Whittaker Chambers Farm

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Whitakker Chambers Farm
Whittaker Chambers Farm is located in Maryland
Whittaker Chambers Farm
Whittaker Chambers Farm is located in the US
Whittaker Chambers Farm
Location East Saw Mill Rd., Westminster, Maryland
Coordinates 39°39′35″N 76°58′35″W / 39.65972°N 76.97639°W / 39.65972; -76.97639Coordinates: 39°39′35″N 76°58′35″W / 39.65972°N 76.97639°W / 39.65972; -76.97639
Area 390 acres (160 ha)
Built 1941
Website whittakerchambers.org
NRHP reference # 88001824
Significant dates
Added to NRHP May 17, 1988[1]
Designated NHLD May 17, 1988[2]

The Whittaker Chambers Farm, also known as Pipe Creek Farm, is a historic cluster of farm properties near Westminster in rural Carroll County, Maryland. The farm is of historic significance for its ownership by Whittaker Chambers (1901-1961), a pivotal figure in American Cold War politics. Chambers, a former member of the Communist Party of the United States, was responsible for exposing the espionage activities of State Department official Alger Hiss. Chambers' farm, where he lived from 1941 until his death, is one of the places where secret films were hidden. The property was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1988, in a somewhat controversial decision.[2][3] Most of the property remains in the Chambers family, and is not accessible to the public.

Description[edit]

The Whittaker Chamber Farm is located a few miles north of Westminster, and is roughly bounded by East Saw Mill Road to the southwest and Pipe Creek to the northeast. The farm comprises three contiguous areas, separately purchased and separately owned, totalling about 390 acres (160 ha). The land is a mix of open fields and woods.[4]

The first tract of land, a 40-acre (16 ha) parcel, was purchased by Chambers in 1941, and was the original core of the farm. Chambers sold it in 1957 to an architect who built the present house in 1960, replacing the house (which had been damaged by fire) that was Chambers' primary residence from 1941 to 1957. The original barn and other outbuildings from Chambers' ownership remain. The pumpkin patch that featured in events concerning Alger Hiss has been destroyed.[4]

The second tract, Pipe Creek Farm, comprises about 230 acres (93 ha). It was purchased in 1946 by Chambers and remains in the family. The mid-19th century house on this property was Chambers' residence from 1957 to his death in 1961. The property includes a pond and several outbuildings;[4] A fire destroyed the barn and damaged a shed that stood on the property in Chambers' time.[5]

A third tract of 120 acres (49 ha) was purchased by Chambers in 1947 as a connecting parcel between the first two. The house, known as "Medfield", was built in the 19th century and was used by Chambers as a writing retreat. Chambers added a connection between the main house and an adjoining summer house in the 1950s. This property also remains in the Chambers family.[4]

Historic significance[edit]

Whittaker Chambers had joined the Communist Party in 1925, and engaged in spying for the Soviet Union in the 1930s. He eventually became disenchanted and left the party. In 1948 he revealed that Alger Hiss, then a prominent official in the State Department, had also engaged in espionage for the Soviets. Hiss was convicted of perjury in a sensationalized trial that was a major event of the Cold War. Chambers was a star witness who, in December 1948, retrieved microfilm from a hollowed-out pumpkin on his farm which was turned over to investigators. The case served to greatly raise the profile of Richard Nixon, then a little-known Congressman from California.[4]

The farm was also a key in the relationship between Chambers and Hiss. Chambers reported that he first saw the property in company with Hiss, who had originally contracted to buy it. Chambers eventually purchased it as part of his ideological retreat from Communism, and as a place remote from possible retaliation for his departure from the party.[4]

Landmark designation[edit]

The decision in 1988 to designate the Chambers Farm a National Historic Landmark was unusual at the time for two reasons. First, it did not pass the usual requirement of 50 years' age for a historic event. Second, the National Park Service Advisory Board recommended against its designation.[6] In 1988, Interior Secretary Donald P. Hodel granted national landmark status to the Pipe Creek Farm.[7]

In 2012, an academic published a book on the Cold War which questioned the propriety of the farm as landmark.[8] A member of the Chambers family replied, explaining that the farm was not a museum, and that it was not open to the public.[9][10]

Threats[edit]

The proposed Union Mills reservoir, if built, may flood portions of the Chambers property close to Pipe Creek.[11]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ National Park Service (2008-04-15). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 
  2. ^ a b "Whitakker Chambers Farm". National Historic Landmark summary listing. National Park Service. Retrieved 2008-06-09. 
  3. ^ Barry Mackintosh (January 26, 1988). "National Register of Historic Places Inventory-Nomination: Whitakker Chambers Farm" (pdf). National Park Service. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f Mackintosh, Barry (January 26, 1988). "National Register of Historic Places Inventory - Nomination Form: Whittaker Chambers Farm". National Park Service. Retrieved 2009-03-20. 
  5. ^ Riordan, Penny (May 1, 2007). "Fire causes damage at historic farm". Carroll County Times. Retrieved 2009-03-20. 
  6. ^ "Whittaker Chambers's Farm Is Proposed for Landmark". The New York Times. March 21, 1988. Retrieved September 3, 2009. 
  7. ^ "Site in Hiss-Chambers Case Now a Landmark". The New York Times. May 18, 1988. Retrieved June 9, 2008. 
  8. ^ Wiener, Jon (October 13, 2012). "A visit to the right's least popular museum". Salon.com. Retrieved 19 October 2012. 
  9. ^ Chambers, David (October 18, 2012). "Whittaker Chambers relative: Farm need not be open to public". Salon.com. Retrieved 19 October 2012. 
  10. ^ Chambers, David (October 19, 2012). "Salon.com debate on Whittaker Chambers Farm". WhittakerChambers.org. Retrieved 19 October 2012. 
  11. ^ "Planned Union Mills Reservoir" (PDF). Carroll County Bureau of Comprehensive Planning. December 31, 2006. Retrieved 2009-03-20. 

External links[edit]