Don Cook, 01/2003
Whittaker Chambers Farm
CARR-53, CARR-1290, CARR-1291
632 E. Saw Mill Road, 446 E. Saw Mill Road, 510 E. Saw Mill Road, Westminster, Carroll County
Period/Date of Construction:
The Whittaker Chambers Farm comprises three contiguous tracts, purchased separately and now separately owned. One of the tracts contains a c. 1960 house, which replaced a frame house which was Whittaker Chambers' primary residence from 1941 to 1957. A barn and several other frame outbuildings bordering the driveway to the house remain from the Chambers occupancy. A cinderblock outbuilding in the field northwest of the house postdates the Chambers' ownership and thus does not contribute to the historical significance of the property. The Chambers pumpkin patch, which adjoined the north end of the house, has been obliterated. A second tract contains a two-story gable roofed brick house, and is known as Pipe Creek Farm, dating from the mid 19th century. This was Chamber's primary residence from 1957 until his death there in 1961. Many of his books and papers are present, as is the Medal of Freedom posthumously awarded him by President Reagan in 1984. Except for some interior renovations to the house, the property, which includes several outbuildings, is essentially unchanged from Chambers' occupancy. A third tract contains a 19th century two-story frame house known as Medfield, which was used by Chambers as a retreat for his writing. During the 1950s he added a connecting link between the main structure and an adjoining summer house. The rolling terrain, variously wooded and open, descends to a stream, Pipe Creek, at the north or back edge of the farm. Notwithstanding the replacement of the original house, the farm as a whole is much as it was during Chambers' years there. It has undergone no further development and retains its rural character.
The Whittaker Chambers Farm is nationally significant as the home of Whittaker Chambers, a pivotal figure in mid-20th century American political history. A former Communist turned conservative and Time magazine editor, Chambers startled the nation in 1948 with disclosures that Alger Hiss, a former State Department official and pillar of the prevailing liberal establishment, had also been an active Communist engaged in espionage in the 1930s. In a highly publicized episode at his farm on December 2, 1948, Chambers retrieved from a hollowed-out pumpkin and turned over to Congressional investigators microfilmed copies of secret State Department documents that he said Hiss had given him for passage to a Soviet agent. Following two dramatic trials at which Chambers was the principal government witness, Hiss was convicted of perjury on January 20, 1950, and imprisoned for denying this activity before a grand jury. Back at his farm, Chambers wrote Witness, a best-selling autobiography published in 1952 that portrayed in stark terms the contemporary struggle between Communism and freedom.