Thursday, September 15, 2011

News---John Brown's Gallows Site For Sale

For Sale: Historic Mansion On Site Of John Brown's Hanging, Marylynne Pitz, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, September 11, 2011.

A few weeks before Christmas of 1859, John Brown, the fiery abolitionist convicted for treason, swung from a gallows in Charles Town, W.Va.

John Gibson, who commanded the first troops to battle Brown after his ill-fated raid on a federal arsenal at Harper's Ferry, built a mansion on that historic ground more than 30 years later. Now, the five-bedroom, 6 1/2-bath home, which has undergone a restoration overseen by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, will be offered for sale today in an Internet auction that starts at 6 p.m. EST. The minimum bid is $950,000. The website is

Located on a one-acre corner lot, the home was built in 1891 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Current owners Gene Perkins, a contractor and entrepreneur, and his wife, JoAnn, are moving to Florida. A previous owner, Mrs. Augustin Jacquelin Todd, donated it to the trust in 1982. In November of 1989, the Perkinses submitted a successful sealed bid to buy the property from the National Trust.

The Perkinses finished the third floor, installed a gourmet kitchen, a new heating system and upstairs plumbing. They also restored elegant woodwork and a widow's walk. They put in an outdoor pool. All of the mansion's eight fireplaces are wood-burning. There's one in each bedroom. "It's been on the market for probably a year," said Gary Gestson, who works for a marketing firm in Gaithersburg, Md. and believes the mansion would make a great bed and breakfast. The National Trust for Historic Preservation, he added, had to approve all restoration plans before the Perkinses began the work.

"They did a lot of restoration. There were rooms that had been bricked over. They opened up the house. They are responsible for bringing it back," said Mr. Gestson, who has toured the property. His favorite space is the large dining room. "There is china in the china cupboard that was designed for the house," he said, adding that the china will be sold with the property. The main floor has 11-foot-high ceilings. On the second floor, ceilings are nearly 10 feet high.

A two-story barn being used as a garage could be turned into guest accommodations, too. The front of the property has wrought-iron fencing while a 6-foot brick wall at the back affords privacy. In the closet of one bedroom, there are signatures and notes from past visitors, including Amy Vanderbilt, Mr. Gestson added.

The mansion is two blocks from Main Street in Charles Town, an hour-and-a-half drive from Washington, D.C. Laid out by and named for George Washington's brother, Charles Town has thoroughbred racing, casinos, outdoor activities and Lollapaloosa, a music festival. Col. Charles Washington's home, Happy Retreat, was built in 1790 and still stands.

If the Perkinses do not receive the price they want, they can cancel the auction. They may consider financing up to $1.5 million. There is a white plaque on the property marking the historic execution. Every five years, re-enactors recreate the drama of John Brown's execution, minus the hanging, of course. But there's a gallows in the background.

Image Caption: Abolitionist John Brown was hanged on the grounds of this home in Charles Town, W.Va., in 1859.

Text and Image Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, September 11, 2011.

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