History/Structure of the Foundation

The organization managing Clermont Farm for its owner, the Virginia Department of Historic Resources (VDHR), and presenting this website is The Clermont Foundation. When Elizabeth Rust Williams (1945-2004), the last surviving direct descendant of her branch of the McCormick/Williams family, was faced with the question of how to realize her vision, of preserving and making accessible the historic farm her family had owned and developed for 185 years, she decided to divide her assets at death between two organizations.

On the one hand, she felt that the property would be best protected in the long-run and best contextualized in state ownership, particularly by an agency setting professional standards for historic preservation throughout the Commonwealth. She therefore bequeathed Clermont Farm, under restrictions specified in the deed of gift, to the Virginia Department of Historic Resources, a gift valued at $10 million and accepted by the Virginia General Assembly in 2005. The Clermont Trustees recognize here that the value of Ms. Williams’ gift includes a substantial amount of historical equity provided by enslaved African American labor over a period of 110 years at Clermont.

On the other hand, she was ahead of her time in believing that the sustainability of most historic sites depends in large part on their integration with and value to the local community. To represent this local interest and to give it standing and a distinct role in the farm’s future under state ownership, she created the Clermont Charitable Trust. She bequeathed her assets other than the farm itself to the Trust. Those assets included the Virginia state tax credits for her gift, which the Trust sold to generate the endowment.

The Trust thus became the holder and manager of the Elizabeth Williams Endowment for Clermont Farm. The Trust was tasked with using the income from the Endowment, in partnership with the new owner (VDHR), to support:
1) the preservation and study of the 360-acre farm’s cultural landscape, its buildings, archives, etc.
2) the continuation of agriculture, in best practice ways
3) the provision of public education and benefit, with regard to public history, historic preservation, and agriculture, and with regard to supporting community goals, including economic ones, in Clarke County.

In 2007, the partnership between the VDHR and the Clermont Charitable Trust was further formalized through a Management Agreement, which allowed the trustees to assume the duties of managing the site under the conditions of the Agreement and of five-year work plans approved by VDHR, in addition to their fiduciary duties as trustees of the Williams Endowment.

To further Elizabeth Williams’ vision of local integration, and pursuant to a specific provision in her Trust providing for it, as of January 1, 2011 the Trust was converted to a Virginia non-stock, non-profit corporation, The Clermont Foundation, with 501(c)(3) status as a public charity, and the same purposes as the Williams Trust. Rather than three trustees serving for life, the Endowment is now overseen by a board of twelve local trustees, who are elected and rotate on a regular basis. The Liaison of the VDHR attends regular board meetings.

The programmatic direction and activities implemented by the Trustees of the Foundation at Clermont are guided on the one hand by the mission, vision, and values of the Foundation, and on the other by the current Management Plan (2012-2020)  approved by the owner of the site, the VDHR.