Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Giving Back - making the communities we live in, better - a few hours at a time

As I drove down Clarkes Gap Road (Rt. 662) today, I heard the satisfying *pop* of a black walnut under my tires. It is October now and the leaves have started to fall. My trip through Waterford, VA down the road to where I live in Paeonian Springs is a pretty short jaunt. The first time I ever saw Waterford was when I traveled there from WVU with my graduate school adviser, Emory Kemp, in 1987. He is an eminent Civil Engineer and Historian of Technology. 
I was working under him with the goal of getting a Master's in History/Historic Preservation. At the time, Emory was a consultant working with specialty contractor Rod Dias to restore the Hague Huff House that lies to the north of Bond Street (see top/center of map below) and I got to come along for the ride! 

History Map of Waterford Virginia

This is a map drawn by Eugene Scheel, a Waterford historian and mapmaker.
history map of Waterford VA
Map Copyright © Eugene Scheel
*Map taken from*
  For me - there is nothing like the thrill of seeing a house restoration in the works. To see the organic growth of an old house with it's rooms cobbled together, the studs and lath under the plaster,  to read the history of a room in the shape of a stove that was painted around - it is all a puzzle to me just waiting to be solved. 
Yes I did get that degree - thanks to Emory and the Public History Department at WVU. I had an almost custom made graduate program to follow during my years there.

And as fate would have it - a few years later my first husband and I purchased a sweet 1909 house just down the road from Waterford in the little Victorian village of Paeonian Springs. 
The grass outside was 6 feet tall, the house had 2, 15 amp fuses, and 'supposed' cold water to the kitchen sink. There was no source of heat, however it boasted a two seater outhouse. My friend Gary Geiselman said that if I restored it, the place would look like a doll house - and in fact, it does! 
Years passed, I started Bittersweet Design Studio as an all encompassing umbrella to my Interior Design work, Historic Preservation consultation, hand made goods and vintage wares. I applied to and was juried in to the venerable Waterford Fair for 5 years in the mid 1990s. 
Now, as life seems to do, it has come back around and I will be at Waterford again. This time as volunteer docent for the James Moore Steer house - now know as Old Acre. This house is on tour this Friday October 4th. You can read more about it below.  Proceeds from the fair, benefit various preservation programs throughout the town of Waterford.
"Old Acre


James Moore, Jr., probably constructed this house between 1815 and 1838, when he sold it to his nephew James Moore Steer (1810-1874). Steer and his brother-in-law Reuben Schooley operated a series of agricultural manufacturing shops behind the house along Factory Street, giving that street its name. Exterior brickwork indicates that the northern block of Old Acre was built before the southern end, originally a single story."
*Info taken from the website*
I am currently scheduled to be in the kitchen at Old Acre. Come and see me if you get a chance.
Where do you volunteer? Do you have a favorite cause? Tell me about it in the comment section below! Regards, Liz

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