The Maryland farmhouse in which Whittaker Chambers wrote Witness has burned down. A few hours ago, I received this e-mail from Mauricio Tamargo, president of the Freedom and Historic Preservation Foundation, which is dedicated to protecting the Chambers farm:
I wanted to let you know that John Chambers called me yesterday to tell me some bad news. He said the Medfield farmhouse had a bad fire. I myself have not seen it or pictures of it so I do not know how bad it is but I am sure it is not good. I do not know if John will be able to restore the house. I know he will want to, as he continues to try to preserve the farm just as his father had it when he lived there.
In case you may not remember, Medfield is the house at Pipe Creek Farm where John’s father, Whittaker Chambers, sat when he wrote his famous autobiography, “Witness”. That book, plus Whittaker’s other writings resulted in President Ronald Reagan and the National Park Service designating his entire farm a National Historic Landmark, including the famous pumpkin patch. This Foundation was started three years ago to help John preserve the Landmark farm.
This non-profit will continue to do anything we can and provide all the support we can to John in this effort. As long as I am reaching out to all of you wonderful supporters with this bad news of the fire, let me remind you we need your help again this year. I do not know if we will be able to help with the Medfield house but we have many other projects on the farm this year just as we did last year.
When Chambers died, Arthur Koestler famously wrote in NR: “The witness is gone. The testimony will stand.” Perhaps we should say the same for this house. We still have Witness, the great book written under its roof.
About two-and-a-half years ago, I visited the house for a story in NR. You may read it here.