The Waterford Foundation last week released the findings of its 2016 survey sent to almost 1,500 area residents, villagers, members and newsletter subscribers. A total of 261 responses was received.
It was the first widespread, in-depth polling pursued by the foundation. The respondents’ message on many questions appeared to be “more of the same, please”—particularly on anything to do with the promotion of history and traditional craftsmanship.
Waterford is one of the earliest settlements in Loudoun County, dating to 1733. It was designated, along with 1,300 surrounding acres, as a National Historic Landmark in 1970. The Waterford Foundation owns 13 properties within the village, although it has bought and sold other properties after placing them under protective easements.
A key question concerned what the foundation should do with existing properties and any new ones it might acquire. Although 38.2 percent of respondents opted to buy more properties and keep them in foundation ownership, 36.3 percent said the foundation should buy more and then resell it, presumably after placing the property under easement. Another 26.4 percent agreed some current Foundation properties should be sold.
Raising the funds to maintain the historic buildings is always a challenge and the survey asked whether the foundation should find acceptable ways to make its properties income-producing. That suggestion received strong, 76 percent, support.
The Waterford Fair, which began seven decades ago, also received a “carry on” message for its focus on traditional craftsmanship and history. The top vote getter was the juried craft demonstrators, at 77.3 percent, with the tour of private homes garnering 58.8 percent, and history exhibits at 57.3 percent.
The foundation has hosted a living history program, delineating a typical school day in an African-American schoolhouse in 1880, for more than 30 years. Asked whether similar programs should be created in other foundation properties, 45.7 percent respondents said yes.
Noting that a primary goal of the foundation’s founders was to preserve heritage crafts, the survey asked whether the foundation should hold classes in those crafts during the year. That idea also received support, with 49 percent agreeing, 24.3 percent strongly so.
The survey showed the Foundation has room to improve in areas of communication with the public and with its members, sharing its mission and promoting events.