Airlie founder Harry Connelly Groome was a turn-of-the-century polymath and an active member of the community
Harry Connelly Groome was more than just a wealthy man from Philadelphia who built Airlie House after moving here in 1899 with his wife Mary. He was a man of many talents and accomplishments, including sportsman, soldier, author, farmer, historian, and an active citizen of Fauquier County, Virginia.
As a sportsman, Groome was an avid golfer, served as delegate for the first polo club in Virginia (the Fauquier County Polo Club), and frequently hosted the Warrenton Hunt on his property.
His wide-ranging literary accomplishments include a history of the colonization of Fauquier County, a military handbook for the First Brigade of Pennsylvania National Guard, and the genealogy “The Groome Family and Connections: A Pedigree.” He was the editor of the Fauquier Historical Bulletin and also edited an anthology of verse titled “Saddle and Song” with his wife Mary.
Greatly involved with the community, Groome was one of the founders of the Fauquier Club in 1902 (appointed president in 1905), helped organize the Fauquier Historical Society in 1915, assisted with the rebuilding of St. James Episcopal Church after a devastating fire, and contributed to the mapping of Fauquier County in 1914. The courthouse in Warrenton, once grey, was painted yellow and white at his suggestion. Groome’s 289-acre property was often a hub of activity, hosting Warrenton Garden Club meetings, parties, weddings, birthdays, magic shows, and baseball games.
Adding to the list of accomplishments, Groome’s Georgian revival-style home and grounds were featured in House and Garden magazine in 1907.
A consummate citizen, Groome’s legacy lives on today. The courthouse in Warrenton is still painted yellow. Many of the organizations he supported are still thriving, including the Fauquier Club, Fauquier Historical Society, St. James Episcopal Church, Warrenton Garden Club, and the Warrenton Hunt. And polo has become a very popular sport in Fauquier.
But his greatest contribution to the community is Airlie. The gardens, which Groome laid out himself, still follow many of the same patterns and plotting today as they did over 100 years ago. The rich history can be felt as soon as entering the property. The area simply demands serenity, with rolling hills and quiet waters. Groome helped shape Airlie into the “island of thought” it is today.
Modern gentlemen’s estate: A history of Airlie, Fauquier Times, Sept 26, 2016
Fauquier Historical Society’s News and Notes, Fall 1981, vol. 3, no. 4
House and Garden, January 1907, vol. 11, no. 1