Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Stephens Fort at Old Forge Farm

"Old Forge Farm"
I did this little painting as a thank you to my friend Jimmy.

Jimmy's family owns a remarkable farm that includes several buildings that pre-date the American Revolution. It was the site of an "iron plantation," one of the earliest manufacturing sites in the Northern Shenandoah Valley, operated by Isaac Zane.

Jimmy hosted us on a tour of some of the property, as we searched for bits that would indicate the location of the iron furnace. Its massive stones were hauled off prior to the Civil War for other building projects. But evidence of "slag" - the glassy byproduct of early iron production practices - and charcoal were everywhere. It was a fun visit, and our group was very appreciative of Jimmy's willingness to host us.

This scene shows what is known as "Stephens Fort," with the historical manor house in the background. Based on its design, and because of its similarities to another structure that I've seen in Elkins, W.Va., I think it was used as an "ice house" for storing perishables. There are two subterranean levels - reaching more than 24 feet below ground - and the shape is hexagonal on the surface (you only see two sides in this scene) and round below ground.

The remarkable structure is called "Stephens Fort" because it is widely believed that it was used as a shelter for local families during Indian raids in the period of the French and Indian War. Many sorts of structures were used as "forts" during this time period, including sturdy log cabins such as Fort Ashby in Fort Ashby, W.Va.

Thank you again, Jimmy, for being such a great host and friend.