July 5, 1929.
Miss Lucy Brown Beale.
My dear Miss Beale:
I have your kind letter of the 1st instant and wish to thank you for the information contained therein, which will enable me to comply with the request of Mr. Harrison.
The project for the purchase and restoration of Stratford is now in a critical position and the cause of great anxiety to all who look forward to the day when that grand old mansion shall come into its own once more.
The cause of all this worry and confusion is occasioned by the reservation of a miserable little tract of 60 acres, worth about $1200, which Mr. Stuart has reserved as the site of a possible future home. Every endeavor has been made to induce Mr. Stuart to exchange this tract for a similar area further to the east.
I am enclosing a tracing made from a map of the plantation and recently surveyed by competent engineers. There can be no question regarding its accuracy. One glance will suffice to show that this plot is literally in the front yard of Stratford.
As you know, the Garden Club is offering to restore the gardens and landscape [at] the property, a huge undertaking, and a most important one. Stratford is similar to an English country seat, modified to adopt itself to climatic conditions in Virginia. In order to obtain the proper setting, it is essential that a space of park be laid out extending for a quarter of a mile on each side of the present drive to the house. The house is one half mile back from the county road so this area cane [sic] easily be visualized. The park would be planted with native shade-trees, etc. That is one of the serious problems prevented by this 60 acre tract. But there are others of a similar nature:
While Mr. Stuart’s contract contains a clause restricting the use to which this tract of 60 acres may be put, there are those who hold that it is not binding and that the retention of the property constitutes a menace. They proclaim that on this tract he may erect a negro village, restaurants, gasoline stations and the like. This general idea is prevalent in many places in Virginia and was even advanced by a northern woman at a recent meeting in New York. It has absolutely killed the project in Richmond. And until some money is raised in Virginia, little progress can be expected in other places. The people who should be actively and enthusiastically supporting this worthy cause are in an “ugly mood.”
In the meantime, I am receiving appeals to aid by raising money to meet the payment of $40,000 due Mr. Stuart on July 19th. If this 60 acre menace were removed, I could do so, and would do so gladly. As things now stand I can do nothing.
Some friend of Mr. Stuart is evidently giving him some bad advice, probably to the effect that he is selling too cheap. Well, $240,000 looks large to me, and if the $40,000 due on the 19th should appear, and it is with sadness that I doubt it, the Memorial Foundation must face a tremendous annual burden in the future.
Is it possible that you know of an individual or a group in Westmoreland who could be induced to go to Mr. Stuart and urge him to renounce his interest in that 60 acres of land? It should not be difficult to point out the benefits to be derived by the county and the state from the sale. What use could he make of a greater sum if it is liable to link his name with Shylock; what good will the $10,000 do him, which he has received, if a nation-wide howl of disgust should result? His name is forever linked with that of the property, let us hope that it will be pleasantly remembered.
Something must be done at once; I hope you can think of some way in which you can assist.
Cazenove G. Lee, Jr
Source: The Archives of the Robert E. Lee Memorial Foundation, Papers of the Lee Family, Box 5, M2009.509, Jessie Ball duPont Library, Stratford Hall
Transcribed by Colin Woodward, 2015 December 2