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Spirit of Jefferson Farmers Advocate
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July 14, 1988     Spirit of Jefferson Farmers Advocate
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July 14, 1988
 

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28 SPIRIT OF JEFFERSON Farmer's ADVOCATE -- THURSDAY, JULY 14, 1988 HARPERS FERRY _ i Laurel Faulkner Dial 535.2757 BOLIVAR HEIGHTS, PART II During the lonely nights of garrison duty in Sheridan's Valley Campaign of 1864 one Scottish immigrant from the 30th Maine, 3rd Brigade, 19th Army Corps, stood on Bolivar Heights ad- miring the view of the gap. He mused about how the scene reminded him of his home in Scotland. He pledged to himself' that if he ever survived the war he would return to this site and build a castle. His name was Royal E. Whitman. Back in Maine, another Scottish immigrant, now a successful merchant, was also pondering Harpers Ferry. His name was John Storer. Together these two very dif- ferent Scottish immigrants from Maine would shape the next 100 years of Bolivar Heights and of Harpers Ferry. The storyof Storer College is now famous throughout America. In 1867 Storer desired to establish an institu- tion of higher learning for the newly freed slaves. He bequeathed a large sum of money for this purpose and hired the Reverend N.C. Brackett to be the first president of the school. Brackett and the newly formed Board of Directors of Storer College purchas- ed Bolivar Heights from the Smallwood family later on in 1867. The federal government, no longer needing the devastated federal arsenal and its many administrative buildings, approached Brackett with the idea of donating "Camp Hill" to the new col- lege. An arrangement was worked out with the new Black college, one of the i LT. ACLY Guard Bureau Duty Tour To Avon Bend Man An Avon Bend man assigned to the 167th Tactical Airlift Group, West Virginia Air National Guard in Mar- Unsburg, has been selected for a four- year tour of duty with the National Guard Bureau, the Pentagon, Washington. First Lieutenant James F. Acly, a budget officer with the 167th TAG, will, within the next month, assume an assignment with the bureau in the Budget Femulatian Bran as a staff officer working with operations and maintenance (O&M). Acly's tour with the Guard Bureau will be on active duty, contrasting his present position, a GS-rated job. "I'm very excited about working at the Pentagon receiving command level budget expexienee," Lt. Acly said. "It will be very broadening and excellent career experience." He plans to commute to his new job in the metro area. A native of New Hampshire, Lt. Ac- ly is continuing his education at Shepherd College. He served in the U.S. Navy as well as the Army Na- tional Guard. Acly and his wife, Kate, live at Avon Bond, as do his wife's parents, Mr. and Mrs. Ensley Hicks. The lieutenant's parents, John and Gloria Acly, reside in Fort Worth, Tex. ,I ,11 ii I GRADUATES FROM MOUNT HOLYOKE Katharine Byron, of Shepberdstown, was one of 486 women who received the Bachelor of Arm degree at the 151st commencement of Mount Holyoke Col- lege on May 22. The prestigious college for women in South Hadley, Mass., has been a leader in liberal arts education for over 150 years. The college current- ly enrolls 1950 women from 47 states, the District of Columbia, three U.S. possessions and 54 countries. Byron, a politics major, is the daughter of Lynne and James Byron, of Windward. BOLIVAR, i ii i first in America, with "Camp Hill" and the old arsenal superintendent's mansion forming the fledgling cam- pus. Bolivar Heights became the work- ing farm for the new college. Students tilled fields and cows grazed where once deadly cannonballs fell. As the years progressed Bolivar Heights was further subdivided as Scott W. Lightner, a brother-in-law of Brackett, bought land both for his own use and on behalf of Storer College. Except for some temporary out- buildings no one had ever built on Bolivar Heights. This was to change dramatically in 1889. On September 20 of that year Royal Whitman, the Maine infantryman, made good on his promise to himself and purchased a large tract of land on Bolivar Heights from Storer College (basically the land on which the National Battlefield sits today). He began to build a magnifi- cent structure based on the castles of Scotland and looking much like the still existing castle in Berkeley Springs. The "castle" had bat- tlements, a draw bridge, and a huge basement stable for coaches and horses. The grounds were dominated by a long imlmsive promenade of red pines which lined both sides of the former military road. A new road was cut through the fortifications on the southernmost part of Bolivdr Heights to the Charles Town Pike (across from Cliffside). The inside'of the "castle" was equal- ly impressive. High ceilings were fill- ed with elaborate plasterwork and frescoes. The walls had beautifully carved moldings and unique painted wallpaper and murals. The ex- travagance of Whitman raised the "castle" to an opulence never seen before or since in Harpers Ferry. It also led to his own economic ruin. On November 23, 1893, heartbroken and broke, Whitman sold his still un- completed "castle" to Judge Wilmer P. Vale. On November I0, 1899 Judge Vale sold the "castle" to Mary Van Dyke Hallem for the then princely sum of $15,000. The Hallem family was to own the "castle" for 53 years giving rise to its name forever being "Hallem's Castle." Whitman's spectacular residence raised the interest of people around the Washington area. The railroads were bringing people to Harpers Ferry and more and more of the urban wealthy began to perceive the beauty of the area as a wonderful palce to escape the summer humidity and heat of the nation's capital. Their eyes turned to the "castle!' and to Bolivar Heights. On the morning of July 19, 1895, the surveying teams of S. Howell Brown famed out along the "Heights" to begin the subdividing of the Storer College lands. By August the first parcels began to be purchased ending the era of quiet pastures and beginning the rise of Bolivar Heights as a mecca for Washington's elite. The first summer residence to rise on the Heights was built by Major Richard Sylvester. Sylvester was the most famous of the commissioners of police for the District of Columbia. His reorganization of the D.C. police forc established the prototype for urban police departments in the 20th century. He was a close friend of both Presidents McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt. He was the man who first hired J. Edgar Hoover and recom- mended him to head the FBI. Sylvester's home (the present house of Alberta Wilt) was built in 1903. Its construction coincided with President Roosevelt's renovation of the White House. As "Teddy" did not like the fancy trappings in the main foyer of the White House and those of the Red Room (designed by Tiffany) he had them torn out and gave them to i Sylvester for his new summer home. Unfortunately, much of this original Tiffany millwork and bronzes have been lost to history through subse- quent renovations. Sylvester was soon followed to Bolivar Heights by Paul and Mary Turner. The Turners were from Michigan with ties to the Steptce fami- ly in Charles Town. Paul Turner was a stockbroker and wanted a summer home on the east coast. He built next to Sylvester in 1906 (the current Faulkner house). This house was noted for its use of one of the main foundation stones from the original arsenal building (1796) as the hearth stone. It took a full day for a team of oxen to haul the six and a half ton stone to the building site. Turner then created a home filled with French doors and a wrap around porch. In 1910 the northern portion of the Heights saw the construction of "Wolakadia" (meaning "beautiful view" in Seneca). This is the CtaTent home of Judge Dostert and Phillip Stryker. Edward Cooper, a successful mining executive, utilized the designs of Frank Lloyd Wright to create a uni- que pillared house both highly contem- porary yet traditional. Over one of the mantels Cooper placed a solid piece of manganese (his main wealth pro- ducer) and inscribed the last musical lines from "Home Sweet Home." ',Wolakadia" has a well kept working farm with a caretakers cottage. In later years this complex below the hill became the residence of Ruth and Bradley Nash. In the center of Bolivar Heights rose two houses owned by close friends. Milton Aries, the president of Riggs Bank and a nephew of the Secretary of War, created a wonderful house with large French doors on the second floor and beautiful millwork throughout. His friend, Dr. Branson, built a house next door which echoed these architectural features. Today, these houses are owned by Jim and Susan Chilton and John Yoder. In the area now known as "Woodpecker Woods" (currently a nature preserve owned by the State of West Virginia) a small wooden hostel was built. This portion of the Heights has a natural cold spring'which was tapped into by the hotel in the hopes of establishing an upper class spa. Very little is known about this hotel (there is not even a consensus on what its name was). After only a few years the hotel fell into rapid decline, burn- ed and was quickly reclaimed by the forest. Over theyears Dr. Branson expand- ed his house to include apartments. Some of these housed nurses on his staff (as he continued his practice dur- ing the summer months). One of these nurses, Mary Blaine, became the per- sonal nurse for one of Dr. Branson's wealthier patients, Mr. Barker, presi- dent of Washington Loan and Trust. This professional relationship soon became romantic. Miss Blaine soon became Mrs. Barker. As a wedding gift Mr. Barker built a magnificent house for his new bride next to Wolakadia as she so wanted to remain on the Heights. This large stone house with two story pillars is currently the home of Marge and Oscar Wilt. The boom years of 1903 to 1930 saw Bolivar Heights referred to as "Millionaires Row" with the six sum- mer homes and the "castle" dominating the landscape of the Harpers Ferry area. The great stockmarket crash and the Depression that followed soon changed this placid affluent neighborhood. Paul Turner lost his fortune and, in the summer of 1934, lost his beloved wife Mary. He sold his home of Bolivar Heights to a young couple taking a loss on the pro- perty and returning to Michigan. The Inn Circa 1788 We now have Event Nights Due to West Virginia law, we cannot advertise our special prices on food, events, etc. Please come by and pick up our new flyer which gives full details. Great Prices - A Lot Of Fun Come On Byl Monday - Tuesday Ladies Night Wednesday Irish Night Thursday West Virginia Night Friday C.W. inn Membership Plight Open from 1 1:00 a.m. to 1 1:00 p.m. 6 days a week; closed on Sunday. 210 W. Uberty Street * Cldes Town, W.Va. 304.-725-1030 i ! newlywed couple was Howard and Minnie Lee "Jackie" Wilt. Howard was the third eldest of five W-fit brothers. He was also a successful entrepreneur, master carpenter and inventor. Howard set to winterizing the Turner house and placing the man- tie from his ancestral home (built near Leetown in 1725) over the arsenal hearthstone. As the Depression deepened the other houses on the Heights proved too expensive to keep as just summer homes. One by one the houses came up for sale and Howard brought each of his brothers to the Heights. In 1951 Howard built a home for his father (the current Newcomer house) which incorporates the high ceilings and wonderful millwork of the Turner house into a more contem- porary design. Jutting out from the eastern side of the Heights house af- fords one of the most sweeping views of the valley of all the houses. A family photo of the Wilts in 1953 in the father's house shows a large and prosperous clan. Bolivar Heights was nicknamed "Wiltville" and "Wiltshire Boulevard" for the family which own- ed most of the property for almost 50 years. The Perry's were the only non-Wilts on the Heights during this period. Mrs. Edith Perry Alexander's story has been related in an earlier column. Over time two additional houses were built on the Heights, near the Ailes' house. This completed the architec- turally and historically diverse neighborhood. In 1952 the last surviving daughter of the Hallem family sold the "castle" to the State of West Virginia. At that point the "castle" had become a mere shadow of its former self. An eccentric caretaker at the "castle" became locally famous during these declining years for giving tours of the nearly abandoned structure on the promise that he could recite some Shakespeare to the tour group. On many an even- ing, passersby would see this fellow standing on the battlements shouting some line of MacBeth or Hamlet into the mountain winds. The wonderful history of the "castle" came to a sad and controversial end on February 11, 1963 when the Park Service tore down the structure as part of its restoration of the Bolivar Heights Battlefield. To this day the fate of the "castle" can still stimulate a heated debate in . Harpers Ferry. All that is left of this first and last chapter of the golden age of Bolivar Heights is an overgrown grove of trees where the "castle" once stood, some salvaged wallpaper in the Fauikner house, and the magnificent promenade of red pines which still line Prospect Avenue. FA X A D VER TISEMENT FAX FAX FAX FAX FAX FAX WHY WAIT FOR OVERNIGHT SEND - FAX NOW - RI Have your information in your hands in ...... call for pricing ...... (304) 728- 74 37 Shenandoah Business & Office Supply 103 S. Lawrence St., Charles Town, WV / / SOL!D 0AK FURNITU 48" SOLID OAK TABLE IIAU, lit OUtW IPrr 11 i 4 lID! lMIm 00AREA S ,il COUNTRY CRAFTS TO REGULAR On HOURS: Mort., Tues. Thurs. & Sat. 10 s.m.- 6 p.m. Ffl. 10.9 r CLOSED WED. AND SUNDAY Yes, they workwith and accuracy of we've all come to the 24 i/II