Waterford is a small village set in the hills and farmland of western Loudoun County that is trying to preserve its historic past. It consists of old-style homes and farms that make the community look much as it did 300 years ago.
The extent of the community’s commercial corridor is the Waterford Market, where you can still get a 50-cent can of Dr Pepper from a rusty red vending machine outside.
Flocks of sheep live down the lane adjacent to the market. “Here, little city boys can get the taste and smell of a farm,” said Sherry Satin, a longtime resident.
At the oldest continually operating post office in Virginia, households are assigned a gold-bronze wall mailbox because mail isn’t delivered door to door. So at 12:45 on a recent afternoon, two girls jumped off bikes and ran inside to get the mail.
Around the corner is the tiny jail “once used for chicken thieves and those who drank too much on Saturday nights,” said Satin.
“You find a pretty intact village from the 18th and 19th centuries along with field patterns and hedgerows surrounding town unchanged since then. Ninety percent of the buildings were constructed before 1900,” she said. “People feel they’ve stepped back in time when they come here.”
Sidewalks are red brick, flagstone or concrete. Fallen walnuts and leaves from the tree canopy overhead crunch underfoot. The hills are amber in the fall sunlight and dotted with goldenrods.
Most of the houses are Federal-style, built between 1800 and 1820, but Victorians, Colonials and little Georgetown-like rowhouses are there, too. Brick, stone, stucco and log construction make for a varied street aesthetic.
The Waterford Foundation has been preserving and protecting historic buildings and open space since 1943 and was instrumental in the designation of the village as a National Historic Landmark District.
The foundation’s challenge is to keep the county’s growth from overtaking the town. When a developer wants to buy property adjacent to the town, it’s up to the people to preserve the land, said Neil Hughes, a longtime resident and former president of the foundation.
People organize to raise money and buy the property. “Wateford is a wonderful example of private preservation,” Hughes said.
Anti-Confederate past: Founded in 1740 by Quakers, Waterford was a commercial and agricultural center. Factory Street got its name from the livery stable, blacksmith and wheelwright shops, paint warehouse, and tannery once located there. “Today the town is so pretty and smells good, but back in 1800s it was dusty, planky and smelly,” Satin said.
Hughes, author of “A House in Time: Discovering America Through a Quaker House Door,” to be published next year, offers several historical anecdotes:
Waterford was a haven for African Americans. Before the Civil War a quarter of the population’s blacks were free, and yet slaves were sold in the town center and some residents owned them.
During the Civil War, Quaker women secretly published a pro-Union paper called the Waterford News. Copies were found among Lincoln’s effects after his assassination.
Living there: Waterford, in Zip code 20197, is roughly 13 square miles, bordered on the northwest by Berlin Turnpike/Route 287, on the north by Ash George Road, on the east by Catoctin Ridge and Clarkes Gap Road, on the south by Hamilton Station Road and on the west by Route 9/Charlestown Turnpike.
According to Sharon Buchanan-McIntosh, an agent with Re/Max Village Properties and a longtime resident, the historic village is about one square mile and includes mostly older homes built from 1765 to 1905 plus a few rebuilds that sit on quarter-to-half-acre lots.
Twenty-four homes are for sale now in Waterford, at prices ranging from $475,000 for three bedrooms and 11 / 2 baths to $2.599 million for six bedrooms and five bathrooms.
Four houses are under contract, ranging from $449,000 for a log cabin with three bedrooms and two bathrooms to $750,000 for a five-bedroom, four-bathroom house.
Twenty-nine homes sold in the past 12 months, at prices ranging from $250,000 for a 1963 log cabin with two bedrooms and one bathroom on 0.13 acres to $1.25 million for a new home on 15 acres with five bedrooms and four bathrooms.
Weekend festival: If you’re considering checking out the community and perhaps the houses for sale there, this might be the time to do it. The 70th annual Waterford Homes Tour and Crafts Exhibit, which typically attracts 20,000 people, is this weekend.
“There’s a great feeling in the air,” Satin said. “The whole village turns into magical place that affects all your senses.”
You can see weavers, woodworkers, and basket and jewelry makers at work; enjoy the aroma of homemade pies, yeast rolls and funnel cakes; hear bluegrass, gospel and folk music; and eat the beef and lamb raised by Burt McIntosh and turned into beef burgers and lamb sausage by the Boy Scouts. “It’s very popular, and people line up” for the fare, said resl estate agent Buchanan-McIntosh, who is his wife.
Getting around: From Waterford, Washington is an hour’s drive. Tysons Corner is 35 minutes away; Dulles Airport, 25 minutes; and Leesburg and Purcellville, 10 minutes. Metro’s Silver Line will eventually extend to Dulles.
Schools: Waterford Elementary.
Crime: The Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office said Waterford has “the lowest reportable crime” compared with other areas of the county, but it would not provide statistics on specific crimes there.
Audrey Hoffer is a freelance writer.