Spring staple

Every April, the popular Home and Garden Tour offers an inside look at area’s historic, unique sites

As dependable as April showers and spring flowers, the annual showcase of one-of-a-kind Panhandle properties is again set to delight visitors later this month.

[cleeng_content id=”613140544″ description=”Read it now!” price=”0.49″ t=”article”]Coming up April 26 and 27, the House and Garden Tour of Historic Berkeley and Jefferson Counties has been a staple of the season since 1955.

Organized each year by the Shenandoah-Potomac Garden Council – an umbrella group of local garden clubs in the two counties – the tour’s proceeds provides funding for the clubs’ beautification projects for community parks, schools and libraries.

A much-anticipated spring ritual for local residents and out-of-town visitors alike, the tour this year includes Charles Town’s Bullskin Farm, which dates to 1765 and has never been on the tour, along with two other Jefferson County properties: Eagle’s Ridge, the three-story modern Federal Revival-style home situated atop a hill in Harpers Ferry, and Monte View Farm in Summit Point, where a smokehouse is said to have been part of the Underground Railroad.

A stone bed and breakfast in the countryside near Hedgesville is one of three Berkeley County sites on the tour, along with two homes in Martinsburg: a Georgian-style mansion built in 1790 and a recently updated house that began as a single-room log cabin in the early 1700s.

There are a number of reasons the tour is so popular, explains Jean Slonaker, who is handling publicity for the event for the Garden Council.

For many, the homes’ historical aspects are key. With several sites on this year’s tour that date to the 1700s, the tour allows visitors to gain insight not only into the homes’ builders and residents, but also the important events that shaped construction, additions and remodeling, Slonaker said.

Others use the event as inspiration for their own gardens and homes.

“I remember seeing gray paint in a house once and deciding that would be great in our hallway,” Slonaker said. “If I hadn’t seen the paint in someone else’s house, I would never have considered that color.”

The tour’s plants and flowers provide another draw. “If it’s a warm, sunny day, visitors can view flowering trees and bushes in the gardens,” she said. “And garden club members always have beautiful flower arrangements throughout the houses.”

For those who love country drives and West Virginia’s country roads, the time spent getting to each stop adds to the enjoyment of the day, Slonaker explains.

“Many people look forward to seeing the lovely countryside of Berkeley and Jefferson counties as they go from house to house,” she said. “They love taking in the beauty of spring in West Virginia along with some very historical gems of homes.”

A look at the six stops:

Bullskin Farm at 654 Mill Lane, Charles Town

Charles Town’s Bullskin Farm – established in 1765 – has been owned by James Watson McCurdy and his descendants since 1813.

The best-known of those family members – the late Charles M. “Mac” Mathias, a liberal Republican famously praised as “the conscience of the Senate” – along with his wife Ann in 2001 oversaw a thorough, thoughtful renovation of the home.

When Mathias passed away in early 2010, The Washington Post’s story included this detail in recounting his days on Capitol Hill: “He often arrived at the Senate cloakroom in work clothes after doing morning chores on his farm near Charles Town, W.Va., and was notorious for driving rattletrap station wagons.

The story also detailed his deep political roots in Maryland, including a great-grandfather who served in the legislature in the 1860s and a grandfather who served as a state senator and campaigned with Theodore Roosevelt. “He was a well-read student of history who often quoted from writers and statesmen,” the Post noted. “When the future senator was a boy, his father took him to the White House to meet presidents Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover.”

Mathias, who served in Congress before being elected to the U.S. Senate in 1968, is remembered for his clashes with the Nixon and Reagan administrations, his opposition to the Vietnam War and as an advocate for civil rights and environmental issues (he was the primary sponsor of the bill that created the C&O Canal National Historical Park). He retired in 1987.

On the tour, visitors to the home will see its many carefully preserved original elements, including woodwork and flooring.

Mathias’ sons, Charles B. Mathias and Robert F. Mathias, now own Bullskin Farm and are completing additional restorations, both of the house and the property’s outbuildings.

The Dolley Madison and Wizard Clip garden clubs are hosting this stop of the tour.


Monte View Farm at 1325 Shirley Road, Summit Point

The original dwelling at Monte View Farm was a log home built around 1850. According to local lore, the farm’s smokehouse was part of the Underground Railroad.

The farm’s Victorian home, constructed more than a century ago, has been restored by Jurgen and Veronica Kleffner, owners of the property since 1996.

Stones from the chimney of the original log house and smokehouse foundation were used to build the entrance’s pillars and wall.

Other highlights include much of the Victorian home’s original woodwork, two working fireplaces with elaborate walnut surrounds, built-in china cabinets in the dining room, walnut pocket doors and stained glass.

A kitchen renovation completed last year includes barn flooring, a ceiling with 150-year-old pine beams and a turn-of-the-century chicken incubator as a unique centerpiece.

Monte View – also home to pea fowl, chickens and three Morgan horses – will be shown by members of the Shenandoah Garden Club, who will also serve refreshments.


Eagle’s Ridge at 104 Putnam St., Harpers Ferry

Overlooking Harpers Ferry, the C&O Canal and the Appalachian Trail, this hilltop Harpers Ferry house is a modern, three-story home custom built in the

Federal Revival style for owners Ted and Fran Szymanski.

The couple’s décor includes an extensive collection of lamps, glassware and other antiques as well as furniture representing the Federalist, Empire and Victorian eras and historical and military prints, pictures, lithographs and maps.

The home is being shown by the Harpers Ferry Women’s Club, and refreshments will be served.


Tuscarora at 3002 Poor House Road, Martinsburg

Thomas Lord Fairfax granted the land where Tuscarora stands in 1762, and the grand Georgian limestone estate built by John and Abigail Lyle would stay in the family until 1916. In the decades following its sale to outsiders, Tuscarora would fall into near-ruin, suffering the collapse of its roof, floors exposed to the elements, even the banister and balusters from its stunning staircases employed by squatters for firewood.

In 1976, rescuers in the form of William and Virginia Sembello purchased Tuscarora and began a painstaking restoration.

Today, the two-story home is owned by Elizabeth W. Joyce and her fiancé John M. Miller III, who have added period furnishings and other changes and additions while staying true to Tuscarora’s original architecture.

Highlights include Tuscarora’s interior woodwork, an open-well stairway with walnut handrails, wainscoting, seven working fireplaces and a ballroom.

The home is being shown by the Olde Berkeley Garden Club.


Cider Mill House Bed & Breakfast at Willow Run Farm at 130 Fourth Bridge Road in Hedgesville

This bed and breakfast belonging to Ed and Kat Cimaglio began life as a Quaker farmhouse around 1790.

It’s believed German stonemasons used materials quarried from a nearby hillside to design the home, which follows a standard Virginia plan – two rooms flanking an entrance hall and stairway. The business takes its name from a cider mill located on the property through much of the 19th century.

Highlights include original wide-plank flooring, fireplaces, woodwork and window glass. The home is being shown by the Berk-Mar Garden Club and refreshments will be served.


Anne Light House at 1810 Myers Bridge Road in Martinsburg

David and Vickie Stedman have extensively restored the Anne Light House, which dates to a single-room log cabin from the early 18th century with a log addition constructed in 1811.

Highlights include room partitions in original beaded board pine, original window glass and the Stedmans’ new gardens and patio as well as an updated kitchen, bathrooms and family room.

The house is being shown by Norborne Garden Club.


Want to go?

What: 59th-annual House and Garden Tour of Historic Berkeley and Jefferson Counties

Where: Three stops in each county, including homes in Martinsburg, Hedgesville, Charles Town, Harpers Ferry and Summit Point

When: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. April 26 and 27

How much: Order your ticket before April 11 and pay $15 for the complete tour. Tour weekend, the cost is $20 or $6 to see a single home. Children 12 and younger pay $5 for the complete tour (in advance or on site) or $3 for admission to a single home.

To order advance tickets: Fill out a registration form or print your name, complete mailing address and email, and the number of adults and children in your party and mail it along with your check to Shenandoah-Potomac Garden Council, c/o Treasurer Ginny Reisenweber, 315 Greenbrier Road, Martinsburg 25401. Checks should be made out to Shenandoah-Potomac Garden Council.

For directions and other details: Go online to shenandoah-potomacgardencouncil.org


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