The rolling vistas of farmland surrounding Waterford have been part of the village’s visual history for hundreds of years. Walking in the village today, you see rural field patterns that would be very familiar to villagers in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
In 2003, the Phillips Farm, 144 acres of farmland southwest of the village, was slated to be subdivided into multiple lots. Had that development occurred, destroying the pastoral viewshed beyond the South Fork of the Catoctin Creek, Waterford’s National Historic Landmark status would have been seriously jeopardized.
The Waterford Foundation and its many supporters secured nearly $4 million to purchase the Phillips Farm. It is now preserved as open space in agricultural use forever, through a conservation easement held by the Virginia Outdoors Foundation. A copy of the easement is available upon request from the Foundation office.
The opportunities on the Farm to further our understanding of this region’s agrarian past are numerous and fascinating. Protection of the site’s natural resources and agricultural use of the Farm are requirements of the conservation easement. Much of the Farm is leased to a local farmer for haymaking. Beehives on the farm managed by Loudoun Center Apiaries produce honey that can be purchased at the Foundation.
The Waterford Foundation has released a Phillips Farm Management and Land Use Plan carefully developed to ensure responsible stewardship of the Farm in accordance with the requirements of the conservation easement. (In 2010 the Virginia Department of Forestry recognized this work by designating the Farm a Certified Stewardship Forest.) Protection of the site’s natural resources and support of agricultural uses of the Farm, key requirements of the easement, are highlighted. So is its historic significance to the area. The plan also contains directions to the Farm, an Access Policy, and Rules of the Trail for visitors. A copy of the complete plan is available upon request from the Foundation office.
Educational programs for historic preservation and natural resources protection are underway on the Phillips Farm. Habitat restoration (the Farm is a Monarch Butterfly Waystation), forestry management, water quality monitoring, and riparian buffer planting are ongoing efforts coordinated by the Phillips Farm Committee. The Foundation partners with the Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy on several of these programs. Bird and butterfly counts and bluebird nest boxes provide additional educational opportunities. An interpretive trail provides visitors with an opportunity to study the history and natural beauty of the area.
Check the calendar of events to learn about upcoming educational activities on the Farm.
In September 2009 an interpretive trail officially opened. Trail markers and a brochure detail the natural and cultural history on the property, with numbered posts corresponding to points of interest. This trail project was funded by a generous grant from the Peter M. Howard Memorial Fund through the Piedmont Community Foundation and the volunteer efforts of Rob Hale, John Souders, and Committee Chair Mimi Westervelt.
We welcome visitors and ask their help in preserving this special place. You may download a Self-Guided Trail Walking Tour brochure (or pick up one at the trailhead behind Waterford’s Old Mill) to learn about the cultural and natural history of the Farm. As you hike the trail, you will understand the relationship of the Farm to the growth of the village, and why this property is so important to Waterford’s status as one of America’s National Historic Landmarks.