The community of Merry-Go-Round Farm is the brainchild and legacy
of two prominent Washingtonians, Tyler and Elizabeth "Bess" Abell. The farm has a rich history rooted in the rough-and-tumble world of Washington, D.C. politics and journalism.
The land where Merry-Go-Round Farm now sits was originally bought as a 280-acre parcel in 1930 by Eleanor Josephine Medill Patterson
. Patterson, or "Cissy" as she was known, was a prominent American journalist and newspaper editor, publisher and owner. Patterson was one of the first women to head a major daily newspaper, The Washington Times-Herald
. Patterson married Count Josef Gizycka, a nobleman from Russian Poland, and, in 1905, they had one daughter, Countess Felicia Gizycka
. Both Patterson and her daughter lived dramatic and flamboyant lives that have been chronicled extensively in many books
In 1925, Countess Gizycka married Andrew ("Drew") Russell Pearson
. Drew Pearson first came to D.C. in the 1920s to work as a journalist for The Baltimore Sun
, where he rose to become Chief Correspondent of its Washington bureau. Although his marriage to Gizycka lasted only three years, they had one child, Ellen, and Pearson remained friends with his mother-in-law for a time after the divorce. Pearson found the Potomac property for Patterson, which she bought for $50,000. Patterson later gave the land in trust to Pearson for her granddaughter, Ellen.
From 1931-32, Pearson co-wrote two books that were considered "muckraking" accounts of the lives of prominent D.C. politicians. Washington Merry-Go-Round
and More Merry-Go-Round
were published anonymously, but it was later discovered that Pearson was one of the authors, and he was fired from The Baltimore Sun
. Shortly thereafter, Pearson began writing a daily political column called the "Washington Merry-Go-Round
" that was published in Patterson's Washington Times-Herald
and helped launch Pearson's long career as a famous D.C. political commentator
, columnist and radio personality.
Pearson bought the Potomac land from his daughter Ellen. He built a farmhouse on the property in 1939 at the request of Luvie Moore
, who became his second wife in 1936, and who had dreamed of owning a country home. Moore had a son from a previous marriage, Tyler Abell. The Pearson family owned a home in Georgetown and used Merry-Go-Round Farm as a weekend getaway. Over the years, Merry-Go-Round Farm was a frequent host to U.S. Presidents, Supreme Court justices, ambassadors, senators, congressmen and movie stars, including President Lyndon Johnson, Chief Justice Earl Warren, and actress Rita Hayworth, to name just a few.
During World War II, Pearson started a working dairy at the farm. The first 100 cows were delivered to the farm when Tyler was ten years old and his parents were vacationing, leaving him and the family maid to receive "a stampede" of cows on their own. A major by-product of the cows was manure, which Pearson sold to Hechingers hardware stores and directly from the farm as "Drew Pearson's Best Manure -- All Cow, No Bull!" The farm also produced beans, which were originally sold to Jenkins Cannery of Frederick, Maryland. When Jenkins stopped buying the beans, Pearson became the first farmer in the area to offer a "Pick-Your-Own" opportunity. To market the beans, Pearson ran an add in the Washington Post, offering as many beans as a person could pick for $1. Pearson's marketing was so successful that people came from all over to pick the beans, causing the Montgomery County police to complain about traffic congestion on River Road. Also, Peason raised the price to $1 per bushel.
In 1955, Tyler married Elizabeth "Bess" Clements, daughter of Earle Clements
. Mr. Clements served as Governor of Kentucky and later as a U.S. Senator, for a time acting as Democratic Majority Leader. Tyler and Bess met at the Kentucky Derby and eloped after a New Year's party. After his marriage to Bess, Tyler joined the Army. He then studied law and practiced both in government for the Johnson Administration and for a major D.C. law firm. Tyler
served as Assistant Postmaster General and as Chief of Protocol. Bess
also served in a number of prominent political positions, including Assistant to Lady Bird Johnson and White House Social Secretary, Executive Director of the Democratic Governors' Conference, and Executive Assistant to Joan Mondale in the Office of the Vice-President. She later established a public relations firm.
In 1969, Pearson died, leaving the farm to Luvie. Tyler took over daily operation of the farm, ending the dairy business and focusing on beef production. Eventually, the Abells decided to develop the farm as residential community, but only in a manner that would preserve the special beauty
of the land. They enlisted the help of local architect Colden ("Coke") Florance as well as noted landscape design consultant Edward Alexander. Starting in 1990, when other developers in Potomac were building "McMansions"
with little regard to architectural style or land management, the Abells created the Merry-Go-Round Farm community. True to its past, the beauty and special amenities of Merry-Go-Round Farm continue to attract many D.C. notables.
Tyler and Bess at Merry-Go-Round Farm in 2012