Porterfield House still eyed for preservation

By NAOMI SMOOT / Journal Staff Writer

The following article appeared on the front page of The Journal on Saturday, August 11, 2007.


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Refurbishing efforts have begun at the Porterfield house in Falling Waters. Although the owners of the house say it is no longer for sale, the Falling Waters Battlefield Association still hopes to one day own the historic property.
(Journal photo by Jason Turner) 

MARTINSBURG — Although the owners of the historic Porterfield House no longer have the home up for sale, an area organization still hopes to purchase the property and preserve it for future generations.

Gary Gimbel, president of the Falling Waters Battlefield Association, said this week that buying the property remains the group’s "No. 1 priority." The home was originally built by one of Davy Crockett’s ancestors and later came under fire in July 1861 as soldiers fought the Battle of Falling Waters on the grounds surrounding it. The house was riddled with gun shots and a cannonball was lodged in the rafters. According to local lore, that cannonball remains there today.

Gimbel said the house is what is known to historians as a witness object. Much like the bridge at Antietam, the house was there on the day of the battle, and stands as evidence of the events that unfolded on that fateful day.

Members of Gimbel’s association have been fighting for nearly a year to preserve this piece of history for future generations. Last winter, they made two offers to purchase the property from its current owner, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston.

At the time, the home was on the market for a list price of $1.6 million. Association members feared that if they did not purchase it, the home could be destroyed and the battlefield could be transformed into a new housing development.

However, the group’s attempts to purchase the property were rejected, and the diocese maintained ownership of the site. Now, officials say it is no longer up for sale.

"The property is off the market," said diocese spokesman Bryan Minor earlier this week. "A retired Catholic priest is living in the home and he is serving local parishes in the Eastern Panhandle."

Minor said the diocese performed maintenance on the home to prepare it for its new resident, something that did not go unnoticed by Gimbel and other members of the association, who said new windows have been installed in the home, and its chimneys have been repointed.

Both the home’s improvements and its new resident are positive signs, Gimbel said.

"The good news is that they are not leaving the property vacant. It sends us a good message," he said.

Still, the new tenant has placed the battlefield association’s hopes for acquiring the property on hold, Gimbel noted. This is compounded by a current lack of funding to purchase the property, he said, though he added that the group hopes to someday be able to obtain the property and transform it into a park so that others can see the property’s historic significance. The Battle of Falling Waters wasn’t a major one, he admits, but preservation of the location could still be beneficial.

"It wasn’t a huge battle," he said, adding the groups plans would not include a "huge park."

— Staff writer Naomi Smoot can be reached at (304) 263-8931, ext. 183, or


The September 2006 edition of the Civil War News has an article on page 10, "Group Tries to Save Jackson's First Valley Action Site", about the Falling Waters Battlefield Association's efforts to save the  Crockett-Porterfield house.




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.