Willow Wall is located on a knoll in the South Branch Valley of West Virginia approximately four miles north of Moorefield and less than a half mile from the South Branch of the Potomac River.
The home, completed in 1811 after seven years in construction, is solid brick laid in Flemish bond in a “U” house configuration. Among the many distinguishing exterior features are the double-tiered portico and the double Palladian windows on the front gable ends of the wings. There are two side porches and a wraparound rear porch faces the courtyard.
The elegant home features seven bedrooms, six full baths (two with steam showers and one with jetted tub), one half bath, two kitchens, two laundry rooms, a family room, a study and sixteen fireplaces. Most of the fireplaces have gas log inserts.
The original hand-hewn mantels, two-inch thick heart pine flooring, doors, hand-forged hardware on the doors, moldings, and most windows with original panes have been preserved. The hand-carved woodwork is magnificent. Ceiling height in the central portion of the home is 12 ft. and 9.5 ft. in the wings. The current owners have made the home comfortable and efficient by updating the systems including geothermal heating and cooling, new 800 amp electric service and plumbing.
Historians report that the central portion of the home was the living and entertaining space for the adults and the wings were built for Daniel McNeil’s thirteen children. The seven sons occupied one wing and the six daughters the other.
A courtyard with a fountain is located in the rear of the home. The property includes three outbuildings and a fenced pasture.
MAIN LEVEL: A massive front door opens into a central hall with twelve ft. ceilings, gleaming heart pine floors and a staircase leading to the second level. The stair railing is made from a single piece of cherry. A rare feature of Willow Wall is wallpaper depicting a French hunting scene, titled “Paysage á Chasses,” painted in 1831 by artist Jean-Julien Dentil on 1,252 wood blocks for the French wallpaper maker Zuber et Cie. The 142-color panoramic which was imported by the original owner in 1934 is one of two from the first-strike printing known to exist in the United States. The other is at President Martin Van Buren’s home at Kinderhook, New York. The wallpaper was professionally restored in 2004 and featured in This Old House magazine.
The central block contains four rooms, two on either side of the great hall. Doors opening into the hall have framed arched transoms. Each of the four parlors is approximately 400 sq. ft. and has a fireplace with hand-carved mantels of intricate design. The tongue-and-groove heart pine flooring is of random width with single planks the width of the rooms. The faux bois painted doors have original working iron locks with keys.
The kitchen on the main floor has Crown Point solid cherry cabinetry, granite countertops and a Thermador gas cooktop with burners, grill/griddle and commercial hood. The dining room has a fireplace and access to a side porch. There are a family room and a study on this level.
SECOND LEVEL: The central portion of the second level duplicates the first floor with its wide hall leading to the portico. At the opposite end of the hall, a staircase leads to the third level. There are four 400+/- sq. ft. bedrooms in the central portion, each having a fireplace with beautiful hand-carved mantel. The flooring is tongue-and-groove heart pine. One wing of the upper level was previously used as a caretaker’s suite with bedroom, bath and laundry room. The other wing was most recently used as the owner’s suite with a bath and laundry.
THIRD LEVEL: There are three attics, one above the central portion of the house and one over each wing. It is believed that the attic in the central portion was used as a ballroom when the home was owned by Daniel McNeil..
BASEMENT: The basement of the home contains the original kitchen. Large troughs made from hollowed logs remain in the basement. A Union soldier recounted in a newspaper article that he had stolen bacon that was being salted in large troughs at Willow Wall.
CIVIL WAR HISTORY
During the Civil War, Daniel McNeil’s properties were the center of activity for McNeill’s Rangers, a calvary of approximately 210 soldiers led by Captain John Hanson McNeill. In August 1864, Confederate Brigadier General Bradley T. Johnson established his headquarters at the house. During the Battle of Moorefield, Johnson is said to have made a hasty exit from the room where he was sleeping by climbing out the second story window and leaping from the porch roof. Willow Wall was used as a hospital with both Union and Confederate physicians performing operations on the rear porch.
ACTIVITIES & ATTRACTIONS
There are many recreational opportunities close to the property. The South Branch of the Potomac River is less than half a mile away. The River offers fishing, canoeing and kayaking. A six-mile canoe or kayak trip through The Trough, a gorge where bald eagles are frequently seen, ends approximately two miles from Willow Wall. A boat and canoe launch is a short distance from the property.
There are numerous places nearby for rock climbing, hiking or horseback riding. Lost River State Park, Bear Rocks Preserve, Spruce Knob-Seneca Rocks National Recreation Area and the George Washington National Forest are a short drive. Valley View Golf Club, a public course, is only five minutes away. .
There are several ski resorts less than sixty miles from the property. Among them are Bryce Resort, Canaan Valley Resort and Timberline Four Seasons Resort. Snowshoe is 109 miles from the property.
Historic train excursions on the Potomac Eagle originate in Petersburg, approximately seventeen miles from Willow Wall.