Brandywine's big bequest from Richard Mellon Scaife

Richard Mellon Scaife's Brandywine bequest includes nearly half his art collection.
Richard Mellon Scaife's Brandywine bequest includes nearly half his art collection. (AP)
Posted: July 16, 2014

Richard Mellon Scaife, the billionaire who died July 4, left nearly half his large art collection, a 900-acre Western Pennsylvania estate, and $15 million to the Brandywine Conservancy and Museum of Art in Chadds Ford, according to a will filed with the register of wills in Westmoreland County, southeast of Pittsburgh.

Scaife, 82, known for his backing of conservative and libertarian causes, and his support of conservative think tanks such as the Heritage Foundation, was an heir to the Mellon banking and oil fortune, and publisher of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and other newspapers. He feuded famously (and then made up) with Bill and Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Less well-known were his activities as a collector of art and his interest in historic preservation, environmental issues, and conservation.

Virginia Logan, executive director of Delaware County's Brandywine Conservancy and Museum, said Scaife was a trustee and donor to the organization "for decades." His longtime friend George "Frolic" Weymouth is a founder of the conservancy and remains on the organization's board.

In a statement, Weymouth said: "Mr. Scaife was a personal friend of mine for over 50 years, and I am saddened by the loss of this great man. I am humbled and honored that he has shown his trust in the Brandywine Conservancy and Museum of art with this generous bequest."

Tom Padon, director of the conservancy's Brandywine River Museum of Art, called the bequest of art visionary.

"Richard Scaife's extraordinary generosity and commitment to the Brandywine River Museum of Art over decades has been instrumental to our growth, and his bequest is visionary in what it will mean to the enrichment of our visitor experience reqand the expansion of our programmatic and research activities," Padon said Monday.

Scaife's will also stipulates that at least eight paintings in his collection by naive painter John Kane, who was born in Scotland but lived most of his life in Western Pennsylvania, should go to the Westmoreland Museum of American Art in Greensburg, Pa. Kane is represented in many museums and public collections around the country, including the Barnes Foundation.

The Westmoreland Museum will also receive the other half of Scaife's art collection, minus "works of art that relate to the Scaife family or the Mellon family."

Judith O'Toole, director and chief executive of the Westmoreland Museum, told Trib Total Media, part of Scaife's news holdings, that she was overwhelmed by the gift.

"I'm only sad that I can't thank him in person, but I'm sure he knew what this would mean to the museum, and to me personally," she said.

The will is short on detail, and lawyer H. Yale Gutnick, one of Scaife's executors and a longtime friend and colleague, said he could not estimate the value of the collection or even characterize the paintings and artists.

On Monday, Gutnick said the paintings were largely by American artists. He called it a "very, very substantial collection" put together "over many, many years."

He declined to define it further. "There's so much, I can't describe it all," he said. "It would take me three days to go through it."

Complicating the situation is that the Westmoreland Museum and the Brandywine are given the responsibility of dividing the paintings themselves. If they cannot agree on a plan, a process of alternating picks will be put in place.

In addition to art, Scaife bequeathed a 900-acre estate in Ligonier, Westmoreland County, to the Brandywine. Scaife grew up in the 50-room mansion at Penguin Court (a dozen penguins once roamed the grounds), but in the 1960s he razed the house and transformed the land into a conservancy. The will also provides $15 million to the Brandywine to maintain the estate.

The will directs that assets Scaife inherited from his parents be divided between the Sarah Scaife Foundation and Scaife's Allegheny Foundation. No value of these assets is available, nor is the value of the rest of the estate, which will largely go to the Richard M. Scaife 2008 Revocable Trust.

Forbes magazine estimated Scaife's net worth at the time of his death at $1.5 billion.

215-854-5594 @SPSalisbury

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