Whittaker Chambers Farm

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Whittaker Chambers Farm
WHITTAKER CHAMBERS FARM, WESTMINSTER, CARROLL COUNTY, MD.jpg
Whittaker Chambers Farm is located in Maryland
Whittaker Chambers Farm
Whittaker Chambers Farm is located in the United States
Whittaker Chambers Farm
LocationEast Saw Mill Rd., Westminster, Maryland
Coordinates39°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
Area390 acres (160 ha)
Built1941
Websitewhittakerchambers.org
NRHP reference #88001824
Significant dates
Added to NRHPMay 17, 1988[1]
Designated NHLDMay 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's historic significance comes from ownership by Whittaker Chambers (1901-1961), a pivotal figure in American Cold War politics. In December 1948, Chambers hid the "Pumpkin Papers" (microfilm) while awaiting a subpoena from the House Un-American Activities Committee to relinquish any intelligence stolen from the US Government by members of the Soviet spy rings within the federal government (e.g., Alger Hiss). Chambers also wrote his best-selling memoir Witness there. The property was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1988, in a somewhat controversial decision.[2][3] The property remains in the Chambers family and is not accessible to the public.[4]

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, totaling about 390 acres (160 ha). The land is a mix of open farm fields and woods.[5] Whittaker Chambers ran this "dirt farm" as a dairy farm.[4]

  • The first tract of land, a 40-acre (16 ha) parcel, purchased by Chambers in 1941, formed the original core of the farm. Chambers lived there from 1941. After a fire in 1957, he sold it to an architect, who built the present house in 1960. Since then, the family has reacquired the property. The original barn burned in 2007; other outbuildings from Chambers' ownership remain. The patch with volunteer pumpkins that hid the "Pumpkin Papers" is no longer a strawberry patch.[4][5] A fire destroyed the barn and damaged a shed that stood on the property in Chambers' time.[6]
  • The second tract, the 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. It includes a pond and several outbuildings;[5]
  • A third tract of 120 acres (49 ha), purchased by Chambers in 1947, connects the first two parcels. 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.[5] On January 6, 2010, the Medfield farmhouse burned as a result of an electrical fire.[7]

Historic significance[edit]

Whittaker Chambers had joined the Communist Party in 1925, and engaged in spying for the Soviet Union in the 1932. By 1937, he was becoming disenchanted and left the party by 1938. 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 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][5]

The farm was also a key in the relationship between Chambers and Hiss. Chambers reported that he first saw a nearby property (the "Shaw Place") in company with Hiss, who had originally contracted to buy it. In 1937, Chambers purchased it as part of his retreat from Communism and as a place remote from possible retaliation for his defection from the Soviet underground. He moved his family in 1941.[4][5]

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.[8] In 1988, Interior Secretary Donald P. Hodel granted national landmark status to the Pipe Creek Farm.[9]

In 2012, a book on the Cold War questioned the propriety of the farm as landmark, particularly because it is not open to the public.[10] A member of the Chambers family replied, explaining that the farm was not a museum but a working farm, not open to the public.[11][12]

Threats[edit]

A twice-proposed Union Mills reservoir, if built, would flood portions of the Chambers property close to Pipe Creek. The first proposed dam was in the 1970s, when a petition by the "Carroll County Taxpayers' Committee" raised more than 5,000 signature to stop it.[13] Carroll County officials renewed efforts to claim property for a dam in the 2000s.[14]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. April 15, 2008.
  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. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  4. ^ a b c d e Chambers, Whittaker (May 1952). Witness. Random House. pp. 3 (wrote at Medfield), 371-372 (Alger Hiss), 514 (dairy farm), 514-515 (bought Medfield), 516 (dirt farm), 751-755 (strawberry patch, Pumpkin Papers). Retrieved 6 August 2019.
  5. ^ 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.
  6. ^ Riordan, Penny (May 1, 2007). "Fire causes damage at historic farm". Carroll County Times. Retrieved 2009-03-20.
  7. ^ "Pipe Creek Farm". WhittakerChambers.org. Retrieved September 3, 2010.
  8. ^ "Whittaker Chambers's Farm Is Proposed for Landmark". The New York Times. March 21, 1988. Retrieved September 3, 2009.
  9. ^ "Site in Hiss-Chambers Case Now a Landmark". The New York Times. May 18, 1988. Retrieved June 9, 2008.
  10. ^ Wiener, Jon (October 13, 2012). "A visit to the right's least popular museum". Salon.com. Retrieved 19 October 2012.
  11. ^ Chambers, David (October 18, 2012). "Whittaker Chambers relative: Farm need not be open to public". Salon.com. Retrieved 19 October 2012.
  12. ^ Chambers, David (October 19, 2012). "Salon.com debate on Whittaker Chambers Farm". WhittakerChambers.org. Retrieved 19 October 2012.
  13. ^ "Effort to be made to halt Big Pipe Creek dam". Frederick News Post. 21 February 1976. p. 8. Retrieved 15 September 2019.
  14. ^ "Planned Union Mills Reservoir" (PDF). Carroll County Bureau of Comprehensive Planning. December 31, 2006. Retrieved 2009-03-20.

External links[edit]