WESTOVER - A RETROSPECTIVE
Before there was a community of 474 homes, condos, and apartments, there was a private airport and a cornfield. Before the lovely and safe neighborhood that we know as the Village of Westover was built, there was the dream of one man: William Keeley.
With Westover, Mr. Keeley was the first to create a Planned Urban Development (PUD) on the West Shore. After completing construction of some large, custom homes in the Point Ridge development, Bill Keeley turned his considerable talents to the creation of a neighborhood that would include single-family homes, condominiums, garden apartments, and areas of open land that could be used for recreation. At one time, there were plans for a church and a small shopping area.
The land was purchased from Mr. Weibley. The area on the west side of Skyport Road was used for farming and most recently had been planted in corn. The area to the east had been leased to Mr. Bartholemew, who used it as a small, private airfield with a dirt runway. The airfield had been closed for several years when, in 1971, a student pilot, looking for another airstrip on which to land, mistook the old runway for another and came in too fast and too low, crashing into a home in Noll Acres and killing a lady who was hanging wash on the clothesline in her yard. Vestiges of the airport days are still evident in the hanger, which stands at the intersection of Westover Drive and Skyport Road.
The planning that preceded the building in Westover was thoughtful, forward thinking and meticulous in detail. Mr. Keeley chose architecture that is reminisant of the homes in Colonial Williamsburg. He and Mrs. Keeley made countless trips to Virginia to photograph specific features on the restored homes in Williamburg’s historic district. One such trip may have yielded pictures of just the varied chimneys or staircases. As form follows function, so did the exterior colors follow the home design. At one point, the Keeley living room was filled with paint chips and wallpaper samples as the interiors were given the same fastidious attention that would come to personify a Keeley home. The first home was sold in 1968 and the subsequent houses sold as quickly as they could be constructed. The street layout, the ambiance of the homes, and the exacting attention to detail had created a neighborhood that was vastly appealing.
Another important feature of Westover that was especially attractive to potential homeowners is the property covenants that were drawn up by Mr. Keeley as he sought a way to protect the investment made by each homeowner. He saw the opportunity for each home to enhance, rather than detract from, its neighbors. Those residents who still choose to honor the covenants are greatly appreciated by their neighbors as property values fall only on those homes which have been neglected or which have exteriors altered in such a way that detracts from the homogeneous community. Mr. Keeley did his best to protect us all from high fences, outdoor sheds, trucks, trailers and vans parked on our streets, garish exterior colors and antennas on homes.
A good example of the leadership Mr. Keeley accepted were the traditions of decorating for the Christmas season with fresh, live greens, a single white candle in each window, and a spotlight on the front door. Homeowners took great pride in making their own decorations and Mr. Keeley persuaded the art teachers from Cumberland Valley High School to judge the best holiday door for which a cash prize was awarded. Those with plastic angels, Santas and reindeer were not even considered. The ladies of the neighborhood got together to make kissing balls for each street sign and the bows for the streetlamps. Word quickly got around that Westover was an especially charming and elegant neighborhood during the holidays. There were times, in the mid-70s, when it was difficult to pull out of one’s driveway in the evening because of the carloads of people who had come to look.
Mr. Keeley laid out the streets and named them. Berkeley is taken from the plantation of that name along the banks of the James River in Virginia, both Stephens and Crogan were early settlers/explorers in this area, Pamela is the daughter of Mr. Gordon Willis, the talented carpenter who worked on so many of the homes. Westover draws its name from two sources, it was the name of the section in New Cumberland where Mr. and Mrs. Keeley began their married life and is also the name of a plantation near Williamsburg. In keeping with his character, Mr. Keeley never chose to name a street after himself. However, it is rumored that, in the early days of building, the pace of work and development was so bustling that some of the crew nicknamed the place Keeleyville.
Some of the traditions of the earlier years have been lost as Westover has grown. Gene Sporl was the original Westover Santa. Parents of good boys and girls traditionally left a package in the mailbox on Christmas Eve; after supper that evening Santa would appear and hand deliver it to the wide-eyed child. There was a dinner-dance every spring, usually held at the Embers in Carlisle, or at the Officer’s Club at the Navy Depot. The ladies would write and deliver invitations, solicit door prizes from local merchants, arrange for a band, select the menu and prod reluctant husbands onto the dance floor. There was a mid-summer picnic in the Commons; every family brought a dish to share and the men brought along portable grills to cook hot dogs and hamburgers. This nucleus gave form to the Westover Women’s Club, and from it the first newsletters were published under the name Westover Whispers.
Now, 46 years since the first house was sold, 209 condominiums and apartments and 265 homes cover the 206 acres that make up the Village of Westover, which is home to approximately 939 adults. It is neighborhood of green, open areas and captivating homes. It is a place that is safe for children to skate and ride bikes and provides a varied scene for neighbors to walk their pets. Most importantly, it is a neighborhood of caring and kind people. Mr. Keeley would be proud.
Susan Brown Craig
Much appreciation is due to Mrs. William Keeley for sharing facts, figures and stories about Westover. Written 2014.