(Above) The Peter Burr property, the oldest standing wood frame structure in West Virginia, was designated a County landmark in 1975 and was added to the National Register in 1981. JCHLC acquired the property in 1988. The complex, located near Bardane, houses the Peter Burr Living History Farm.
The National Historic Preservation Act was drafted as a response to the destructive results of the highway building and urban renewal programs initiated by the federal government in the 1950s and 1960s. Signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson in 1966, the act significantly expanded the federal government’s role in safeguarding historic properties. The act also established the National Register of Historic Places, a federal database of historic buildings, structures, objects, and sites recognized by the National Park Service for their significance in local, state, or national history.
Committees and Commissions
At the state level, the act developed a federal-state partnership and mandated the selection of State Historic Preservation Officers. These state officers evaluate and designate individual buildings, structures or extended sites as historic landmarks based on criteria maintained by the National Park Service.
In West Virginia, state legislation also authorizes local landmarks commissions. Locally, the Jefferson County Historic Landmarks Commission is a branch of the Jefferson County government and consists of a board of 5 volunteer commissioners appointed by the County Commission. The Historic Landmarks Commission focuses on heritage education, historic resource development, and research, in addition to preserving the county’s invaluable historic resources.
Making A List, Sometimes Twice
The Jefferson County Historic Landmarks Commission first met on March 18, 1974. In its first year of operation, the Commission designated Traveler’s Rest, Prato Rio, Lower Farm, Springdale, Piedmont, and White House Farm as Jefferson County historic landmarks. In 1975, the Commission added the Peter Burr House, Morgan’s Spring, Locust Ridge, Harewood, General Darke’s Farm, Bellevue, and Beverley to the list.
There are currently 69 National Register landmarks in the county and the Historic Landmark Commission has recognized 128 county landmarks (40 of which are also included in the National Register). The county has 6 historic districts — Charles Town (3 districts), Harpers Ferry, Middleway, and Shepherdstown. These districts encompass hundreds of additional structures designated as contributing to their historic character.
In 2021, the Commission designated Saint Paul Baptist Church in Kearneysville as a county landmark. Spring Grove/Olive Boy and Taylor’s Meadow/McMurran Farm were also added to the National Register of Historic Places last year. Beyond just making lists, the Commission also provides grants for preservation. During 2021, the Commission secured a $4,000 grant from the Eastern WV Community Foundation for restoration work at the Kearneysville Methodist Cemetery and a $2,500 CSX Grant for Duffields Depot (owned by the Commission) which allowed for repairs to the roof, reinforcement of the structure, and installation of exterior doors.
The current commissioners are Martin Burke, John Demer, Jack Hefestay, Jim King, and Addison Reese. The commission also has a full-time AmeriCorps volunteer, Patrick Fuller. The Commission’s website (JeffersoncountyHLC.org) hosts detailed information about all of the local and national landmarks in the county. For residents and property owners, the website has information about tax credits available for historic preservation, tour maps, and other educational resources. The Commission also accepts donations to fund its work.
Addison Reese is one of five commissioners serving on the Jefferson County Historic Landmark Commission (JCHLC). The Commission plays a key role in highlighting the county’s diverse history through preservation of structures and historic landscapes as well as documenting the oral history of the people who live in these places. If you have any records, photographs, and/or stories you would like to share about historic sites throughout the county, you can contact Reese at AddisonReeseJCHLC@gmail.comBy Addison Reese