A humble grandeur-restoring Gettysburg’s Warfield House

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GETTYSBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — In 1863 James Warfield, a blacksmith by trade, his wife Eliza, and their children lived in a small one and a half floor stone house just outside Gettysburg.

But in the summer of that year, the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia invaded Pennsylvania. The Warfields fled the area, and with good reason–they were African American.

According to Jason Martz, Communications Specialist at Gettysburg National Military Park, the Warfields were Freemen. But that would have made no difference to the invaders. “The fear of course was if they were captured or taken in by Confederate forces, that they could have been sent south into slavery.”

Their house was right along the Confederate line. When the Warfields returned after the battle, they found a house riddled with bullets from both sides, and everything of use gone.

“Ultimately James Warfield would claim $561 worth of damages, about $11,000 in today’s money,” Martz said. “[After a few years], James would move into town, and leave the homestead here in the past.”

Even though it is surrounded by National Park grounds, the house stayed in private hands for decades. By the time the Park did acquire it, you would have never known there was a Civil War Building there.

“This one and a half story stone structure that you see here was largely covered up by modern add-ons,” Martz said. “There were add-ons to the south, there were add-ons to the west, there was a three-car garage that was connected to the house through a breezeway.”

In 2019 the Park Service began removing the unhistoric parts of the building and returning it to its 1863 appearance. At times it was a delicate procedure.

“One of the issues that our preservation crew needed to really get ahold of,” Martz said, “was making sure the foundation and the walls were structurally sound. And that was certainly a lot of work, and done with the utmost of care.”

The outside restoration is now finished, and Jason Martz was able to give us a look at the inside. As you walk in, you first step on some brand new floorboards. To your left, original flooring; to your right an area where the floorboards are gone, revealing the original beams, and the stone foundation. A highly anachronistic aluminum ladder leads to the upstairs loft; it’s a temporary expedient while they try to figure out where the original staircase was located. There’s no furniture because there are no records of what sort of furnishings the Warfields had.

“What we have here inside the Warfield House,” Martz said, “Is as much original fabric as we could find. Original walls, original door, and window casings, original beams, the floor that I’m standing on is original as well.”

The Park Service still has a few decisions to make on how best to incorporate the Warfield house into its overall mission. But for now, just returning the house to its shape in the past, is a great leap forward.

“Whether it be the grounds, the fences, the miles of fences,” Martz said. “Or whether it be the homes, the houses, the barns, all of it is a resource to us, and it is our job to protect it and ultimately to tell that story to the visitor in a very proper way.”

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