National Register of Historic Places
History of the House
The Greek Revival mansion known as "Sycamore Dale" has been inhabited by a series of families prominent in Hampshire County social, political and economic history. The house was constructed in 1836-39 for David Gibson, the work done primarily by his over 100 black slaves.
David Gibson was a prominent Hampshire Countian. Born in Winchester, Virginia in 1795, he moved to Romney in 1814 after serving as a Sargent-Major in the War of 1812. Involved in a mercantile business, he became a director of the Valley Bank in 1823 and President of the Bank in 1837. Gibson served Hampshire County as a Justice of the Peace for over forty years (1820-1861), was Hampshire County Representative to the Virginia Assembly in 1839-40, and sat on the County Commission of 1861 that declared Hampshire County in favor of the Confederacy. In addition,, David Gibson helped found the Romney Classical Institute and was a founder of the famous Romney Literary Society in 1819. His eldest son, Issac Gibson, died fighting for the Confederacy. David Gibson died in 1870.
James A. Gibson, son of David, inherited "Sycamore Dale" on his fathers death. James Gibson was also prominent in Hampshire County affairs, serving as County Assessor for two decades (1876-1896), and as a County Commissioner and a postmaster. James Gibson sold the property in the 1870's to James Wirgman, described as a "sea-captain". James Wirgman founded a short-lived newspaper in 1897 called the Hampshire Times.
"Sycamore Dale" was purchased in 1908 by Samuel Holland Williams from Wilbur Wirgman, nephew and heir of James. Samuel Holland Williams was a prominent farmer and merchant and Confederate Civil War veteran. He married Harriet Taylor, member of a locally prominent family, and together they raised nine children at Sycamore Dale. of these nine children, nearly all rose to some degree of prominence in Hampshire County affairs: W. M. Williams, eldest son of Samuel Holland Williams, served as Mayor of Romney 1925-1927 and President of the First National Bank of Romney until his death in 1960; Paul Williams, who inherited "Sycamore Dale", succeeded W. M. Williams as President of the First National Bank and served until his death in 1980; George H. Williams, served Hampshire County in the W.Va. Senate from 1941 to 1945; Phil Williams was a prominent coal operator in central West Virginia; and Eugene Williams, who served as President of the Western Maryland Railroad Company.
"Sycamore Dale" has, therefore, been a focal point for many significant aspects of Hampshire County history for nearly a century and a half.
Structure of the House
"Sycamore Dale" is a two story brick "L" shaped residence that is primarily Greek Revival in nature, that except for some minor alterations, remains very much the same as when the building was completed in 1839.
The brickwork is laid in a Flemish bond arrangement and was fired nearby. The lumber for the residence was also milled nearby. "Sycamore Dale" is graced with two end chimneys and a medium gable roof of tin. The front of the house is symmetrically divided into five bays centered on a large two story, one bay wide portico, which is easily the residence's most dominant feature. This two story portico is supported by eight Tuscan columns and is surmounted on the second level with a Greek Revival style pediment with plain entablature. Both the first and second levels of this stately portico have graceful Greek Revival entrance doors, both of which are flanked by triple paned sidelights and surmounted by multi-paned transoms. There is a graceful wrought-iron balustrade on both levels of the portico, and a stone stairway by which one reaches the first level of the portico.
The five bay front elevation, which is 52 feet in width, has six over six windows, one on each level of each bay, surmounted by paneled wood lintels and flanked by wooden shutters.
The length of the ell is 87 feet. A one story, 65 foot porch runs along the outer ell. k two story, enclosed porch at the rear was an early twentieth century addition and has been removed by the present owners.
The dining room-kitchen, toward the rear of the ell were added in 1910 by the Williams Family. This addition is roofed with beams from another structure nearby.
Much of the fine, handcarved, interior woodwork has been preserved in the house and contrasts pleasantly with Victorian-motif wallpaper. All doors in the house are also handcarved.
Here and there can still be seen bullet holes in the lumber of the house, left over from the Civil War.
The two end chimneys service four large fireplaces in "Sycamore Dale". The fireplace in the living room is new, though it harmonizes well with the others which are only slightly modified from their original appearance.
Sycamore Dale is filled with beautiful period furnishings, as Mr. Paul Williams, the last owner, was, among his other activities, an antique dealer. Most of the furnishings are either ante-bellum or Victorian in origin.
There were once extensive slave quarters on the grounds of the "Sycamore Dale" estate; these, however, are no longer extant.
Major Bibliographical References
Bi-Centennial History of Romney, 1762-1962, Romney, W.Va., 1962
Brannon, Seldon W., ed., Historic Hampshire, McClain Printing Co., Parsons, W.Va., 1976.
Federal Writers Project, Historic Romney, 1762-1937, Romney, W.Va., 1937.
Maxwell, Hu and Swisher, H.L., History of Hampshire County, Parsons, W.Va., 1972, c. 1897.
"Oral Interviews with Mrs. Paul Williams," June - July, 1980
Further Historic Note
Sycramore Dale is renowned in local lore as the location of the surrender in May, 1865 of McNeil's Rangers. It is said that the surrender took place on the front lawn in the shade of a large tree.