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Hartwood Mansion to be open to public

July 08, 1999

Hartwood MansionBy BRYN MICKLE / Staff Writer, Martinsburg

photo: KEVIN G. GILBERT / staff photographer




MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - A storied piece of Martinsburg's past will be opened to the public Sunday for a glimpse inside.

The Hartwood Mansion on U.S. 11 near Pikeside has been the subject of a 10-month $350,000 restoration project to bring the unusual limestone mansion back to its former glory, home co-owner Robbie W. Kifer said.

"This has been a special piece of Martinsburg for as long as it's been here," Kifer said. "People remember this house as they were growing up and we want to show them what we've done with it."

Martinsburg textile company president George Mulliss built the mansion in 1929 amid the devastating stock market crash that started the Great Depression, she said.

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Mulliss apparently spared no expenses in the construction.

The exterior walls of the mansion are made from eight-inch-thick Pennsylvania blue limestone with steel reinforcements between the floors, Kifer said. All the plumbing in the home is made of brass.

The six-bedroom home boasts a third-floor ballroom and has a three-room servant's apartment over a three-car limestone garage, Kifer said.

While building the home was costly, Kifer said Mulliss could obviously afford it in his role as the president of a textile mill that employed 1,500 people in Berkeley County.

Two years after Mulliss died in 1953, the mansion was sold to man who would eventually use the carriage house of Hartwood to develop a ceramic electrical component that would end up on the moon, Kifer said.

The ceramic switch developed by Samuel G. Lang in the carriage house was used by NASA in the Apollo space program and added a new chapter to the mansion's history, Kifer said.

At some point in the home's past - Kifer isn't sure when - Mulliss or Lang filled in the front basement windows with cement and built a bunker, complete with steel doors and air pipes, below the mansion.

The home was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1981, and Kifer said she learned much of the mansion's history from the U.S. Interior Department listing.

Kifer and Dina DeLeon became the third owners in Hartwood's history last September when they purchased it for $650,000, Kifer said.

The pair have converted the carriage house to three-room hotel and offer the first-floor of the mansion and its 28-acre grounds for weddings and other events through their company, Purple Iris Events and Hartwood.

Kifer and DeLeon also filled in a swimming pool that had been installed in the 1960's and have added extensive gardens around the mansion, Kifer said.

The open house on Sunday will run from noon until 6 p.m. and will cost $5, Kifer said. The admission includes guided tours of the mansion and refreshments.

Kifer added she hopes to make the open houses a twice-yearly fixture for Hartwood.

"This house is a beautiful example of craftsmanship," she said.

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