Nestled among the peaks of the Appalachian Mountains less than 75 miles from Washington, the Perkins House property in Charles Town, W.Va., has a storied past with a link to abolitionist John Brown. In 1859 Brown was convicted of treason following his famous raid on the federal armory at Harpers Ferry. After the trial, authorities walked Brown to a gallows built on the grounds of the Perkins House to hang for "conspiring with slaves to rebel." A pivotal moment in history, many believe the so-called slave rebellion escalated tensions between the North and South a year before the South's secession from the union.
»?Address: 515 South Samuel St., Charles Town, W.Va. 25414
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The house now on the site, a striking 19th century Queen Victorian mansion, is on the market for $1.99 million.
The area is renowned for its raw and natural landscape and serves as a weekend respite for hikers, fishing enthusiasts and white water rafters. On weekdays some of the 3,000 area residents commute to Washington on the regional MARC train.
Charles Town's worn brick sidewalks, antique stores and coffee shops convey a slow civic pace rarely found in our nation's capital. But if speed is what you crave it's a short drive to visit the Summit Point raceway and the Charles Town Races and Slots.
The home's most distinguishing feature is a large, brick turret with green English ivy and wide, sunny windows. A black iron fence encloses the 1-acre property, which includes a swimming pool, a two-story car barn and several rose gardens. Beneath the canopy of six sprawling black chestnut trees lies a stone marker to indicate the site of Brown's hanging.
"This home has a true connection to our forefathers who came to this country," said homeowner Gene Perkins. A former director of marketing and distribution for Hawaiian Tropic, Perkins and his wife, JoAnn, bought the notable home in 1988.
"It really is a privilege to have a house like this," Perkins said. "It's a spectacular home and it's an original."
Over the past 23 years the Perkins' raised their children on 515 South Samuel St. and took the time to meticulously restore the house. In the 1990s they added a pool to the backyard and built a brick wall to surround the property's many gardens. Fruit-bearing trees such as pears, plums and apples now grow around the large tulip tree beside the pool.
Inside the 7,000-square-foot property are 15 rooms and ample space for entertaining. Over the years the Perkins House has been wooed by hotel chains and large corporations hoping to convert it into a quaint country retreat. Each room has ornate, French fireplaces and magnificently preserved transom windows, door knobs and shutters. The main dining room comes complete with a mahogany table purchased by Perkins from a castle in England.
"The house is built with incredible craftsmanship," said Gary Gestson, a Realtor and historic property specialist with Long and Foster. "And all of that work remains intact, which is something you rarely see with homes of this vintage."
The walls quite literally echo with the history of the home. In many rooms there are short, handwritten notes from guests to the house dating back to 1892. Scrawled upon the brittle horse hair plaster, these notes offer heartfelt thanks from visitors who came generations before.
"To see a direct connection with the historic past of this house is really exciting," said Gestson. "I market hundreds of historic homes and that is really the first time I have seen this kind of tradition."
Like a treasured painting, the Perkins House requires a craftsman's touch and a passion for maintaining its history. "After some modernization you can really see the beauty of the house," Perkins said. His latest renovation was the kitchen, which he updated with a Viking professional eight-burner stove and a custom Subzero refrigerator.
More than anything, Perkins said that he gets the most enjoyment from opening his house to travelers and guests. Last year, historians and relatives gathered on the grounds to commemorate the 150th anniversary of John Brown's hanging.
"I like how so many people from around the world come to see the history here," he said. "I feel like it should be open for all people to see. Not doing so would be like buying a Monet and hiding it away in a closet."