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68th Annual Waterford
Location: Waterford, VA
Date Built: Founded 1733
It takes a vision to preserve historic sites, towns, villages, like the Rockefellers of Williamsburg, or Electra Havermeyer Webb of Shelburne Museum, or the Flynts of Deerfield. Because of their vision, many towns have been saved from the eminent destruction of their existence.
Street scene in Waterford
Because of the vision of brothers Edward and Leroy Chamberlin who began buying and restoring buildings and the birth of the Waterford Foundation in 1943, a rural village was rescued from the creeping suburbs, strip development and urban renewal. Waterford Foundation is responsible for renovating and maintaining the historic structures and open spaces it owns. During Waterford's reconstruction in the 1940's many of the carpenters and craftsmen were laid off workers from the Depression.
In 1970 Waterford, Virginia became a National Historic Landmark because of its balance between the buildings of an intact historic agrarian village and the unspoiled agricultural setting that surrounds it. And yet this little village in the Catoctin Mountains of Virginia is still an active community. Residents may have lived there all there lives. Some families go back generations in Waterford. The architecture is a mixture of frontier log cabins, colonial stone houses, impressive Federal style homes, and Victorian homes with wrap-around porches. Many of the buildings were built prior to 1840. Of the seventy or so buildings that existed there in 1875, only fourteen have disappeared.
Prior to the forming of the Waterford Foundation, many of the colonial homes were being neglected and in a sorry state of repair. One of the founders of the Waterford Foundation remembers Schooley's home as "a disaster with the roof caved in. It stood amid a jungle of weeds, forlorn and abandoned." Waterford Foundation secured a number of easements while the preservation began. Waterford Foundation along with its residents have had to fight off a number of development attempts over the years. They along with local citizens were successful in purchasing for $4 million the Phillips 144 acre farm southwest of the town.
The Waterford Mill which operated until 1939. Mill End property is in the background.
In 2008, Waterford was recognized as one of thirty historic towns in the Journey Through Hallowed Ground National Heritage Area, an area that stretches 180 miles long and 75 miles wide and includes places like Gettysburg, Leesburg, Culpeper, and Monticello. It is one of the only few National Landmark villages in the nation.
Like any community, Waterford's history is that of its people and can best be seen in the homes where they lived. Amos Janney and other Quakers from Bucks County, Pennsylvania, first settled there in 1733, and a community grew up around a grist mill on the south fork of Catoctin Creek. As early as 1762, Mahlon Janney built the stone wing of the Samuel Means House as part of his thriving mill operation. The son of the Irish immigrant who named Waterford for his home town, Asa Moore lived there and added a brick wing onto his stone home prior to 1803, making it one of the most impressive buildings in the village. Asa Moore realized this by insuring the house for $2,300. The addition of a second oversized cooking fireplace, when even aristocrats' manor houses enjoyed no such luxury, has raised speculation as to whether two generations of Moores shared this home-certainly two cooks must have.
Waterford had two or three names in colonial times; Janney's Mill, Fairfax, and Milltown. The first two names are part of the historical record, the third name comes from a writer in 1915 who asserted that it was also known as Mill Town.
By 1780, It became known as Waterford due to the settlement of Thomas and , Elizabeth Moore, and five adult children who arrived in the village in three separate caravans.Thomas Moore was an Irish shoemaker who was born 1730 in Waterford, Ireland. In 1803 Moore received the first patent by coining the term "refrigerator."
His invention was an icebox made out of a cedar tub which was insulated with rabbit fur, filled with ice, and wrapped in a piece of sheet metal. His invention paid off because his customers were willing to pay a premium for his butter which had not softened up or melted.
Waterford became the home of millers, tanners, carpenters, blacksmiths, wagon makers, wheelwright, cabinet makers, and chair manufactures. The chairs which were known as Waterford chairs were a beautiful version of the ladder-back side chairs and rocking chairs which included acorn shaped finials to the chair backs, wide, gracefully arched splats, and splint bottom seats.
Waterford had a large Quaker population during the Civil War and remained strongly anti-secessionist at the start of the war. After the Civil War, commercial enterprises became stagnated because many Quakers moved west because Virginia did no squelch slavery. Also the railroad bypassed the town beginning in 1830 with the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad reaching Point of Rocks, Maryland, The Chesapeake and Ohio Canal reached Point of Rocks two years later which suddenly made the town the main shipping point for flour and corn meal.
These decisions saved Waterford from being demolished and gave the preservationists the ability to rescue the town in the twentieth century for future generations. The common bond that the people of Waterford share is preservation. Colonial Sense has listed only a few homes below. Be sure to visit in the fall when the three days Homes Tour and Craft Exhibit take place. All money raised is used for preservation work.There will be 155 recognized juried artisans featuring traditional craftsmanship There will be Revolutionary War militia camps in the small town of approximately 1000 people. The town swells close to 30,000 during this event. Also during the weekends of spring, summer, and fall, guided walking tours are available through the Waterford Foundation.
Source: Text & photos by Bryan Wright
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