These words echo in my mind as I drive along route 19 on my way to Waterford, a town that helps you escape from the trappings of modern-day society. Just 14 miles south of the shores of Lake Erie, intriguing history awaits you in this town of 1,522 residents (2017 estimate). This is where a 21-year-old George Washington was dispatched on orders by the Virginia Governor Dinwiddie. His mission was to tell the French to vacate the area and halt their development of the Ohio Country to the south. The message was essentially ignored by the French and that may have been one of the first dominoes to tumble leading to the 7-Year War, also known as the French and Indian War.
Fittingly, Waterford is home to a one of a kind statue of the future first president and Father of Our Country. The statue of Washington displays him in the British attire of 1753 when he delivered the demand.
There are many places, in our state, that time has barely touched, but my favorite is “Good Ol’ Waterford”. It looks exactly as I remember from my childhood in the 1960s. You will find historical photos and other preserved artifacts from the long history throughout this town.
This includes the Eagle Hotel which has survived two fires since it was built in 1826. Although it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, rumors that Washington slept there simply cannot be true, as he passed in 1799. Within the hotel, is the splendid Sugar and Spice restaurant, which takes you further back in time to the mid-1800s. For a personal tour, contact Judy Nelson at 814-746-7673.
As a continued effort to preserve the past, there’s Waterford Heritage Days, organized by the Fort Le Boeuf Historical Society. In July, enjoy three days of on-stage entertainment at the center city gazebo, along with arts and crafts displays and sales, and of course, food galore.
I strongly urge you to stroll the town, but be careful, for the century plus old sycamore trees have made the sidewalks slightly uneven. Nevertheless, they provide needed shade on a hot summer afternoon. You will encounter spacious lots with houses and mansions built in the 18th and 19th centuries. All are properly maintained to hold their regal countenance.
The old timers may invite you over for a coffee or an iced tea for simply smiling and saying hello. The locals are extremely accommodating as I know from personal experience. Having spent endless summer days at our family’s 1854 Georgian mansion on Cherry Street, I have priceless memories of the towns people in a town where the only thing that changes is the weather.
From recent visits, one thing about Waterford is abundantly clear. The more things change, the more they stay the same. And in my opinion, thank goodness for that.