On December 10, 2021, The Upperville Colt & Horse Show’s Grafton Farm was named to the Virginia Department of Historic Resources (DHR) Virginia Landmarks Register, and a nomination to the National Park Service for listing in the National Register of Historic Places has been submitted.
Established in 1853 by Col. Richard Henry Dulany to encourage better treatment of horses and improve the local breeding stock, the Upperville Colt & Horse Show is the oldest horse show in the United States. The show has been held annually at the original site at Grafton Farm on the south side of Route 50 in Upperville, VA, and has grown from a one day show to a week-long event that draws thousands of spectators in addition to horses and riders from across the country and around the world.
The designation was the result of an effort made on behalf of the horse show by equestrian and conservationist Dr. Betsee Parker and historic preservation expert Maral Kalbian.
“We committed to this form of remembrance to honor the Upperville Colt & Horse Show’s historic past,” said Parker, who spearheaded the initiative. “This is the first horse show grounds to be placed on any kind of historic register, which is significant in that we are recognized for defining the way in which we move forward to preserve the integrity of the buildings, the trees, and to mark the grounds as a place with not only historical integrity, but as a place that creates precious memories of the show that span generations.”
“I was honored to be asked to be a part of this project by Dr. Parker,” said Kalbian. “The goal was to prove that the show grounds are a significant, unique property with historical integrity, which involved a great deal of research from the National Sporting Library, the Fauquier County Courthouse, and other sources.”
With its oak tree canopy and sweeping views of open Virginia countryside, the Upperville show grounds have escaped the intrusions of development that have affected numerous horse show sites across the Commonwealth of Virginia, making it one of the most historically intact horse show grounds in the nation. The grounds’ structures date from the late nineteenth to mid twentieth centuries, and while improvements have been made, renovations to the famous circa 1895 Grandstand and the construction of judges’ stands and officials’ towers have maintained cohesion with the bucolic setting.
“Upperville has been so well taken care of,” Kalbian continued. “The grounds evoke their roots in an agricultural community event which morphed into a modern sporting event in the 21st century, yet the show has retained its rural character.”
“As Northern Virginia becomes more developed, we must embrace certain places,” said Parker. “Upperville is a passionate place, and an unusual historic resource. It is important to teach future generations―not just those who compete at the show, but our neighbors, too. The fact that the show has been held at its original location since before the Civil War is extraordinary, and we will continue to be historically and environmentally sensitive with future improvements, as we do not want to detract from what we have successfully preserved and protected for 169 years.”
The Virginia Department of Historic Resources (DHR) administers two programs designed to recognize Virginia’s historic resources and to encourage their continued preservation: the Virginia Landmarks Register and the National Register of Historic Places. The Virginia Landmarks Register includes historic landmark buildings, structures, districts, objects, and sites recognized for their historical, architectural, or archaeological significance at a local, state, or national level. To find out more about the Virginia Landmarks Register, please click here. For more information on the National Register of Historic Places, please click here.
The 169th Upperville Colt & Horse Show presented by Mars Equestrian™ will return to Grafton and Salem Showgrounds June 6-12, 2022. For more information visit www.upperville.com or follow the show on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.