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New road may force relocation of W.Va. log home

May 08, 1999|By JULIE E. GREENE

KEARNEYSVILLE, W.Va. - Lawrence Crouse thought he had saved his pre-Revolutionary War log house from demolition 12 years ago, but he finds himself in a new battle to save it today.

It's directly in the path of a new road planned in West Virginia.

The house originally was built in Sharpsburg, on East Main Street. Crouse bought in 1977 just as its previous owner was beginning to tear it down.

He moved it piece by piece to Kearneysville, W.Va., and reassembled it over the next two years until it became his family's home.

Now, the state plans to extend W.Va. 9 right through the house, possibly late this year.

Crouse said he realizes some homes will have to be relocated because of the highway, even his.

"It's a shame that we have to move it a second time," he said.

But he also has to move his woodworking business from a building next door, something he thinks could cause problems if zoning prevents him from moving his home and business to the same property.

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The deed for the house is dated 1760, but the Crouses say it is no longer considered historical because it was moved.

Crouse's other concern, which he believes should concern the entire community, is that the preferred route for the highway expansion has a "horrendous" sharp curve in it that he says the Division of Highways hasn't been open about.

But Ben Hark, head of the environmental section in the highway division's engineering department, said the curve is not too sharp. The road is designed for 65 mph, he said.

Crouse thinks people should get a copy of the route and look for themselves.

"Now who do you believe, the West Virginia Department of Highways or your own eyes?" he asked.

Crouse said the state could choose a straighter route, one that would be safer - and avoid his home.

But Hark said the state reviewed the straighter option, referred to as the Bower Road Alternative, but found that it crossed too many historical properties.

Crouse said he believes the state chose its preferred route over the Bower Road Alternative because Martha Anne McIntosh, U.S. Sen. Robert Byrd's scheduler, lives in a community near its path known as Traveler's Rest. Byrd is the ranking minority member on the Senate Appropriations Committee.

McIntosh said she never used any influence to sway the location for the expansion. She said Byrd had nothing to do with the highway's route.

"There are laws protecting (Traveler's Rest) that have nothing to do with me," McIntosh said.

Hark said moving the expansion route to the south and west sides of Traveler's Rest would make the highway the dominant feature in the property's viewscape.

"The only reason that we give special consideration to her property is because it's listed as a national landmark and that gives it a little bit higher status," Hark said.

The 1700s stone home on the roughly 200-acre Traveler's Rest was the home of Revolutionary War Gen. Horatio Gates, who won the Battle of Saratoga in 1777.

The Keeper of the National Register of Historic Places ruled Crouse's land, where the Battle of Kearneysville was fought, was not eligible, Hark said.

Like other residents in the expansion's path, the Crouses have had to put part of their lives on hold for several years waiting for the state's final route decision.

Seven years ago, the state announced three route options, Crouse said. One of them came through his business and another through the business and house.

Tired of putting their lives on hold and having their three children live in the dining room and attic, the family started building a two-bedroom addition last fall on the back of the house.

That work stopped after state highway officials announced in late February they had selected the expansion route that would go through Crouse's home and business.

Hark said property owners will receive funds dependent on independent appraisals, as well as extra money for moving their belongings - not their houses.

The Crouses said some people think they are overreacting.

"If your home's not for sale and they're going to pay you, it means nothing," said Crouse's wife, Martha.

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