The Webb-Blessing House Restoration Project
The Webb-Blessing House consists of two homes that were adjoined in the 19th century. This unique structure, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, played a significant role in Charles Town’s history. The lot is on East North Street, which once was a major thoroughfare between Winchester and Alexandria, Virginia. The property was deeded by Samuel and Dorothea Washington to Ezekiel Dean in March 1797. In 1829, Ezekiel Dean deeded the property to Isaac and Charlotte Gray, who were described as “persons of color.” Shortly after this transfer, James Webb, a free Black, built a stone house on the lot. This is one of the oldest stone structures built and owned by free Blacks in Jefferson County. The Webb-Blessing House was purchased by the Jefferson County Black History Preservation Society in 2003. The organization is in the process of renovating and restoring the home.
The Blessing family took up residence in the clapboard house at the end of the Civil War. John Blessing, a baker and confectioner, prepared meals for John Brown while he was in the County jail. Before he was hung, Brown gave his pocket-sized Bible to Blessing as an expression of gratitude for his kind deeds.
The Webb House (the stone structure) has two levels. The lower level includes a room with a fireplace that was used for cooking and heating. It is believed that John Blessing died while sitting in a corner chair in this room. The upper level consists of a large room used as a bedroom. In the future, both of these rooms will be restored back to the 1860’s era.
The Blessing House also has two levels, with two rooms on the lower level, and three on the upper level. One of the upper level rooms will be used to store some of the exhibits developed by the Society. Another upper room will serve as a research center, which will be available to the general public. The third upper level room, known as “The Nathaniel Downing Room,” serves as a meeting room. Downing was a chartered member of the Society.
The front room on the lower level is dedicated to the Blessing Family. Doug Perks and the Sons of the Confederacy have developed the exhibits and displays in this room. Ollie Blessing, who was an educator in Jefferson County, also taught kindergarten in the family home.
The second room on the lower level is known as the “Jefferson County African American Military Room.” This room was developed by the Marshall-Holley –Mason American Legion Auxiliary #102, and funded by the American Public University System. The displays in this room honor the African-American men and women from Jefferson County who served in the Civil War to the Vietnam War.
The Society also has partnered with the Dolley Madison Garden Club to restore the backyard to a mid- 19th century garden, as it most likely was used for when the house was occupied. In the early days, one of the original hand-dug wells that provided water to Charles Town residents was located in front of the home. Also, the Webb House once was a popular stage coach stop along the old highway. Eventually, a water pump/well head (similar to the one pictured) and a hitching post will be installed there. Once the restoration project is completed, the Webb-Blessing House is expected to become one of the main attractions for tourists visiting Jefferson County.