Proud Past

Historical Timeline of Fair Hill
Click here for a 2020 insider’s view of the new Fair Hill

1928 - Present

CONTRIBUTE TO OUR TIMELINE: If you have information, photos and/or video you would like to contribute to our timeline, email your content to: FairHillFoundation@gmail.com 

*With appreciation to Fair Hill historian and former EQUUS writer, senior editor and executive editor Emily Kilby and Louisa Emerick’s Fair Hill: From Foxhunter Paradise to International Equestrian Center
  • 1928-1965
  • 1928
  • 1929
  • 1934
  • Early 1940s
  • 1930-1965
  • During WWii
  • 1940-1945
  • LATE 1940s
  • 1964-1965
  • 1965
  • 1968
  • 1975
  • 1980
  • 1983
  • 1985
  • 1989
  • 1991
  • 2016
  • 2019
  • 2021
William du Pont, Jr., great-great grandson of Pierre Samuel du Pont, steadily acquires more than 8,000 acres on both sides of the Maryland-Pennsylvania line in the rural northeast corner of Maryland to establish a large beef cattle operation, create a haven for foxhunting, and construct an international level steeplechase
racecourse.

During his lifetime, du Pont would aggregate more than 125 mostly contiguous properties in Cecil County, Maryland and Chester County, Pennsylvania. For two centuries, the land comprised a thriving agricultural and industrial community first settled at the start of the 18th century primarily by Scots-Irish immigrants and others from the British Isles.

Fair Hill’s self-sufficient agricultural community had prospered for 200 years, as had the five water-powered mills that produced flour, lumber, textiles, sheet copper and rolled cut iron. By the start of the 20th century, however, local industry was dead and a shortage of agricultural workers and the flight of the younger generation to urban areas put the farm economy in a tailspin.

The stock market crash of 1929 and the ensuing Depression opened the way for du Pont’s major land acquisitions. Evidence indicates after purchasing land from bankrupt farmers, he often hired them to work the farms for him. 
Wishing to replicate England’s famed Aintree in America, Mr. du Pont begins construction of a turf track and timber course. He waits six years before allowing a horse to set foot on it, recognizing nature can’t be rushed. 
Mr. du Pont builds the kennels and accommodations for hunt staff and moves his American foxhounds from his father’s home, Montpelier, in Virginia to Cecil County. Upon completion, Mr. du Pont begins hunting at his pleasure with a small staff and friends, going out three times a week to hunt in territories he called Monday Country, Wednesday Country, and Saturday Country.

Under his watchful eye, du Pont established a large Thoroughbred racing stable in the 1920s, running its horses under the nom de course, Foxcatcher Farms. During this period, he also established breeding operations at Bellevue Hall, his family’s estate in Wilmington, Delaware. Among his horses were 1938 Preakness Stakes winner, Dauber, 
1926 American Champion Two-Year-Old Filly, Fair Star, and Rosemont, winner of the 1935 Withers Stakes and a match race against Seabiscuit in the 1937 Santa Anita Handicap. 
The 5th Fence at the 1936 Foxcatcher National Cup Steeplechase
The Foxcatcher National Cup debuts, a daunting three miles of 19 obstacles – the lowest fence was 4’8”, the highest the 6’4” Chinese Wall, and the Liverpool requiring a horizontal leap of nearly 10’. 
Battleship and Man o’ War author Dorothy Ours chronicles the founding of the Fair Hill Races in her piece, Three Breeds of Cattle and America’s Aintree. Click on image to open PDF.
Mr. du Pont creates a self-sufficient cattle operation on Foxcatcher close to East Coast markets with a 600-head herd. 
To keep cattle, hounds and horses safe, Mr. du Pont fences the 8,000-acre perimeter to ensure the fox does not leave the territory and the deer stay out. He closes the smaller public roads as he buys up the farms surrounding them. To avoid intersection with traffic on the remaining roads, he provides safe passage for horses and hounds by building iron bridges over or tunnels under the roads. 
German prisoners of war, some believed to be captured from “Wolfpack” submarines prowling coastal waters of the Chesapeake and Delaware Bays, serve as labor on Foxcatcher. 
Italian stone masons build Mr. du Pont’s hunting lodge using stones from an old house found on the site and plans designed by Mr. du Pont himself. The house is used to accommodate Mr. du Pont’s hunting guests. 
Today the house serves as the headquarters for the Fair Hill Nature Center, a 501(c)3 dedicated to environmental education and connecting people to nature.
Mr. du Pont adds more land, purchasing property east of Appleton Road known as the “Little Egypt” area and south of Rt. 273 toward Elkton along Gallaher Road. 
Due to illness, Mr. du Pont trades his horse for a jeep so he could continue to follow his beloved hounds. Mr. du Pont’s daughter, Jean Ellen du Pont McConnell, who hunted with her father, takes over as Master of Foxhounds (MFH) in 1965. 
William du Pont dies on December 31. Jean du Pont McConnell, now Shehan, continues as MFH until 1980. She renovates a small clubhouse near the kennels for hunt breakfasts and encourages locals and members of the Radnor Hunt Club (Pony Club) to come hunt.
Foxcatcher Hounds sponsors the first three-day horse trials at Fairlawn Farms at Fair Hill. 
The State of Maryland purchases 5,633 acres on the Maryland side of the state line for $6 million. The Pennsylvania portion was purchased by George Strawbridge. Under State ownership, the Fair Hill Natural Resources Management Area is created. 
Miss Patsy du Pont
Jean du Pont Shehan retires the Foxcatcher colors and disbands the pack. Ms. Patricia du Pont, a distant cousin, hunted with the Foxcatcher Hounds and established her own pack of hounds in the 50s. In 1981, she leased the hunting rights through the State and brought her American Penn MaryDel Hounds to Fair Hill, known as Miss du Pont’s Hounds. She retired from the saddle in 1991, but followed her pack until her death in 2013. All her hounds and horses were retired to her farm. Longtime followers of Miss du Pont’s hounds established The Fair Hill Hounds in 2014. They continued to hunt by subscription three days a week until summer 2021. 
Plans for the Fair Hill Training Center
Dr. John R. S. Fisher founds the Fair Hill Training Center. Set on 350 acres, it becomes one of the nation’s premier Thoroughbred training centers, producing Breeder’s Cup, Kentucky Derby and multiple graded stakes winners. 
Mr. du Pont’s hunting lodge has been transformed
into the Fair Hill Nature Center.
The Fair Hill Nature Center opened in William du Pont Jr.'s former fox hunting lodge on Earth Day 1990. Its mission is to inspire stewardship and community through outdoor environmental education. Since its founding, the center has hosted more than 165,000 local students for science-based field trips exploring Fair Hill and promoting conservation. For more information, visit https://www.fairhillnature.org/
Modern Eventing at Fair Hill.
Photo byShannon Brinkman
Organizers of the Chesterland Three-Day Event bring the CCI3* to Fair Hill. 

Additionally, by invitation of the State of Maryland, the National Steeplechase Association moves its headquarters from Belmont Park to Fair Hill to be closer to the Fair Hill steeplechase track and its primarily Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia constituency. 
The Thoroughbred Racing Protective Bureau, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Thoroughbred Racing Association of North America, begins operating at Fair Hill. 
Artistic rendering of Fair Hill's new Special Event Zone
The State of Maryland commits to create a world-class equestrian center and to host the second international 5-Star event (the first is in Lexington, Kentucky) in the country. The $20 million project requires $10 million in matching funds from the private sector, to be raised by the Fair Hill Foundation.
Fair Hill breaks ground on construction of the Special Event Zone, Phase One of the Equestrian Center Transformation Project. A ceremonial ground breaking takes place during the 86th Fair Hill Races. 
In October 2021, the inaugural Maryland 5 Star draws nearly 21,000 spectators to cheer on riders from eight countries – Australia, Canada, France, Great Britain, Ireland, New Zealand, Norway, and the U.S. In addition, Olympic riders represent six nations – Australia, Canada, France, Great Britain, New Zealand, and the U.S. – and 172 horses compete in the 5 Star, 3 Star, Young Event Horse 5-year-old division and the Young Event Horse 4-year-old division.

Major sponsors include Mars Equestrian, Select Event Group, and the Sport & Entertainment Corporation of Maryland. In addition, 49 other corporations and organizations purchase sponsorships at various other levels.