40139 Main Street
This property backing up to the Phillips Farm comprises three of the fifteen lots in Waterford’s 1792 subdivision. Quaker merchant Richard Griffith was leasing the property by 1796, and by 1799 it included a two-story log house and a store. In 1819 his son Israel sold a portion of the property to fellow Quaker Jesse Gover, who operated a store and “hat manufactory” among other enterprises. Gover bought the rest of the property in 1836.
His son Samuel, in turn, served the village for many years as storekeeper and postmaster. Sam’s Union sympathies made his store a target of Confederate raids during the Civil War. By then the current property included the house and two substantial weatherboard buildings along the street to the left, that were later owned by William French.
Early in the 20th century the James family acquired the land and buildings. Edgar Clayton James operated a store here. When he died in 1918, his widow, the former Annie Elizabeth “Lizzie” Hough, ran a boardinghouse to make ends meet—the Oldtown Inn. Clarence Hopkins, who married one of the James’s daughters, Carrie, was an engineer for Edison Labs. He erected a dance pavilion and large masonry megaphone for the benefit of Inn guests. At about the same time, the decrepit store buildings along the street were removed and the adjacent millrace was enlarged for canoeing.
In October 1922, the Washington Herald enthusiastically wrote:
“Waterford, Va., is now one of the busiest radio towns in the country, according to reports received here. Radio users there have constructed a loud speaking horn of concrete and granite with a diameter of six feet. The horn weighs eight tons.
“Folks in that vicinity now hear a variety of entertainment from Pittsburgh and other cities. When the horn was first demonstrated, one resident there, it is claimed, heard music one mile and a half away from Waterford and came down to discover what was ‘goin’ on down thar.’”
Norman Weatherholtz, a stonemason and carpenter, bought the place in 1944 and added his own touches over the years until his death in 1998.
Cornelia Keller of nearby Hamilton purchased the house the following year. It had fallen into considerable disrepair and presented significant challenges to Ms. Keller and her rescue team.
Now, thanks to a conservation easement through the Virginia Department of Historic Resources, the house, gardens, stone wall and eclectic structures are protected in perpetuity.
Jonathan Daniel and Lee Spangler bought the house in 2014 and couldn’t be more thrilled with being its current stewards.
The Griffith-Gover House is open through the courtesy of Jonathan Daniel and Lee Spangler.
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