Yellow house on Shepherd University campus has colorful history

January 29, 2012|By RICHARD F. BELISLE |
  • Keith D. Alexander, professor of environmental studies at Shepherd University, stands in front of an 18th-century log house being renovated on the Shepherdstown, W.Va., campus.
Photo by Richard F. Belisle

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. — Over the centuries, the 18th-century log house being renovated on the Shepherd University campus has been a private home, a sorority house, a day-care center, a home-economics classroom, and, until last month, a storage unit.

The university has spent about $68,000 on renovations so far.

The one-and-a-half story frame house is believed to have been built between 1772 and 1793 by Femetghe and Clarkson Freeman. It’s on East High Street between Snyder and Knutti halls. It’s easily recognized by its peeling yellow paint.

The university was founded in 1872 as Shepherd College.

Keith D. Alexander, who teaches environmental studies, and Dan Yanna, director of facilities management at Shepherd, are coordinating the renovation project.

Alexander said the house was a private home until 1926, when the university bought it. The house was built on one of Thomas Shepherd’s original lots that were laid out when Shepherd founded the town. It was one of a line of houses along High Street that were built on original Shepherd lots, Alexander said.

Wade Banks, a Shepherdstown native and retired Shepherd professor, remembers the house and several next to it when he attended Shepherd in the early 1960s.

Banks recalls when the house was used as a preschool.

“Two of my sons went there,” he said. “The guy who was in charge of maintenance at the college lived there at one time,” he said.

Alexander said it was a sorority house in the 1950s.

“The house survived because the college used it,” Alexander said.

Banks said he was a member of the Theta Sigma Chi fraternity in a nearby house along that stretch of East High Street.

He also recalled that there was a large home called the Boswell House, on the corner of East High and North Princess streets across from White Hall. That area is now a university parking lot.

The university received two grants totaling $68,000 to spend on the renovations. The first phase included installing new roof headers, removing a rear dormer and putting on a shingled roof.

The limestone foundation was stabilized and repointed.

The renovations are not intended to restore the building to its original condition. Much of the building is not original, including the floors and exterior German siding that covers the overall log construction, which is “significantly deteriorated,” Alexander said.

“We’re repairing versus replacing,” Alexander said.

He said no decision has been made about what to do with the house once renovations are completed.

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