The Significant Save of an Endangered Site Award – sponsored by the Wheeling National Heritage Area Corporation – was presented to Happy Retreat in Charles Town, West Virginia. The award was accepted by Walter Washington on behalf of Friends of Happy Retreat. Walter is a direct descendant of President George Washington.
In 2010, Happy Retreat was added to the Endangered List. Happy Retreat is located in Charles Town and was the home of Charles Washington, youngest brother of George Washington and founder of the City of Charles Town. It is a 6500 square foot mansion situated on a 12.2 acre lot along with several historic outbuildings. Because of Charles Town’s proximity to Washington DC, the press for residential development had greatly increased and Happy Retreat was put on the market. The threat was that it might be sold to developers and the 12.2 acres would be developed into single or multifamily homes.
After almost ten years of tireless fundraising, Friends of Happy Retreat acquired the property and have protected the site from residential development. Like many preservation projects, this was made possible through effective partnering, as well as generous donations. Last December, the City of Charles Town and Friends of Happy Retreat agreed to work together to purchase the 12.2-acre property. The City agreed to purchase 10 acres of land, which it will include in a planned linear park along Evitts Run in Charles Town’s West End. Friends of Happy Retreat agreed to purchase the house, historic outbuildings, and the 2.2 acres of remaining land. The Happy Retreat grounds will also connect to existing City of Charles Town park and recreational lands, as part of an overall Charles Town initiative to revitalize the community’s west end.
We are celebrating this acquisition today but please remember that funds are still needed to preserve and re-use the property for an educational facility.