How Martha Jefferson House Came to Be

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In 1921, a brick Georgian Mansion was built for the Joseph Allen Wheat family, who had moved from Staunton, VA, to Charlottesville. The original mansion, known as Ackley House, occupied part of a forest that was cleared. Consisting of a front foyer area, formal living room, parlor, and six rooms on the second floor, the original house was sold in 1956 to Hunter Perry. Mr. Perry’s mission was to make additions and donate the property as a retirement home for professional people.

In an excerpt taken from the book That Light We See: A Memoir-History of Martha Jefferson House, Mary Scott Parker Blake describes how the Perry Foundation began. “Along with his business affairs Mr. Perry was always involved in contributing his time, knowledge and financial resources to community projects. He served on the Boards of the Albemarle County Red Cross and the City-Council Community Chest for many years. Outside of this area Mr. Perry and his sister, Mrs. Edwards, had always shown a keen interest in preserving natural resources, giving funds to save redwood trees in California and, in Virginia, saving virgin timber by buying the land at Goshen Pass in Rockbridge County and deeding it to he State as a forest preserve.
          “In the early 1950s Mr. Perry and his sister, in order to expedite the gifts they wished to make, formed the Perry Foundation with Mr. Perry as President and Treasurer and Mrs. Edwards as Secretary.”

The Tree Still Lives On

Mr. Perry and his sister were very conscientious about the environment surrounding the House. Several years ago, a red oak tree, figured to be 179 years old, had to be taken down. Out of that tree, four benches were made, thus preserving the life of the tree and providing more seating for our residents to enjoy the natural environment that surrounds the House. We believe that Mr. Perry and his sister would have been elated to know that this tree was repurposed in a different form.

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