In a few months, western Loudouners are expected to have baseball and soccer fields, equestrian trails and other outdoor recreations to enjoy at the long-planned Lovettsville Community Park. But those amenities will be built on property where a quarter-millennia of history is still visible and salvageable for preservation.
The county’s park project is more than 15 years old, but it didn’t get underway until July 2020, when Dustin Construction crews started work under an $11.15 million contract. That work should wrap up late this summer. It includes the construction of off-leash dog areas, a pond, an amphitheater, four softball/baseball fields, three soccer fields, an equestrian area and equestrian and walking trails on a 90-acre property between Broad Way and Berlin Turnpike.
Situated close by are about a dozen buildings dating back prior to the Revolutionary War. Many have been vandalized through the years; some have fallen to their foundations.
Now, preservationists—including those from the Loudoun Heritage Commission, the Lovettsville Historical Society & Museum and even the county staff—are pushing the county government to study and document the structures to learn more about their history and construction methods and exhibit them for years to come.
“We’re trying to learn as much as we can,” said Lori Kimball, a local historical researcher. “I think we’re all in this together trying to learn more about those buildings.”
The history of the property dates back to 1769, when Christian Gottlieb Ruse began farming the land, according to research by Kimball and Historical Society Vice President Ed Spannaus.
When Ruse died in 1821, his son, Henry, took over. Before Henry died in 1868, he divided the property into lots for his wife, daughter and two sons to manage. The 60-acre parcel owned by Henry’s son, Emanuel, was eventually sold to the Smith family. And in 1933, Owen Reed purchased the portion of the property that makes up most of the park. The other 30 acres were once parts of the parcels owned by Henry’s wife and daughter.
Throughout the past 251 years, the three different families built structures including a farmhouse, a summer kitchen, a spring house, a meat house, a chicken house, a machine shed, an animal shed, a dairy barn, an icehouse, a silage pit and a stone bank barn.
Kimball said the property portrays the lives of everyday people from years gone by, not wealthy landowners. “It’s representative of an average working farm in the 1800s,” she said.
The most visible of the structures is the dilapidated farmhouse that sits between the community center on East Broad Way and the elementary school off South Loudoun Street. The building was constructed in at least two stages and was completed in the late 1880s. Kimball said that building is unique because log construction was becoming more obsolete by that time period.
While the county plans to demolish the farmhouse and build a gravel parking lot and grass amphitheater next door, Department of Transportation and Capital Infrastructure Communications Manager Shawn Taylor Zelman said the county is documenting the farmhouse, along with its accompanying structures.
She said the county’s contractor is developing a technical report that will include plans and sketches of the log portion of the farmhouse, the summer kitchen, the meat house, the bank barn and the dairy barn.Zelman said a sketch of the farmstead would document construction typology and determine when the buildings were constructed.
“[I]t is the intent of the county to save as much as possible to add to the interpretive area of this farmstead,” she said.
That’s in line with what the history groups are pushing for.
Kimball said preservationists want to determine if there are any buildings that can be saved from demolition and used as interpretive displays for generations to come.
Spannaus said, in addition to the main farmhouse, there are a few other structures worthy of preservation: the bank barn, a barn built into the side of a berm to provide animals with greater protection from the elements that was common among German settlers; the summer kitchen, which Kimball said could feature an exhibit allowing visitors to peer inside to see what the interior would have looked like in centuries past; and the meat house, which Spannaus said was pretty much still intact.
Spannaus said that, although most of the farmstead buildings are now only foundations, they could be used as interpretive displays, like what’s done in Greece and Italy. Still, Spannaus noted that he wasn’t comparing Lovettsville’s history to ancient Greece’s.
“Nonetheless, you could still do something that would be educational and instructive,” he said.
In 2009, an archaeological study conducted largely on the southern portion of the property uncovered the remains of stone and brick foundations, one of which Kimball said could be the foundation of a slave dwelling. County Archaeologist Michael Clem at the time noted the site included enough artifacts for it to be eligible for the National Register of Historic Places.
Kimball said “it’s really hard to say” whether the graves of any formerly enslaved persons exist on the property, noting that Clem did look for the signs of grave plots.
Kimball said the foundations found on the southern portion of the property already are marked off for preservation, as are the buildings included in the farmstead to the north. She said preservationists are hoping to learn more about the historical progression of the property from the pre-Civil War era, when slaves worked the land, through the 1950s.
“It’s learning more about that part of Lovettsville’s history,” she said.
Even if the county opts to demolish a majority of the structures on the property, Kimball said preservationists are hoping to at least save logs, and perhaps other building materials, from some of them to exhibit to the public.
“There’s a lot that’s still way up in the air,” she said.