Photography by Timothy H. Snyder
Historic Unison Store Donated as Community Center
Celebration April 21st, 1-3 p.m., at Unison Store
The historic Unison Store, in one of Loudoun County’s oldest villages, has been bought and donated to the nonprofit Unison Preservation Society as a community and history center.
Dr. Betsee Parker, a preservationist and owner of the historic Huntland estate less than a mile from Unison, has purchased the restored store, which has been for sale for two years.
At a special celebration filled with music, food, and friends on Sunday, April 21st, Dr. Parker handed over the store keys to the nonprofit preservation society which will make the store a village
community/history center and the land around it a village green. The UPS Board presented Dr. Parker with a beautiful rose bouquet, and she took center stage to deliver
a wonderful little speech about her many times spent at the store years ago, how she found it a place of relaxation and peace, so much so that she was determined to
buy and protect it when she heard it was for sale.
Dr. Parker, a PhD in theology, philanthropist and patron of the arts, bought and restored Huntland and its stables, kennels and buildings and
put them under conservation easement to protect them permanently. She is an avid competitor in hunter jumper shows and last fall she broke the record for the
number of horse show championships won by a single owner at Pennsylvania’s prestigious Devon Horse Show. Her Huntland team of hunter jumpers then won Junior Hunter
championships at both the Pennsylvania National Horse Show and six championships at the Upperville Colt and Horse Show.
The connection between Unison, the Unison Store and Huntland goes back a century to a meeting around the store’s pot-bellied stove by the area’s
avid foxhunters, members of the historic Piedmont Hunt and the smaller Unison Farmers Hunt, which had a well known pack of foxhounds. The two joined forces and
Unison’s hounds joined the Piedmont Hounds at the newly built Huntland and its kennels, owned by Joseph B. Thomas, master of the Piedmont Hounds and president of the
American Foxhound Club. After restoring those kennels in 2011, Dr. Parker, a strong supporter of the Piedmont Hounds, presided over the 100th anniversary
celebration of their construction.
Dr. Betsee Parker with the Unison Preservation Society Board of Directors receiving the applause of the crowd at the Gifting of the Unison Store party/celebration
The Unison Store, like many rural country stores, struggled to remain a viable business in the 20th century, but sadly closed its doors in the 1990's when the
then current owner closed his grocery store business.In 2001, when the store was in near derelict condition,
bankrupt and slated to be sold at public auction within the year, neighbors founded the Unison Preservation Society to help save it. Coe and Mariah Eldridge, residents of
the Unison/Bloomfield area, stepped forward to buy the endangered building, and renovated it for use as an office building. In the mid 2000's the offices were closed, and the store
was once again for sale. With the purchase of the building by Dr. Parker, and her subsequent gift to the UPS, the store is now forever protected.
Unison Preservation Society president Harry Bigley said "Dr. Parker’s generous gift will guarantee that the store and its half acre of open space
will continue to be the center of village and area life and activity, as it has been for more than 140 years."
The Unison Preservation Society is a non-profit 501(c)3 organization. All contributions are tax-deductable.