The Whittaker Chambers Farm (a.k.a.) Pipe Creek Farm in Westminster, Maryland

In late December 2016, the Fund started to support an effort that has been underway for several years to help defend property rights and raise awareness of the importance of private property in a free society.

Background

On May 17, 1988, President Ronald Reagan designated The Whittaker Chambers Farm as a National Historic Landmark. Also known as Pipe Creek Farm, it was the home of Whittaker Chambers, a pivotal figure in mid-20th century American history.

A former Soviet spy turned anti-Communist conservative and Time magazine editor, Whittaker Chambers startled the nation in 1948 with the disclosures that Alger Hiss, a former State Department official and pillar of the prevailing liberal establishment, had also been engaged in espionage in the 1930s for the Soviet Union.

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 hidden microfilmed copies of top secret State Department documents that Chambers said had been given to him by Hiss and others for passage to the Soviet government.

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The House un-American Activities Committee Hearings on Alger Hiss (1948)

Following two dramatic trials in which Chambers was the main government witness, Alger Hiss was convicted of perjury on January 20, 1950, and imprisoned for denying this activity before a grand jury. Back at Pipe Creek Farm, Chambers wrote his seminal work, Witness, a best-selling autobiography published in 1952 that portrayed in stark terms the struggle between Communism and Western freedom.

Witness was on The New York Times’ Best Sellers List for thirteen consecutive weeks and sold over one million copies. It continues to be read by political scientists, scholars, as well as political activists of all ideological persuasions. It was one of President Ronald Reagan’s favorite books and he posthumously awarded Whittaker Chambers in 1984 the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Case Summary

Located in Carroll County, Maryland, the Whittaker Chambers property remains a working farm. Preservation of the farm and access to the land and its surroundings is extremely important to the Chambers family.

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The Whittaker Chambers Farm a.k.a. Pipe Creek Farm (Westminster, MD)

Since the 1960s, the County has wanted to build a reservoir by damming Pipe Creek and in 2006 efforts were underway again to start the project. Had it not been stopped, the reservoir would have flooded more than 1/3 of the Farm. With the help of The Fund’s founding attorneys, several adjoining landowners joined John Chambers, Whittaker Chambers’ son and current owner of the Farm, by contacting and organizing Members of Congress and other community leaders to help save the farm.

In January 2007, a dozen of the surrounding landowners sent a letter to the County Commission urging them to, “modify the plan so as to cause no harm to any portion of this historic farm.” The County then threatened to take the property using eminent domain, despite the fact that federal law regarding National Historic Landmarks states that the land must be preserved.

A group of concerned citizens led a national effort in which many advocates from around the country wrote letters of support to the County government to save the farm. In addition to supporters from around the country, 16 Members of Congress also weighed in as well as and historians from several universities and academic institutions.

Carroll County decided to postpone indefinitely the development of the Union Mills Reservoir. More recently, in 2016, the County has indicated to the Chambers family that they are no longer interested in the reservoir project.