The manager of a national historic landmark in Leesburg and the site’s owner, which stewards other properties in D.C. and Northern Virginia, are embroiled in a lawsuit over contractual rights and obligations concerning the management of the land and a related philanthropic endowment.
Loudoun County “may lose this important historic site altogether,” Caleb Schutz, CEO of Oatlands Inc., the nonprofit that oversees Oatlands Historic House and Gardens, said in a March 22 press release, implying that its owner, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, may sell the property.
But Katherine Malone-France, the Trust’s chief preservation officer, dismissed that claim. “Of all the options we would consider, selling the property is not one of them,” she said in an email to the Washington Business Journal Monday. More likely, the Trust would simply manage the site directly, as it does elsewhere.
The Trust’s site includes an early 1800s-era mansion and surrounding properties, principally comprising over 300 acres at 20850 Oatlands Plantation Lane and 40040 Little Oatlands Lane. The Trust also manages certain funds dedicated to the property’s maintenance. Oatlands Inc. operates the site under a $10-per-year long-term lease.
Oatlands Inc. believes it’s been stiffed in the Trust’s management of the site’s endowment funds, to the detriment of the landmark’s upkeep, and filed suit against the Trust in the Circuit Court of Loudoun County in February. It wants roughly $3 million in damages, saying in the suit that it’s been “forced to deplete its reserves” and pushed to “the brink of insolvency.”
The Trust recently asked the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, now overseeing the case, to dismiss it. The Trust reasons, among other things, Oatlands’ contract always required the nonprofit manager to carry out its charge under its own financial steam — through fees it charges to visitors, weddings, galas, and the like — without depending on the Trust’s endowment.