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Waterford, VA - Street scene in Waterford
Street scene in Waterford
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.

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.

Waterford, VA - The Waterford Mill which operated until 1939. Mill End property is in the background.
The Waterford Mill which operated until 1939. Mill End property is in the background.
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.

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.

Waterford, VA Picture
Camelot School - This is a V-notched log house constructed by Patrick McGavack, a wealthy local weaver, prior to his death in 1826. Patrick lived in Catalpa Grover and rented this property to the locals. It was was purchased by Leroy Chamberlin in 1938, the preservationist we mentioned earlier. His nephew ran a school known as the Camelot School during WWII.
Waterford, VA Picture
Mill End - This house known simply as Mill End was constructed after the purchase of the mill complex in 1814 by Emanuel and Catherine Newcomer. It is Federal period house with Flemish brick bond on the front facade and five-course common bond on the sides and real.
Waterford, VA Picture
Hollingsworth-Lee House - Samuel Gover was living in this brick house in 1827. It remained part of the mill tract for many years. The house receives its name from its next purchaser, Robert Hollingsworth who was a Quaker schoolteacher from Frederick County Virginia. The floor plan is unusual in that there is a passage running from the front door all the way to the rear of the house.
Waterford, VA Picture
Samuel Means House - This home is an unusual combination of stone and brick.The stone portion of the house was built in 1762 by Mahlon Janney from money received in his thriving mill operation. The floor plan was a typical three room "Quaker" or "Penn" plan. It was part of the mill operation. The brick portion of the house was built sometime in 1803 by Asa Moore who insured the house for $2,300.
Waterford, VA Picture
Dormers - This house was constructed sometime after 1803 by Mahlon Janney's nephew, Mahlon II. The wings, roof dormer, and rear addition were added later. John Schooley lived here while he was operating the mill. His son operated the mill until 1908 when he died.
Waterford, VA Picture
The Mill - This three and a half story mill was built in 1818 and was the largest mill built on the site. It appears that it was the third mill constructed on the property. The mill operated until 1939. The Waterford Foundation bought the mill in 1944 and used it as exhibit space for the annual fair.


Source: Text & photos by Bryan Wright

Related Links:

Waterford Foundation
Waterford Village

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