In 1971, a farmer plowing a Tidewater Virginia field unearthed a remarkable assemblage of stones. The discovery touched off the first of many excavations that have opened a window into bygone worlds.
Since then, hundreds of scholars, researchers and students have excavated and sifted through layers of soil at the property, known as Flowerdew Hundred. Findings at this site on the James River, just 22 miles upstream from historic Jamestown, have included a fort, a manor home, an Indian settlement and materials that prove that the land has been inhabited for more than 10,000 years. These archaeological discoveries have helped to shape a deep understanding of the American past, revealing a narrative involving the experiences of Virginia Indians, European settlers and enslaved African-Americans.
In keeping with their long history of philanthropy, the Harrison family has made a major gift to the Library to fund the work of the Flowerdew Hundred curator and students involved in studying the collection.
When UVA benefactors Mary and David (Col ’39, Law ’41) Harrison purchased Flowerdew Hundred in 1967, they recognized the historical significance of the property and supported all subsequent research, excavation and education there. In September 2008, at the direction of their children, the Flowerdew Hundred Archaeological Collection came to the University Library, where a number of its artifacts are on exhibit and others are available for research.
In keeping with their long history of philanthropy, the Harrison family has made a major gift to the Library to fund the work of the Flowerdew Hundred curator and students involved in studying the collection, as well as to enhance online access to the artifacts.
“The most recent gift from the Harrison family allows us to expand and promote the Flowerdew Hundred Archaeological Collection for use by scholars and researchers nationally and around the world,” said Hoke Perkins, associate University librarian for philanthropy. “We’ll be able to organize and present the material in an engaging and meaningful way, and to better offer students and faculty the opportunity to use the wide range of material for research and scholarship.”
Mary Anderson Harrison was born in Brooklyn, New York, and grew up on Long Island. David A. Harrison III was a native of Hopewell, Virginia. Following his distinguished service in World War II, he had a highly successful career as a lawyer in New York. After the Harrisons married in 1944, they raised three daughters and two sons in Old Brookville, New York, and in the later phase of their life moved permanently to the historic Flowerdew Hundred Plantation Farm where, among other ventures, they became stewards of the land, patrons of historical archaeology and UVA benefactors. Seven of their grandchildren graduated from UVA.
Over the years, Mary and David Harrison established a number of professorships in law, medicine and archaeology. David Harrison also made possible the Harrison Undergraduate Research Awards, which provide grants for independent scholarly projects.
His affiliation with the School of Law spanned more than a century. Five generations of his family attended the school—his grandfather, two uncles, his father, a brother, a son and a granddaughter. He helped support expansion and renovation of the Law School’s facilities, named the David A. Harrison III Law Grounds in his honor. His gifts to athletics funded such improvements as David A. Harrison III Field, the grass playing surface at Scott Stadium.
When Harrison died in 2002, distributions from his estate provided the University with $64 million, most of it directed toward endowed professorships in the schools of law and medicine. The Virginia athletics program and the Library also benefited from the estate’s provisions. In addition, Harrison created an irrevocable trust in excess of $50 million, which will come to the University in 2027.
Decades of giving to the University by Harrison, his late wife and family now total more than $150 million and reflect their deep and wide-ranging ties to UVA. Among the Harrisons’ many extraordinary contributions was their $10 million gift to the Library that established the Mary and David Harrison Institute for American History, Literature, and Culture. The Flowerdew Hundred Archaeological Collection is housed there.
“In keeping with the vision of its benefactors and former owners of the Flowerdew Hundred property, this latest Harrison family gift ensures that the Harrison Institute and the University will continue to maintain and preserve this important collection for generations to come,” Perkins said.
For more information about the collection and the Harrison Institute, visit http://harrison.library.virginia.edu/.