he would have been a tough act to follow.”
Rose Marie found herself widowed with a young daughter, but she was well provided for by Sam. She had to put her life back together.
“I have a passion for life. I go at everything with gung ho,” said Rose Marie. Beneath her strikingly lovely, genteel presence and gracious ways, you can feel her tremendous reservoir of strength.
Shortly after her husband’s death, a friend who was then the Master of the Potomac Hunt suggested that with her beauty and style she should take up sidesaddle. Failing to find a teacher but determined to give it a go, she “taught myself by reading a book.” Her first show was the Washington International, and she took second place. Her passion for horses was growing along with her troop of terriers. So, she packed up and moved to a 50-acre farm in Middleburg, again christening her home Peace and Plenty.
Not only did Rose Marie become one of the most accomplished sidesaddle riders in the country, winning the sidesaddle event at Madison Square Garden in New York City three times, but she became a fine breeder and owner of racehorses, and had a good eye for show horses as well. On her library mantle sits the retired sidesaddle trophy from Upperville Colt & Horse Show reflecting her storied history there.
By 1985, she had outgrown her original farm in Middleburg and wanted a little more distance from some of the more travelled roads. She’d already begun rescuing an assortment of dogs, cats, horses and chickens and worried about their safety.
Bollingbrook had been sitting vacant for 15 years, its last previous owner having been sent to prison for his role in selling arms to Libya, and was in disrepair. The property actually was being sold in foreclosure for failure to pay taxes. Today’s stunning views were obscured by rows and rows of corn crowding the main house, but one look at the long entry hall and the potential of the property, and Rose Marie was undaunted. She spent two years meticulously restoring the main house while living in one of the other cottages on the grounds, and she has since continued to renovate the extensive barns, stables, scale house, blacksmith house, the oldest in-ground silo in Virginia and, most recently, begun work on the gothic style church used by the slaves that once lived and worked here prior to the Civil War. Now the estate carries the proud name of Peace and Plenty at Bollingbrook.
“When my husband and I first married, neither of us had many possessions. I’ve been on a huge buying spree ever since,” deadpans Rose Marie.
Collected over the years are the results of her passion for travel and decorating, artfully arranged by her own hands in every nook and cranny of her fabulous estate. Many items were gifts from friends, including the amazing statues of mermaids, mermen and Neptune set on pedestals near her pool, the statues having once belonged to the estate of Evalyn Walsh McLean. Scattered amongst the rooms and particularly in the pool/guest cottage, which used to be the schoolhouse in the property’s early history, are furnishings from the winter retreat she had in Jamaica for 10 years.
Also present are a vast array of paintings, photos and memorabilia from a lifetime of equestrian, political, charitable and social events, many of which she chaired. Carefully striated walls of deep green painted by her own hands to camouflage the uneven wall surfaces serve as the perfect backdrop to mirrors, bookshelves, antiques and collectibles in her home’s library.
Some of the paintings are her own, most painted long ago, but some just completed recently as she’s returned to a joyous pastime from her younger days. Not surprisingly, her favorite subjects have been animals and fowl, with roosters high on her list.
A Labor Of Love
Her generosity and commitment to the welfare of animals and to rescue organizations is legendary and has been carried forward by Hilleary, who founded the Middleburg Humane Foundation and who actively still serves abused and neglected animals in our community.
Although Rose Marie rides much less than she used to, one of her favorite horses came to her attention through a friend. The beloved racehorse, a former winner of the Breeder’s Cup named Reraise, won close to $1 million before injuries sidelined him into abandonment and obscurity. The big bay gelding was embraced by Rose Marie and found the perfect retirement home at Bollingbrook.
“We had the Middleburg Humane Foundation benefit here 15 years in a row,” said Rose Marie.
Numerous signature events have been held at the estate including the Piedmont Hunt Christmas breakfasts, charitable functions in support of the Land Trust of Virginia, and other endeavors. It’s also made repeat appearances on the Hunt Country Stable Tour.
In 2009, Rose Marie placed 365 of the approximately 400 remaining acres of the once vast land grant from Lord Fairfax to “King” Carter in 1702 into a conservation easement with the Land Trust of Virginia to ensure the preservation in perpetuity of Bollingbrook’s open space, historic buildings and natural resources.
“The remaining acres have been set aside to house and care for all of my animals that may survive me, so that they will never suffer want,” she said.
“When the farm is eventually sold, the exteriors must all stay the same,” Rose Marie explained. “I’ve worked hard to restore and preserve as much of this property as I possibly could. I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have my wonderful assistant, Leslie Hacker, along with an incredible farm manager over the past 12 years. I couldn’t have done it without them.”
You can tell that it’s been a labor of love.
As we strolled the property and some of the 17 buildings that occupy the land, it was abundantly clear how much the owner delights in the lovely vistas and natural beauty of the flora and fauna that flourish here. She shared how she begins each morning with an exercise routine on the second floor balcony overlooking the hills and her 250-year-old Cedar of Lebanon tree.
With a sunny smile on her face she confided that mornings include a nice cup of hot coffee. Then she sips on Red Bull “tea” gradually over the course of the afternoon “to keep me going,” and then she savors a bit of vodka in the evening. With a handful of precious house cats, several adoring dogs, 15 content barn cats, 35 horses (23 of which are rescues), and a still active cattle-farming business on the property, she exuded an air of contentment and rhythm to her days.
“I loved to travel and have travelled extensively, but I don’t want to anymore,” she said. “What could be more beautiful than where I am?” ML