West Martinsburg Historic District
The West Martinsburg Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2010. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [†] Adaptation copyright © 2013, The Gombach Group.
In 1730, the Governing Council of the Colony of Virginia issued orders for this section of the colony to be settled. Originally part of Spotsylvania County, a new county, Orange County, was formed in 1734, followed by Frederick County in 1738. Richard Beeson, a prosperous Quaker from Chester County, in southeastern Pennsylvania, acquired a tract of 3,000 acres in what would become part of Martinsburg. In 1743, Beeson divided a portion of his holdings among his children, and his son Edward, received the easternmost tract of the Beeson lands.
Berkeley County was formed from portions of Frederick County in 1772. Adam Stephen (1718-1791) became the county sheriff and commanded a division during the American Revolution. In 1773 he laid out Berkeley County's new county seat of government along Warm Springs Road, the overland route between Alexandria, Virginia and the town of Bath, now Berkeley Springs. Stephen christened his new town Martinsburg, after his friend Thomas Bryan Martin, a nephew of Lord Fairfax. Midway into the nineteenth century the railroad came to Martinsburg and Berkeley County's fortunes paralleled those of both the Cumberland Valley Railroad and the Baltimore and Ohio. Martinsburg became a thriving railroad town, bolstered by the development of the orchard industry which continues to the present.
Diverse other industries developed in the community as well, schools and churches were built, and new neighborhoods developed outward from Adam Stephen's original eighteenth-century settlement.
Much of the area in the boundary increase is part of the Second Plat "A" of the Rosemont Company's Addition to the City of Martinsburg. The plat for the neighborhood was prepared by surveyor George W. VanMetre and was recorded in 1912; it was revised and redrawn in 1915 by civil engineer Henry H. Hess. The Rosemont Company consisted of S.W. Walker, George M. Bowers and his son, George M. Bowers, Jr., M.L. Dorn, and W.S. Snyder. The Rosemont Development Company was named for "Rosemont," the substantial farmhouse built by Conrad Rousch on part of his 161-acre holdings which flanked the Hampshire Turnpike (later West King Street).
The Rosemont Company owned the land on the north side of West King Street as well as that on the south side (in the current Rosemont Historic District). The original plat for this area depicts a section laid out between West King Street, the west side of Tennessee Avenue, Park Avenue, and past Delaware Avenue.
The east side of Tennessee Avenue south of West Martin Street is part of a 1933 plat of new lots laid out by surveyor L.L. Hawkins made to the 1913 Commanding View Addition to the City of Martinsburg. The east side of Tennessee Avenue north of West Martin Street is included in the Winber Addition, which was laid out in 1937 by surveyor W.C. Morgan for the Tennessee Avenue Realty Company.
This area developed during decades of significant growth in Martinsburg. As noted above, the railroad had arrived here in the 1840s, and the community's fortunes would be tied to transportation for generations. Significant industrial growth brought about the need for residential development, and the area included within the boundary increase grew in direct proportion to the growth of Martinsburg's industrial base.
Deeds set forth setback requirements, typically twenty-five feet, and also stipulated that no lot could be used for stone quarry purposes or for the transport of stone "or other quarry products." In an unfortunate sign of the times, deeds also provided that the neighborhood would be racially restricted, stating, "as part of the consideration herein, it is covenanted between the parties hereto that the said premises may not be sold to any person of African birth or descent for a period of fifty years and that this covenant shall run with the land."
The West Martinsburg Historic District is locally significant as a dense collection of both vernacular house types and period-style domestic architecture from the first half of the twentieth century. There are currently eleven historic districts in the city of Martinsburg and numerous others in Berkeley County which are primarily smaller rural crossroad districts. The Downtown Martinsburg Historic District is a commercial historic district containing governmental and commercial properties dating from the nineteenth and early twentieth century. The B&O Railroad and Related Industries Historic District is adjacent to the downtown and contains primarily thematically-linked industrial properties. The Green Hill Cemetery Historic District is, as its name implies, a district focused upon a historic community burying ground. The Boomtown Historic District is immediately adjacent to the south of the West Martinsburg Historic District. Although it includes residential properties, it is primarily centered around a number of rail-related industrial resources. Residential resources along West King Street, adjacent to the West Martinsburg Historic District, are large-scale, high-style houses.
There are also a number of primarily residential districts in Martinsburg. Among these is the Boydville Historic District, along South Queen Street, which focused upon the Boyd family and is anchored by Elisha Boyd's home of the same name. In addition to Boyd's home this district includes other early mansion-scale residences of Martinsburg's nineteenth-century elite. Another residential district in Martinsburg is the Rosemont Historic District. It is most similar to the West Martinsburg Historic District and is located just south of the district by approximately two blocks, being separated by West King Street and the Boomtown Historic District.
The West Martinsburg Historic District reflects primarily middle-class domestic architecture like that of the Rosemont Historic District. The West Martinsburg Historic District is also a reflection of the "small house" movement of the 1920s and 1930s. At the turn of the century, architects were designing landmark period-style houses for the wealthy. Following World War I, however, as technology changed, so did the architecture. Inexpensive techniques were perfected and period-style architecture was repeated over and over in smaller-scale houses throughout neighborhoods such as the West Martinsburg Historic District. Styles represented include the Craftsman and Bungalow, Tudor Revival, Cape Cod, American Foursquare and a range of vernacular types popular during the first decades of the twentieth century.
Hawkins, F. L., C. E. "Commanding View, New Lots Added." Martinsburg, 1934.
Morgan, W. C. Subdivision, "Winber, Plat A." Martinsburg, 1939.
VanMetre, George W. "Plat A, Rosemont Addition to the City of Martinsburg." Martinsburg, 1912.
Wood, Don. C. Documented History of Berkeley County, West Virginia. Berkeley County Historical Society, 2004.
† David Taylor, Taylor & Taylor Associates and Erin Riebe, West Virginia State Historic Preservation Office, West Martinsburg Historic District, Berkeley County, West Virginia, nomination document, not dated, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D. C.