Historic Waterford, VA, Farm Protected

Waterford, VA, 12/19/03: In a modern version of “It’s a Wonderful Life,” the village of Waterford, population 210, rallied to save the 144-acre farm, which originally started the village in 1733 when it was settled by Quaker Amos Janey. Waterford, a National Historic Landmark rich with Quaker and African-American history, has been under siege since March of this year when a developer bought the historic Phillips Farm. If the farm were developed, Waterford would have lost its National Historic Landmark status and 270 years of history.

In August The Waterford Foundation, with the assistance of the Trust for Public Land, contracted to purchase the farm from the developers, but then faced the daunting challenge of raising $3.9 million by December 18, 2003 to complete the purchase and save the land.

Faced with the challenge of raising more money in six months than the collective efforts of the Waterford Foundation had raised in 60 years, the village residents refused to accept failure as an option. Immediate help was offered by the Trust for Public Land, a nonprofit land conservation organization specializing in conservation real estate, which donated time and extensive expertise in negotiations, to purchase of the farm. The National Trust for Historic Preservation stepped in with assistance, as did Dominion Resources Foundation, which donated $50,000.

The response for help has been a remarkable affirmation of the importance of saving this National Historic Landmark. Coins and checks were collected every day. From strategic plans, to organizing children’s poster contests, to soliciting $1 million grants and $100 Preservation Bond purchasers, the villagers worked endlessly to raise the $3.9 million. A Social Studies class at FJ Turner High School in Beloit, WI, read about the villagers’ efforts and pooled their lunch money to send a contribution of $57. Donations were received from New Zealand, Australia, England, and a lemonade stand the children of Waterford started as a fund-raiser.

In addition to the many important small donations, a number of larger gifts made the goal attainable.

The Waterford Foundation received a $500,000 donation towards from a donor who wishes to remain anonymous, but has a history of supporting preservation projects. The contribution has no strings attached. Its sole purpose is to preserve Waterford as a “living museum” for this generation and generations to come. The executors of the Paul Mellon estate gave $200,000 and also made an additional $50,000 contribution to the Waterford Foundation to further its educational outreach efforts. “We were particularly impressed to learn the rich history of Waterford’s founding Quakers and are delighted to support the Waterford Foundation’s educational programs with the expectation that this very significant history will be brought to the attention of the widest possible audience,” said Frederick A. Terry, Jr., an executor of the estate of Paul Mellon.

On the 18th of December, the day the Foundation purchases the Phillips Farm, it will hold a celebration for all supporters in the village’s 19th Century School House. Children will sing “America the Beautiful,” and a time capsule filled with the names of all donors will be presented to ensure the gifts of all are remembered by generations to come. From Congressmen to schoolchildren, all will raise a toast to those who have, literally, made history.

About The Waterford Foundation

In 1970, Waterford, Virginia and its surrounding 1,400 acres were designated a National Historic Landmark, the highest designation of historic significance possible in the United States of America. This places the Waterford Historic District on the same level of significance as Independence Hall, Mount Vernon and Colonial Williamsburg. For 60 years the Waterford Foundation has dedicated itself to preserving the rich historic, agricultural, architectural, and cultural integrity of the Quaker village. Contact The Waterford Foundation at (540) 882-4929, or visit us on the web at www.savewaterford.com.

About The Trust for Public Land

The Trust for Public Land (TPL) conserves land for people to enjoy as parks, gardens, and other natural places, ensuring livable communities for generations to come. Since its founding in 1972, TPL has helped protect more than 1.6 million acres of land nationwide, including more than 12,000 acres in Virginia. The Trust for Public Land depends on the support and generosity of individuals, foundations, and businesses to achieve its land for people mission.