Historic W.Va. property preserved in protection program

October 11, 2007|By DAVE McMILLION

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - It was called a "grand slam" for farmland protection.

Walter Washington's decision to permanently preserve 219 acres at his Harewood farm west of Charles Town protects one of the most significant historic properties in Jefferson County, local officials said.

The 237-year-old Harewood mansion was built by Samuel Washington, brother of first president George Washington and Charles Washington, the founder of Charles Town.

The stately two-story stone home is said to be where James Madison, the fourth U.S. president, married his wife, Dolley.

George Washington visited the farm and Gen. Lafayette and Louis Phillipe of France were entertained there.

A wetland and marl marsh that are now protected on the property serve as the habitat for several rare plant and animal species in the state, including the spotted turtle, and the property has a Civil War tale or two.


Harewood was prominent in the Battle of Summit Point in 1864 when Confederate Gen. Jubal Early advanced over the farm's fields to attack Union Gen. Philip Sheridan at the nearby Locust Hill property, according to Walter Washington.

During tours of the mansion that Walter Washington led Wednesday, he showed strap marks on a family dining table that were caused when the table was loaded onto a cart with other belongings to protect it from advancing troops.

Washington, a sixth-generation descendant of Samuel Washington and a Charles Town attorney, decided to sign an agreement to protect 219 acres on the farm Sept. 24. Washington was paid $811,000 in exchange for agreeing not to ever let the land be developed.

It was the 17th farmland protection easement agreed on since a county farmland protection program began six years ago, making a total of 1,574 acres of farmland that have been preserved.

A ceremony was held at the Harewood farm 3.3 miles west of Charles Town along W.Va. 51 Wednesday afternoon to celebrate the protection of the 219 acres.

Several people at the ceremony expressed awe in being able to preserve such a significant historic property. Among the tracts saved in the county so far, Harewood is the one with the "greatest amount of historic integrity," said Del. John Doyle, D-Jefferson.

"I have to say I'm honored to be here," said Gary Mast, one of the people who spoke at the ceremony.

"You've got it going on here. It's like a grand slam," said Mast, deputy under secretary of Natural Resources and Environment in the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The mansion is already on the National Register of Historic Places and is not part of the conservation easement. Walter Washington said the $811,000 will go into a fund to pay for upkeep of the home and three barns.

Dozens of guests snacked on food at the catered reception on the lawn of the home and Washington took curiosity seekers on tours of the home.

Washington showed the interior of the "drawing room" where James and Dolley Maidson were married. In the room, Washington pointed to a chair which was one of six belonging to George Washington when he lived at Mount Vernon.

Walter Washington said his great aunt grew up at Mount Vernon and found the chair in a wood shed with the back missing out of it.

"They were going to burn it. So she brought it up here and it was fixed," Washington said.

Near a fireplace, Washington showed visitors a shield that was used by women to keep beeswax-based make-up from melting. Washington said he was told that the shield is how the phrase "saving face" was coined.

Samuel Washington died of tuberculosis at the age of 47. He is buried south of the mansion.

Because Samuel Washington had tuberculosis, it is believed he was carrier of the disease to his wives, Walter Washington said. Samuel Washington was married five times and it is believed three of his wives died of the disease, Washington said.

Four organizations including the Jefferson County Farmland Protection Board, the National Resources Conservation Service, the American Battlefield Protection Program and the Nature Conservancy put the funding together to pay for the easement.

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