Landmark Status? A Mixed Blessing

POSTMARK: WATERFORD, VA.

November 08, 1992|By WAYNE HARDIN

One Waterford story is the village itself -- idyllic, lovely and beloved. Another is about property rights on surrounding land, an issue that hovers over the future of the Virginia town. Both tales are about the boundaries imposed by the village's landmark status.

Where can a visitor find the first story, that of the pastoral village?

In Marie Anderson's English garden on any ravishing fall day. Her garden is next to the Pink House, the bed-and-breakfast she and her husband restored. Pink in color as well as name, the four-story house stands out among the white, earth-tone and brick homes in the village.

"In the '40s, so we were told, there was quite a scandal when people painted the house pink," she says. "Now, it's a landmark. The outcry probably would be as loud again if we tried to change it."

Waterford, southwest of Frederick, Md., and just north of Leesburg, is one of a small group of National Historic Landmarks comprised of an entire village. Resembling an English country village in layout, with farmland rolling right up to the back yards, -- Waterford boasts what has been called one of the finest concentrations of rural 19th century architecture in the South. Federal, Georgian and Greek Revival are leading styles, but nine log homes are among the 120 structures.

"Waterford is more than a just pretty place," says Mrs. Anderson, a 27-year resident. "It's unspoiled; all the houses are different. But it's more than that, too; it's a community."

Another source of the first story can be found in the sunny back yard of Edward and Anne Carter Smith's 1790s Bank House, where one can sit on a bench looking out over a pasture at a melange of black, red and white cattle. Mrs. Smith's first husband, Wellman Chamberlin, who died in 1976, his father, Leroy, and a brother began fixing up the deteriorating town in the late 1930s, she says.

"They put a lot of people to work and started restoring houses," says Mrs. Smith, 75.

Mary Elizabeth Wallace, one of three blacks living in Waterford, adds another perspective to Waterford's idyllic tale.

Settled by Quakers in 1733 and named by a later Irish resident, Waterford was a haven for free blacks. By 1860, 155 free blacks lived and worked here, outnumbering the Quakers. The black population declined sharply during the Depression, as people moved away seeking work. Born here, Ms. Wallace, 73, lives in a neat little brick house owned by the Smiths.

"I've always liked Waterford but there're not many black people to associate with now," she says. "Even so, I'd rather be here than anywhere else."

Waterford's other story is told in the farmland around the Loudoun County village. The very thing that gives Waterford its special quality also is the source of concern.

That's because the landmark area includes not only the town but large pieces of the adjacent farms. The town is 50 acres but the landmark area designated in 1970 is 1,420 acres. This presented no problem when the owners farmed the land. Now that some want to sell their land, the landmark portions present potential challenges and obstacles. So does the non-profit, 49-year-old Waterford Foundation, which sees itself as the "guardian of the past."

"There is development pressure," says foundation executive director Linda Cox, 52, a resident since 1979. "We're within the 60-mile radius of Washington."

To ensure Waterford's rural "integrity," the foundation wants to work with farm owners toward agreements limiting how much the land can be developed. As part of such an agreement, called the "Waterford Compact," the landowner would receive a payment from the foundation.

Ms. Cox picks up a map of the landmark area showing five major parcels in different colors. Jack Hutchison's 1,400-acre farm north of Waterford is the yellow splotch on the map, largest of the farmland tracts. It has been for sale for five years. About 300 acres fall within the landmark village boundaries.

"If the town wants to be historic, let it be historic," Mr. Hutchison says. "But leave us alone out here." Still, he signed the compact, giving the foundation until next June to raise $1.9 million.

Patti Hutchison, his daughter-in-law, understands the viewpoints of both sides. Mrs. Hutchison, 33, her husband and their daughter live on the farm and she works at Waterford Market near the foundation offices in what once was "the Tin Shop."

"I do think the foundation is doing good things to help landowners," she says. "Linda and the foundation want to do the right thing." The right thing next June could be worth $1.9 million to the Hutchisons and could help keep the past in Waterford's future.

She sees hope that the sensitive issue can be worked out.

"This is a very caring community," she says. "Although people have political differences or differences on land use, when crisis strikes a family, people pull together and look out for each other."

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