The Waterford adventure, Part 1

This past weekend, October 3, 4, and 5 was the 65th Waterford Homes Tour & Crafts Exhibit. This is an annual event that literally takes over an occupied National Historic Landmark Village in Northern VA for the first full weekend in October. Visitors park in designated fields and swarm 40,000 strong over this tiny locale, population just a few hundred in the Village proper. It boasts of having the oldest Virginia post office in continuous operation at the same site.

Main Street Post Office, Circa 1880, Waterford, VA

Main Street Post Office, Circa 1880, Waterford, VA


Happy and George have attended and volunteered for “The Fair,” as it’s called locally, for years, but this was the first year they took me along. Happy told me I could invite a friend since my travel pouch holds two, and I invited Happy Hitty, which seemed appropriate. This was her first outing of any sort, and she was a bit shy. Happy and George invited their daughter-in-law’s family to join them since they had extra tickets.
Off we go with Frankie and Sharyn.  George is behind the camera, and we are in the backpack - can you see us?

Off we go with Frankie and Sharyn. George is behind the camera, and we are in the backpack - can you see us?


Here we are up close - that's Happy Hitty on the left and me, Hitty Gracious, on the right

Here we are up close - that's Happy Hitty on the left and me, Hitty Gracious, on the right


The weather on Saturday, our first day there, was beautiful. Since a lot of the Fair is outside, weather can be tricky, and the past couple of years suffered some serious rain and gloomy weather. But this year, the sun shone brightly, the temperature was cooler, and everything was dry for a change.

We went first to the Old Mill. The town was settled in 1733 by the Janney brothers, and it was on a creek, ideal for a mill town. This mill was built around 1818, and is 3 1/2 stories tall. During the fair, it houses craft items for sale. Although there are craftsmen throughout the town, and all the crafts are juried, the ones who display their work themselves are required to demonstrate their crafts, and the Fair becomes a learning experience about the old ways. In the Mill, craftspeople have dropped off their work after approval by the Foundation Committee, and it’s displayed, arranged, and watched over by volunteers. After the fair, people pick up their left-overs and receive a check from the Foundation for their share of the profits. Happy once displayed some of her paper mache and antique quilt Santa dolls there. The crafts in the Mill are of good quality, but far less expensive than those in other areas of town, and more concentrated. It’s where I personally like to shop.

Here, I select a new kitchen bowl from a collection of pottery displayed in the Mill

Here, I select a new kitchen bowl from a collection of pottery displayed in the Mill


I also selected a lovely antique quilt skirt for our Christmas tree

I also selected a lovely antique quilt skirt for our Christmas tree


When we got to the tent behind the Mill where we pay for everything, the people at the register saw us and wanted to know more. Another woman standing nearby came over to say that she had read about our ancestor in the book Hitty: Her First Hundred Years, and she was greatly excited to meet us. We posed in front of the register, still in our pouch, for a picture.
Where we met new friends and paid for our purchases

Where we met new friends and paid for our purchases


We toured one of the homes open on Saturday which was interesting. The owners had covered the Sugar Shack, as it was called, with cedar siding on the outside, so their logs only showed on the inside, which was somewhat similar to George & Happy’s nearby log cabin, though fancier. We looked at a lot of craft work, marveling at the quality (and the prices). We also jumped a few times as cannons were lit off. They are very loud. Happy Hitty was shivering beside me in our pouch.

We finally made it up Big Hill, a very appropriate name for this street. We believe there ought to be some sort of tow rope to haul people up to High Street since trying to walk up this road is like climbing a mountain. At the top, we crossed over to the Old School area. This is called the Old School because the building was the first public school in Waterford for white children, though it was eventually replaced by a more modern brick elementary facility just on the edge of the Village. The Waterford Foundation maintains this old school building and has used it as a sort of community center for many events until early last year when a tragic fire burned the entire back end of the school. The fire was ruled accidental, which was some consolation, but the loss was great.

The auditorium and hyphen of the Old School were lost, but the main portion was saved.

The auditorium and hyphen of the Old School were lost, but the main portion was saved.


Ironically, the first school on this property was also destroyed by fire, and this was its replacement, built in 1910. Eventually, the Foundation hopes to rebuild since the facility not only housed many crafts people during the fair but was a location for meetings, concerts, programs, and even weddings.

We enjoyed lunch at the Waterford Citizen’s Association BBQ stand, an annual event. We had yummy pulled pork sandwiches with sauce, slaw, and chips. After that, we visited with a long time friend and Waterford resident, master quilter Kathie Ratcliff, in her Nine Patch Studio booth. Her work is so detailed I could go blind. They are faithful reproductions, and of the highest quality you could imagine. Happy has one of Kathie’s quilts, but we aren’t allowed to have it in the Hitty house: she keeps it framed where we can’t even touch it.

Cake Stand Quilt in Civil War colors by Nine Patch Studio owner and master quilter, Kathie Ratcliff

Cake Stand Quilt in Civil War colors by Nine Patch Studio owner and master quilter, Kathie Ratcliff


Our guests were worn out by this time and took their leave of us to go home and rest. George and Happy with us in tow forged on. We encountered a man who had as part of his wares for sale some fabulous seashells, all carved from wood. They were very realistic, and we were fascinated. They gave us permission to climb into the case and have our picture made with the shells.
Amazing wooden seashells that were hand carved, just as we were.

Amazing wooden seashells that were hand carved, just as we were.


We thought these were quite lovely, though not really suitable for us since they were actual size and thus too large to be properly appreciated on a daily basis. We enjoyed sitting with them, but we left them for others to see and purchase.

On the way out of the Old School area, we passed by one of several Civil War encampments at the Fair, evidenced by troops in blue or grey uniforms, marching up and down the streets, drum and bugle corps, cannon fire, musket fire, and some minor skirmishes. During the civil War, Waterford was located in the South but at the Northern edge of a Border State. Being composed as it was of mostly Quakers, loyal to the Union but staunch pacifists, made for some tough times. It was not uncommon to see either group – Union or Confederate – there, and neither group cared much about the little village that tried so hard to stay out of the War. Some Quakers actually did take part by performing useful functions but did not participate in battles. Some, though, eventually had enough of the confiscations and take-overs, and The Loudoun Rangers were formed, the only group to fight for the Union from Virginia. On our way back down the hill Saturday, we paused at this encampment to take a couple of pictures.

Here I am, just on the edge of the encampment with the soldiers in the background

Here I am, just on the edge of the encampment with the soldiers in the background


We ventured a bit further into the settlement to inquire of a very nice lady as to whether we might have the opportunity to take her photograph. She agreed, and we asked if I might be in the picture with her.
I love her hat.  I wonder if Happy could find one like that for me.

I love her hat. I wonder if Happy could find one like that for me.

We made our way through to the other end of the Village (it is sort of like a wheel with three main spokes to it) past the Second Street School. We paused outside but didn’t go in since we knew we would be back there the following day.

Here I am outside the school with its new sign.  The old one was presented to Kathie Ratcliff just a short time ago for her years of service to the Foundation as its Education Chair.

Here I am outside the school with its new sign. The old one was presented to Kathie Ratcliff just a short time ago for her years of service to the Foundation as its Education Chair.


We wandered down Second Street, pausing to purchase a bag of freshly roasted peanuts in the shell and then to sit on a stone wall to eat a few and watch the people go by. We were also wearing down. We made it back to the center of town and the Corner store, perched at the point where the main roads all intersect. Across from the store, which is now the Waterford Foundation’s office, is a triangle of land where the Village well and Jail House stand between Water Street (aptly named) and Big Hill, so named because … (see previous description). Back in the old days, this well was the town’s only source of drinking water, and residents had to haul it home in buckets. What a chore. The Corner Store boasts its own Wooden Indian, who I was fortunate enough to meet.
This wooden indian is larger than life size.  I was impressed.

This wooden indian is larger than life size. I was impressed.


We could barely haul our tired bodies up the grade on Water Street back to the Water Street Meadow where the truck was parked, not at the top of the hill but over the top and down the other side, of course. George graciously made the climb, leaving us with Happy who cheerfully struck up a conversation with an elderly gentleman, who also waited for his ride, and the ticket booth man, who was assisting some visitors who had lost their vehicle. There are several meadows in which patrons park during the Fair, and this couple hadn’t realized there was more than one location, so they didn’t pay attention to where they were when they arrived. Oh my. It’s not a big place, but when one is on foot after walking a full day, the thought of traipsing back through town to find one’s vehicle is not one that I would anticipate with any joy.

It was a wonderful adventure. We Hittys had only heard about Waterford, but now Happy Hitty and I can tell all the others here at Hitty House about our trip. Of course this was only Saturday’s adventure. There is more to come in Waterford on Sunday.

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