Farming continued, preservation activities began, and some educational activities started. But thought had to be given to the longer term, to what kinds of uses should be made of the site (out of many possibilities), and to what the criteria DHR and the Clermont Trustees should look to choose those uses and the ways it should be interpreted to the public under its new status.
The leaders of DHR and the Clermont Trustees began a consultative process starting with members of the commnity, people from other regional historic sites and museums, and outside experts. The process included the commissioning of a series of nine papers by Virginia historians and archaeologists, as well as a very extensive Historic Structure Report, to better undertand the history and resources embedded in the site.
Out of this came the three guideline statements below: Critera for Use, Criteria for Interpretation, and some Focus Areas for Interpretation. Every group with a mission has to improve its focus not only on what it wants to accomplish, but on how it wants to accomplish it.
CRITERIA AND PLANS FOR INTERPRETATION OF THE CLERMONT SITE
Criteria: As the Foundation has received input about use and interpretation of the site from local people, organizations, scholars and others, certain common criteria have emerged, including:
1. That interpretation should respect the fullness of historical experience of the cultural landscape the farm represents, resisting efforts to treat the site only in terms of a house, a barn, or some particular aspect of its social or economic history.
2. That interpretation should also fully recognize the depth in time represented by the cultural landscape, but always from the standpoint of the living, active present in which all the visitors and managers actually stand. Efforts to treat the site as having died with its donation to the Commonwealth and now being preserved as an artifact “with history” must be resisted. The site’s active life as a food producer and a place of community life continues, but is now shared with many more people, and for more purposes.
3. That interpretation of what is a cultural landscape should allow visitors to experience that landscape. It is this “whole” farmed, lived-on landscape that the donor, Elizabeth Williams, valued most, and was most at pains to protect and ensure that it could be experienced by other people in the future. She recognized that for this cultural landscape to survive into the future, both preservation and the continuation of agriculture were required, and she added these following her requirement that the whole site be kept intact.
4. That interpretation will recognize that what is significant about Clermont does not concern single important individuals or events, but the on-going everyday life over a long period for people who got their livelihoods, built buildings to shelter their life and work, were involved in the life of their extended families and community, and who participated in the social, economic and political life of the community, region, and nation. It is a site whose history is emblematic of these developing local, regional, and national processes. Its character, as described by Dr. Warren Hofstra, Valley historian, is that of “an extraordinary ordinary place.” and it should differentiate itself from personality- and event-related sites on that basis, as well as others.
5. That interpretation should connect the past to the present, and its implications for the future. For example, there is a lot of information and examples to see at Clermont of 270 years of evolving construction technology. How does this relate to practices today, including green technology, and to what we expect in the future? How could a visit to Clermont help a person become more observant, and more engaged with his own built surroundings? Clermont has always produced food (Native Americans used the area for that purpose); how does this relate to the nation’s current issues re food quality, food distribution, health, the obesity epidemic, and the sustainability of current industrial farming practices?
6. That with respect to interpretation of African American life and contributions to the site, the entire history of black people in relation to the site should be emphasized, not just the period of enslavement. Thus the foundation and history of Josephine City, located between the farm and Berryville in 1870, on land sold by the owner of Clermont to sixteen black families, at least one of whose leaders had been enslaved at Clermont, is pertinent to the farm’s continuing history, as are the contributions of black agricultural workers who helped keep the farm going after the Civil War and through World War II. Also, that such interpretation should be collaborative with organizations (such as the Josephine School Community Museum and African American Cultural Center) who can speak directly to African American experience and perspective.
7. That interpretation should be designed to provide activities and approaches with appeal to children and young people, in addition to programming for adults, with the idea of engaging more children in the pursuit of history and historic preservation, as well as with food and agriculture.
8. That interpretation will be contextual, not only to the whole of Clermont’s own cultural landscape, but to the community and region surrounding Clermont, in which it had and continues to have its life. The context starts with adjacent Berryville, the county seat, and the County of Clarke.
The treatment of African American life in relation to Clermont, for example, would include the history of Josephine City and the other black communities which emerged in Clarke County after the Civil War, as well as those of enslaved people who escaped from Clermont, of others who were sold away from it, in or out of the County, and still others prosecuted and jailed (and the national media narratives which resulted). Likewise, the great transition from animal power to mechanization and electrification which occurred on the farm in the 1940’s during war-time; the results of the Depression, the work of the Roosevelt Administration, and the demands of WW II on the local farm and regional economy would surround this story at Clermont.
On a two-county basis, the treatment of the 185-year ownership by the McCormick-Williams family places Clermont in a ten-mile stretch of farms beginning with the “White House” (still standing) in neighboring Jefferson County, WV, built in 1740 by the family’s immigrant ancestor Dr. John McCormick, and including Clermont and many of the surrounding farms, and could include a driving tour of this “McCormick Trail”, a history of the immigration and acculturation of one Scots-Irish family.
Thematic and geographic overlay organizations offer another option for contextualization. Clermont is on the northeastern portal of an eight-county overlay organization, the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields National Historic District, and the “Long Journey to Freedom” trail it is developing. Clermont also neighbors the regional “Journey Through Hallowed Ground” (Rt. 15) and has a connection to the national “Flight to Freedom” network (Underground Railroad) of the National Park Service.
8. Finally, that interpretation should help produce the kind of result experienced by the managers of the Lunt-Fontanne house museum in Wisconsin, where “surveys of their house tours show a high satisfaction rate among visitors who describe their experience at Ten Chimneys as interesting, entertaining, fun and exciting.” Our tasks here are to capture the imagination and arouse curiosity.
Focus Areas of Interpretation
Primary areas of interpretation were limited to three topics to keep coherence in the interpretive plan, with three others (see below) to be woven into the first three.
This topic is listed in Clermont’s National Register application Statement of Significance under Criterion C (“Property embodies the distinctive characteristics of a type, period, or method of construction or represents the work of a master, or possesses high artistic values, or represents a significant and distinguishable entity …”).
The age, preservation, construction technology and long continuous sequential nature of the evolution of the buildings at Clermont make this a primary topic suitable for thematic development. The opportunity to see the “insides” of the buildings and of the 3-D model will be important for interpretation. Archaeology and its observable processes will offer important avenues for this purpose.
The buildings at Clermont also illustrate the different ways historic buildings can be treated/used under the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards (Preservation, Rehabilitation, Restoration, and Reconstruction), and how they can be repaired with minimum loss of the original fabric. The process of preserving and rehabilitating these buildings, as well as of discovering the many vanished structures which are still part of the whole, connects to present audiences:
- Universities are preparing architects, architectural historians, archaeologists, historic property managers and other professionals whose training requires study sites.
- Preservation trades organizations and preservation businesses are preparing skilled craftspeople to carry out the work of rehabilitation and restoration
- Many citizens in the area who have old houses, offices, churches, and farm buildings they are interested in learning more about, repairing, and caring for better
- Others interested in current applications of building technologies that were more common in earlier times (e.g., timber framing, wood roofs, etc.), or in new methods
of measuring and presenting old buildings (Clermont Infra-Red Scan Project)
- Students and the general public are interested in old buildings, their evolution and development as markers of time and of cultural change, and about what kinds of
lives people lived and worked in them. In Henry Glassie’s words: “Buildings, like poems and rituals, realize culture. Architecture is like any realization of potential, like a projection of thought. The things of the world – this sentence, that palace – preceded themselves in the mind as plans. Plans blend memories with a reading of the immediate situation. They are realised in things. They can be reversed in analysis. Things become plans, plans disaggregate into a set of decisions, decisions become intentions. All creations bespeak their creators. They stand before us as images of will and wit. In this architecture is like other things, and there are no differences among kinds of building. All are cultural creations, orderings of experience, like poems and rituals.” (H. Glassie, Vernacular Architecture, Indiana University Press, 2000, pgs. 17, 18).
- People interested in volunteering to work on and to study historic buildings.
Maral Kalbian, architectural historian, points out that “The nature of the additions and alterations to Clermont also offer rich opportunities to instruct visitors about a variety of construction techniques and architectural forms. This information should be presented in a manner where the knowledge gained can be applied to other places, encouraging the visitor to become more observant and engaged with his/her own surroundings.”
This topic is listed in Clermont’s National Register application Statement of Significance under Criterion A (“Property is associated with events that have made a significant contribution to the broad patterns of our history.”).
In the mid-19th century, Clermont was one of the most productive and profitable farms in Clarke County, itself one of the most productive counties in the Shenandoah Valley. It used a method of farming called “general mixed farming” (multiple crops, herds, and other agricultural products) in which diversity of farm enterprise was the basis of sustainability. The continuous history of agriculture at Clermont since the middle of the 18th century and its very successful use of mixed farming in the 19th and early 20th centuries also make this a prime topic for interpretation of the site. Kenneth Koons, scholar of the history of agriculture, points out that diversity of farm enterprise could serve as a guiding principle for re-developing Clermont as a profitable and environmentally sustainable working farm which also serves public educational purposes. The continuing production of food at Clermont (now primarily beef cattle and meat sheep, based on grass farming) connects with contemporary audiences:
- People interested in developing the system of fresh food, where it comes from, and how it was produced
- People interested in buying and cooking/using fresh farm products
- People interested in eating fresh local food (farm meals, restaurant, retail)
- People interested in classes and demonstrations regarding these products
- Other local farmers interested in cooperatively selling fresh foods
- Students interested in joining the agricultural industry (FFA), or interested in the experience of raising and showing an animal, or of working on a farm
- People interested in agro-tourism, which at Clermont can also be connected to heritage tourism
- People interested in volunteering for short-stint agricultural experience, or longer-term
specific contributions to the life of the farm.
- People interested in the life of animals, and their development.
3. African American Life
This topic is discussed in Clermont’s National Register application Statement of Significance, both with regard to the enslaved African Americans who were brought to the Shenandoah Valley (in especially large numbers to what is now Clarke County, including Clermont), and with regard to their life post-Civil War, with the creation of a black community called Josephine City on land purchased from Clermont., and subsequent work at Clermont.
Melvin Ely, scholar of African American life in Virginia, says that “Clermont and Clarke County boast a fascinating and sometimes surprising African American history. That story should be presented to the public—and I believe it can be, even though Clermont itself evinces only a few physical reminders of its past as a home to black people during the era of slavery. That fact comes to seem less important when one engages the entire span of black history at and near Clermont and in Clarke County as a whole. Hence the title of this report, which recognizes the role of Clermont and Clarke not only as a ‘house of bondage,’ but also as a ‘springboard into freedom’ for blacks.”
(Melvin P. Ely, “House of Bondage, Springboard Into Freedom: Clermont and Clarke County’s Black Community”, The Clermont Foundation, 2011).
The continuing existence of a double log slave house (later adapted for black and white paid labor) at Clermont, and archival evidence of black life at Clermont under slavery and after, as well as the very active Josephine School Community Museum on a Clermont-related site, and the absence of other farm/plantation sites to help tell this story, makes this a primary topic for development of themes to support interpretation of Clermont. Input received by the Foundation from many sources on this topic, and strongly agreed with by the Trustees, indicates that it is very important to interpret this story in collaboration with the local Josephine School Community Museum, and other interested African Americans in the community. Melvin Ely said with regard to the subject matter for this collaboration: “I believe two particular subjects that pervade the history of race in Clarke County and throughout the South—black self-help and black-white relations—should receive special emphasis in programming undertaken by the Foundation and by the Museum.”
Karen Hughes White also points out that “Clermont has an opportunity of bridging neighboring counties to extend the interpretation [of the African American experience] since it has history recorded in both Frederick and Clark Counties. This gives a great opportunity for joint ventures in furthering this effort and networking with Lord Fairfax Community College and Shenandoah University.” She also notes that the “Getting Word” project at Monticello begun in 1993 to locate descendants of families who had been enslaved there and to record oral histories, has transformed the understanding of Monticello’s history and she has proposed a considerable program of research relating to identifying individuals and their family groups who were enslaved at Clermont, the creation of a searchable data base with this information, and further research about the issues that constantly confronted slaves and their masters (and the free blacks whose labor was hired into the farm) while carrying out work, family and religious life. The Foundation concurs with her statement that the real story of Clermont cannot be told without having real knowledge of all the people who made the farm so prosperous.
This aspect of Clermont’s history connects with many contemporary audiences:
- People both African American and white who are interested in these topics, and in a research-based expansion of the historical record in the time-frame from 1750 to the present, which would greatly increase the understanding and transparency of Clermont’s history, and that of the counties around it.
- People interested in the nature of life and relationships under slavery
- People interested in specialty topics such as the role of free blacks during slavery times, and the role of white planter-class emancipationists and colonizationists, of whom three prominent ones were in Clarke County: Bishop William Meade and his two sisters, Susan Meade and Ann Randolph Meade Page
- People interested in the National Park Service’s Network to Freedom Program (with which Clermont has held meetings), and in the story of Clermont’s Jim Lee, who ran to freedom in 1855 when Clermont’s owner, Edward McCormick tried to have him sold through the notorious slave jailer and trader, Joseph Bruin of Alexandria (Lee fugitive slave posters and orrespondence are in the archives).
- People interested in the Civil War and its consequences for daily life and the effects on slaves and their masters of Union and Confederate troops crossing, re-crossing and fighting in the County, and the service of more than 90 black men born in Clarke County enlisting in the Union Army, and of Confederate impressments.
- People interested in Reconstruction and resistance to re-imposition of white supremacy
- Individuals and families interested in the Great Migration (Clarke went from being a majority black county in 1840 to a 7% black population currently) and the geographic stretching of family ties and genealogies which occurred
- African American people interested in family ties to Clermont; black family associations/genealogy groups could meet at Clermont as two white family associations related to former owners have indicated an interest in doing.
Three Additional Focus Areas
These topics listed as additional areas were subjects of great interest in research on the site, and were thought to be ones which should be interwoven with the first three.
A. Women at Clermont
Clermont was owned and run for extended periods by white women (for Ellen Jett McCormick all during the Civil War and 38 years after it), and black women played key roles in the management of the household, supporting the owner’s family as well as their own, and providing labor for the farm’s operations. A black woman, Josephine Williams, who was an enslaved worker at Clermont and became an independent business woman after the Civil War, was a pivotal figure in the initiation and creation of a black community, Josephine City, on land which she and other families bought from Clermont.
Deborah Lee, scholar of women’s and gender history, wrote that: “In exploring the sources relating to white and black women at Clermont and those in relationships with them, three themes become apparent: nurturing, place, and lineage. The women cared for others physically, emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually, although racial divisions acted as a social and energetic barrier. The women were deeply connected to place—their homes, the land and landscape, even the large trees that sheltered generations of ancestors. They also seemed deeply interconnected with the living and the ancestors that came before them. As life in the twenty-first century has become more fragmented and time-pressured, these three interwoven themes outline a mission for Clermont: to nurture members of the community in a holistic way that includes body, mind, and spirit; to help them connect with the land, landscape, and growing things; and to help them engage in the present and build the future in a conscious way that is sensitive to the needs and aspirations of the community.”
B. Clermont as Military Witness
The owners of Clermont and family members participated in every colonial and American military engagement from the French and Indian War through the height of the Cold War. Clermont’s owner during the Revolutionary War was a prominent civilian Commissary and troop paymaster for the Virginia Committee of Safety, a long-time friend and business associate of George Washington and of many senior officers in the Revolution. Clermont’s owner during the Civil War was the commanding officer of the Confederacy’s Lynchburg Quartermaster Depot, the man who managed to fulfill Lee’s request for 180,000 rations days before the surrender at Appomattox. The grandson of that Confederate major became, through WWI and WWII, a four-star Admiral and the first Supreme Allied Commander of all NATO forces, Atlantic.
Joseph Whitehorne, military historian writes that following the Civil War, “The lives of father and son, cousin and nephew, three men, span the American Century. Rear Admiral Albert M.D. McCormick, a physician, began his career in the new steel navy and fought in the war that brought the U.S. onto the global stage. His nephew, Marine Capt. Lloyd Williams (the man who said “Retreat, Hell! We just got here!”) experienced the first effects of this change, fighting in the Banana Wars of the Caribbean and dying in the Great War when the U.S. first asserted itself internationally. Admiral A.M.D McCormick’s son, Admiral Lynde McCormick participated in this global growth and was witness to many of the major WWII events that propelled the U.S. into dominance. He eventually formed and led the Naval part of the alliance that waged a successful Cold War against Soviet aggression at the apogee of U.S. influence and power. He was the first person to hold the title of Supreme Commander, Atlantic, for NATO. This marks the climax of the military experiences of Clermont’s families which illustrate collectively the process of growth and change that created the nation we know today.”
C. Legal and Medical Practice History
From the 18th century on, many of Clermont’s owner families had members who were lawyers and physicians. These professions often placed them in important roles in their communities and beyond. Elizabeth Williams was the daughter of the longest-serving Commonwealth’s Attorney in Clarke County (35 years), and her cousin Province (1799-1873) was the second longest-serving at 25 years, including the Civil War (and his son was Commonwealth’s Attorney for the 1870’s). She got her law degree after a career in journalism and returned to Clarke County to take over her father’s practice, being one of the first two women admitted to the Bar in Clarke. She later became the first woman to sit as a judge in the 26th Circuit of Virginia.
Peter Wallenstein a historian who has looked at these individuals says: “As practitioners of another learned profession, medicine, Elizabeth Williams’ forbears stretched back into the 1730s, to her multi-great (five in all) grandfather Dr. John McCormick, an early doctor in the Shenandoah Valley. So we can take one or both of these two professions, medicine and law, and track them through the Clarke County area for as long as the county has been here, indeed for nearly as long as people of European origin have settled in the area. Viewed another way, Clermont is a portal through which we can trace local involvement in big events and broad developments through much of the country’s history, especially in Virginia but also the South more generally, and indeed the nation and beyond.”
The development of thematic statements to guide the creation of specific interpretative presentations and activities will follow from these topics. Interpretive presentations on the landscape, in and around the buildings, on the web, on personal devices, in print, etc. will be developed incrementally and on a prioritized basis as resources are available.
The existing broad entrance to Clermont, sited at an approved VDOT location and the first entrance off Rt. 7 at a controlled intersection, with 22,000 vehicles a day, offers possibilities for a public pull-off site, outside a controlled-access gate to the farm, with space for interpretive panels for Clermont, a state historical marker, Shenandoah Valley Battlefield NHD panels, and Civil War Trail Signs panels. As access is developed, this area would contain an invitation and information about visiting the site itself.
CRITERIA AND PLANS FOR USES OF THE CLERMONT SITE
Criteria: As the Foundation has discussed uses for the site, it became clear that there were criteria all agreed should govern choices in this area, including:
1. That any uses support the requirements of the Williams Will and Trust:
-Protection of the overall 360-acre cultural landscape (an 18th and 19th century vernacular agricultural landscape, with additions in the 20th century, based for 110 years on the use of enslaved labor)
-Provision of education programs in the areas of history, agriculture, and historic preservation.
2. That any uses should complement DHR’s (the owner’s) purpose and activities: DHR’s advocacy and education programs for sustainable preservation, its training functions (field schools in archaeology, preservations trades/crafts, etc.), the display and interpretation of its collections, etc. DHR also requires that the historic residential and service buildings at Clermont not be used or altered in ways that would make it difficult to interpret their historic functions and the development of the buildings in the context of the site’s use over its active history.
3. That any uses avoid duplication of a primary emphasis at any other similar historic sites in the region (Staunton to Fairfax): This site should tell the unique story in time of the people and buildings associated with it in their context, and should also have contemporary public uses, neither of which should duplicate primary services provided by other similar rural/agricultural sites with historic buildings in the region. On the other hand, interpretation of Clermont should be contextualized by reference to different but similar sites and by reference to common support systems (transportation, milling, sales and purchasing mechanisms, shipping of products internally and internationally, etc.) Uses of Clermont might deliberately complement the programs and services at some other sites.
4. That any uses should be mutually-enhancing to other proposed uses for the site: That no uses should conflict with each other, or the values which govern the care of the site. That any use should respect the wholeness of the site as an inhabited and producing cultural landscape.
5. That any uses should contribute to the site’s economic and environmental sustainability: Uses should consider financial and economic impact, as well as the principle that if the site and its activities are not important to local people, it will not be sustainable, whatever its broader interest. Uses should therefore strengthen Clermont’s relationships with the communities that surround it and ultimately this population is more important to sustainability than general tourism.
6. That any uses must have audiences interested in them: That our relationships with the public be complementary, and that we, as an organization, offer programs, services, and information which recognize the changing needs and desires of the public
7. That any uses provide value to our community:
“America’s historic sites offer unique opportunities for learning, for reflection, for inspiration. At their best, they can be powerful places that provide great value to their communities. They can offer programs, services, and experiences that are relevant to many of the most pressing issues of our day. America’s historic sites should be places to nurture the human spirit.”
(Jim Vaughn, Sustainability of Historic Sites in the 21st Century, Final Report on the Kykuit Conference, National Trust for Historic Preservation, 2007)
Proposed Uses for the Site and its Buildings:
1. To support contemporary public engagement with history, and historic preservation:
a.) To permanently continue Clermont’s role as an active study site, including the related buildings, archaeological sites, and social-economic history of the farm and its community, in cooperation with DHR, with specific universities (James Madison, Shenandoah, et al.), and with other historic sites, regionally such as Mt. Vernon and the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley (MSV), and locally such as the Josephine School Community Museum (JSCM) and the Clarke County Historical Association (CCHA), and other historical and preservation organizations.
b.) To engage students and the public in those studies, and the questions on which they are based, on-site, virtually, and through sponsored and encouraged publication, using the site to engage the public and to evoke their personal connections to history, including that of their own families and communities.
The buildings, including workers’ and owners’ residences and farm buildings, and the rich archaeological resources, will be used to illustrate Clermont’s social/economic history and context, and, because of the 260-year continuous history of European occupation and building, the history of their construction and the technologies involved, particularly timber framing. Emphasis will be placed on the slave quarters and the owner’s house. The buildings will “show” themselves (open walls, construction details, etc.) as well as provide space for temporary exhibits.
The rich archaeological resources will be used on a continuing basis to involve the public in the Native American contributions to the site, as well as with the vanished features of European use, and to illustrate the depths and complexity of cultural landscapes and memory.
In addition, non-traditional perspectives on historic buildings and landscapes, such as those of artists working in various media to transform or re-imagine the site, will be used to engage the public (e.g., London’s Kensington Palace Project, Baltimore’s Rotating History Project, etc.)
c.) To continue preservation/rehabilitation of the structures at Clermont, and through this process assist development of public awareness and provide information to the public about sustainable historic preservation practices, through a variety of public activities, on-site workshops, etc., using Clermont’s buildings, and the on-going repair/rehabilitation work to which the Foundation is committed, as demonstrations.
d.) To support the training functions of universities, DHR, craft groups, etc. (e.g., field schools in archaeology, preservation techniques and trades, etc.)
e.) To support the interpreted display of materials from Clermont, from DHR collections, and items from other collections, which help illustrate the history of Clermont and its context.
2. To conduct sustainable agriculture: as a working farm, characterized by: good farming practices, local food production, economic return, conservation of natural resources, protection of the environment and wildlife, lower carbon footprint, etc., with an educational component connecting people with the site’s current production as well as its agricultural history. Partnerships with local education, farming, and related organizations, will be emphasized.
3. To provide other local public benefit: such as: partnerships with local public schools (including FFA), parks and recreation, community organizations (including 4-H) and higher education institutions (including Virginia Extension Service) related to agriculture, history, and historic preservation; joint programming/access with other local historic and agricultural sites; cooperation with local government on web-based heritage information and historic preservation activities; space and facilitation for cooperative ag/environmental activities and sales; and other educational events.