Historic farm may be added to preservation list

Whittaker Chambers' land gains Carroll's backing

May 19, 1999|By Anne Haddad | Anne Haddad,SUN STAFF

A historic Carroll County farm that belonged to former Communist Whittaker Chambers -- a player in one of the most sensational spy cases of the McCarthy era -- received preliminary approval for agricultural preservation yesterday.

The 202-acre farm now owned by Chambers' son, John Chambers, was among nine properties -- totaling more than 1,000 acres -- the county planning commission recommended be included in the agricultural preservation district.

The Chambers' farm drew national attention in 1948, when Chambers dramatically produced microfilm from a hollowed-out pumpkin that purportedly tied former State Department official Alger Hiss to Soviet agents. The "Pumpkin Papers" led to Hiss' conviction for perjury.

The 40-acre portion of the farm where the famous pumpkin grew is no longer owned by the Chambers' family. It is owned by state Sen. George W. Della Jr. of Baltimore, who last year made it eligible for preservation, although he has not sold the development rights.

The Carroll County Planning and Zoning Commission recommended that the county commissioners approve the nine farms and forward them to the state.

The farms, totaling 1,015.4 acres, are on their way to becoming agricultural preservation districts, a step that makes the landowners eligible to sell development rights to the state and prevents development of that land for at least five years.

"The only thing the landowner gets is they are eligible to apply to sell an easement if they wish, but they're not required to," said William Powel, director of the county's agricultural preservation program.

Pub Date: 5/19/99

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