The Journal,
Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Group tries to save historic home

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Preservation efforts are under way to protect the Falling Waters Battlefield and the Porterfield House.


Journal Staff Writer

MARTINSBURG - The battle is on to save a 240-year-old building known as the Porterfield House.

The owner of the property, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, recently decided to put the historic home and land up for sale. And now, state legislators and members of the Falling Waters Battlefield Association say they are hoping to find a way to preserve the home.

They fear that the site - which once withstood gunfire and cannon blasts during a Civil War battle - could crumble in the wave of local development.

"It's frustrating, " Delegate John Overington, R-Berkeley, said of the battlefield property. "What is slowly happening is the land is being gobbled up."

Already, a nearby tract has been slated for new construction, Overington said. The 70-acre property was once part of the Falling Waters Battlefield. Now, it is the proposed site for more than 90 homes.

Tom Ressler, president of the Falling Waters Battlefield Association, said he doesn't want the Porterfield House to have the same fate. The property holds a distinct place in local history, he said, adding that he'd like to see it saved for future generations.

"We're doing everything we can to preserve this area," Ressler said. "So they can remember this little area was very significant."

The first wing of the Porterfield House was built in the 1760s by David Crockett, the grandfather of Davy Crockett.

Later, in July 1861, the building came under heavy gunfire during the Battle of Falling Waters. Documents show that bullet holes were still visible on one side of the house until siding was put on the building sometime after 1941. And reportedly, Ressler said, a cannonball from the battle still remains lodged in the rafters.

The damage was the result of one of the first Civil War battles to occur in the area. The conflict included 114 casualties and ended in a Union victory. The fight had deeper implications for the war as well, according to It also played a role in the Union's defeat at the Battle of First Manassas, according to the Web site.

Ressler would like to see this important piece of local history remain intact, he said. And he's already making plans for what could be done with the home once it is purchased.

The property and an adjacent tract could become home to a variety of activities for residents in the area, he said. Heás considering a library, park and Civil War educational center. And with its close proximity to Interstate 81, it could also serve as a tourist draw for travelers who were passing through the area to see other Civil War sites, he added.

Still, preserving the home won't be easy, Overington noted.

"The challenge is to try to find money for that," he said, adding, "It's unfortunate that the Farmland Protection Board put their money in the city of Martinsburg."

Overington said that the board would have been well-suited to fund a preservation project like the Porterfield House. It's rural land that once served as a farm, he noted.

Still, Ressler isn't giving up on the Farmland Protection Board as means of assistance. He plans to talk with board members, as well as the Martinsburg-Berkeley County Parks & Recreation Department, he said.

He said he's also considering teaming up with the Berkeley County Commission and plans to attend the regular meeting this Thursday to request assistance.

"We're hoping to go to the County Commission as they did with Boydville," he said.

And if things work out, Ressler added, it could change the face of Falling Waters.

"The northern part of our county has no parks, no library," he said. "Not much to show."

Darryl Costanzo, the director of buildings and properties for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, said there has been limited interest in purchasing the property. Aside from Ressler's group, only one other person has approached him about purchasing the home, he said.

Staff writer Naomi Kimble can be reached at 263-8931, ext. 183, or



From I-81 take Spring Mills Exit 20, then proceed West on Hammonds Mill Road (WV 901).  T.J. Jackson Drive is the first road on the left (south side) approximately 300 yards west of I-81.  The library is on the corner, next to, but set back from the CNB Bank, across the street from the Shell Gas Station & Convenience Store.  Library Phone Number: (304) 274-3443.