Originally a Quaker village dating back to 1733, Waterford, Virginia became a center of commerce and diversity in the early 19th century. Free African-Americans lived alongside their white neighbors, uncommon for the standards of the time. This fundamental difference in philosophies and loyalties grew to violence during the Civil War, when Waterford, in Confederate Virginia, raised a cavalry unit to fight for the Union.
Marginalized after the war, Waterford remained essentially a time capsule and by the mid-20th century, its historic homes and pastoral surroundings provided a pristine view of a time that had long before receded into history. In 1970, Waterford became a National Historic Landmark District largely due to the efforts of the Waterford Foundation. In 2011 the Landmark was designated a Preserve America Community.
The Foundation continues to conduct living history programs, host concerts, a homes tour and juried crafts exhibit, and lectures, and preserve and protect historic properties. Today more than 75 percent of Foundation members and contributors live outside of the historic village and are considered an integral part of the greater Waterford community.
Waterford’s history, less tangible than the land and our buildings, can be fragile and fleeting. When descendants visit and share their research and photographs—and we in turn can share what we have learned with them—everyone gains, including future visitors and school children, descendants, and individuals interested in a local aspect of our nation’s history. Research is ongoing about the many families—black and white—who have called Waterford home since the 18th century. Members of the committee have aided descendants seeking more information about their families and have supported research for several national publications.
Over the years, the Waterford Foundation has gathered historical artifacts—from books to buggies—that explore the architecture, archaeology, agricultural, geology, economy, education, and culture of the people who lived here. These items add to our knowledge of Waterford as an important agricultural and manufacturing center.
The Waterford Foundation is now in the process of establishing a museum and library that will make this collection available to you. Plans also call for genealogical archives of Waterford families and their descendants.
A rotating display of some of these treasured artifacts are on display at the Corner Store, 40138 Main Street in the center of Waterford.