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Berkeley County's almshouse in Poor House Farm Park to get new roof

July 20, 2013|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD | matthewu@herald-mail.com
  • Berkeley County recreation officials have netted a grant to put a new roof on the county's 19th century poorhouse at Poorhouse Farm Park.
By Matthew Umstead

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — Berkeley County’s almshouse — a historic mansion, where widows, orphans and disabled Civil War veterans once stayed — is about to get a much-needed roof repair.

The work is being funded in part by a $27,500 State Historic Preservation Office development grant that will be formally announced Wednesday in Charleston, Caryn S. Gresham, deputy commissioner of the Division of Culture and History, said Friday.

Began as a loghouse in the 1780s by John and Elizabeth Emmert, the home was transformed into a large stone mansion by the 1840s, and now overlooks a 5-acre lake in Poor House Farm Park west of Martinsburg.

The home was part of a 140-acre farm that the “overseers of the poor” in Berkeley County purchased in 1850, according to historic accounts.

The grant for the roof repair, given to the Martinsburg-Berkeley County Parks & Recreation Board, was among 19 awards totaling $520,000 that were decided in May by the state Archives and History Commission, Gresham said.

The grant requires a 50 percent match. Steve Catlett, executive director of the parks and recreation board, said officials plan to use funding that the Berkeley County Council allocated to the park system for capital improvements to draw down the state award.

“It’s just a beautiful old place,” Jim Rickard, a member of the parks and recreation board, said this week.

Rickard, who heads the board’s Poor House Farm Park committee, said he has been pushing for the restoration of the venerable structure for five or six years.

“I’ve never been a history buff, but we need to save some of this kind of stuff.”

Todd Funkhouser, president of the Berkeley County Landmarks Commission, said the roof of the house had “a gaping hole in it” when he visited the structure three or four months ago.

The landmarks commission was excited to be approached by the parks and recreation board about trying to restore the house and supported the grant application as part of its mission to protect the county’s historic structures, Funkhouse said.

“They were adamant about saving the old building,” he said.

The home was used for many years as a home for the aged, and then more recently as a home for “wayward boys,” according to the National Register of Historic Places nomination form submitted for the Tuscarora Creek Historic District.

The parks and recreation board had had additions removed from the house, which Rickard believes can be fully restored and used for events and meetings.

Since the county-owned farm became a park nearly 20 years ago, the parks and recreation board has worked to preserve other structures there, including a limestone barn, which also was built in the 1840s.

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