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Boydville Strategic Planning Team hopes to get grant

Group seeks to transform Boydville estate into a sustainable heritage center

December 11, 2010|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD | matthewu@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — A group that is hoping to transform Boydville, a circa-1812 estate in Martinsburg, into a sustainable heritage center for the community is hoping to net a $40,000 planning grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH).

The Martinsburg City Council on Thursday voted unanimously to act as the grant administrator if the newly formed Boydville Strategic Planning Team nets the money.

The planning team has been working since this summer to find a viable use for the leafy, 13-acre estate at 601 S. Queen St., planning team member Susan Whalton said. Team members have to meet a grant application deadline in January, but have taken part in the NEH’s early review process to obtain feedback, Walton said.

The grant application's fate will be known by August, according to the agency's website. With the grant award in hand, Whalton said the team would hire an experienced consultant with “a set of fresh eyes” to help find a economically sustainable use for the property that would be a benefit to the greatest number of people possible.

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After a proposal to use the property for vocational education programming failed to gain traction earlier this year, Whalton said she realized she had a lot to learn about what needed to be done to secure Boydville's future.

The Berkeley County Farmland Protection Board acquired Boydville in 2005 for $2.25 million to stop proposed residential development around the mansion. The board's purchase included $750,000 from the City of Martinsburg.

While weighing the option of possibly selling the property with a conservation easement attached, the farmland board in July asked for strategic planning assistance from Mountain State University to document Boydville's history.

That ultimately led to the formation of the Strategic Planning Team, which includes Helen M. Johnstone, MSU's dean of Program Development; Cheryl A. Brown, Regent of the Pack Horse Ford Chapter of Daughters of the American Revolution; Martinsburg architect Matthew Grove; Berkeley County Commissioner Anthony J. “Tony” Petrucci; Barbara Bratina; Billy Riggleman; Sandra Riggleman; and Whalton.

Since the team's formation, Whalton said the group has met regularly, but there also has been a substantial outpouring of volunteer support from various groups, businesses and individuals in giving the property a facelift. The farmland board received and matched a $12,000 state grant to help make needed roof, gutter and other water damage-related repairs now under way, but volunteers also have helped gently clean the interior, make porch repairs, and assess the trees and other landscaping on the property, Whalton said.

“The momentum of it seems so miraculous to us,” Whalton said.

Built by Gen. Elisha Boyd, who served in the War of 1812, the mansion was once part of a 300-acre farm. His descendants include Charles J. Faulkner, who was appointed minister to France under President James Buchanan. And Faulkner's son, Charles, represented West Virginia in the U.S. Senate from 1887 to 1899. The mansion was spared from being burned by Union troops by direct order of Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War.

Whalton said they considered establishing a living history museum, but now believe that model would not be sustainable and want to establish a center that will feature an array of activities and events that encourage visitors to return. “The challenge has been ‘how does it become something that is self-sustaining,” Whalton said.

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