CHARMADOAH

1881

Charmadoah is the original summer home of Colonel Henry R. Miles, who commissioned a springtime retreat to be constructed for his family in 1881 along the rising banks of the Shenandoah River. The home was built by a local artisan, LeRoy Duke, who is attributed with building many other homes in the Harpers Ferry area. Less than twenty years after the Civil War, the bustling little town of Harpers Ferry was quite a commercial stop along the C&O Canal shipping line with many wealthy families building seasonal homesteads to settle in the area. Little information is available on Colonel Miles’ residency in Harpers Ferry except a few newspaper clippings from the Virginia Gazette which serviced Jefferson County at that time. The articles indicate he lived in Washington, D.C. as business necessitated but that he and his family held numerous social gatherings at their regal abode in Harpers Ferry throughout the late 1890's and early 1900's. Colonel Miles died after the construction of his magnificent retreat, leaving the home to his widow Charlotte and their daughter Helen.

As a child, Helen Miles is particularly credited with naming the house Charmadoah. A long-standing tale recalls that she found it difficult to pronounce the "Shh" sound for Shenandoah and instead substituted a more dubious "Chh" sound at times. Within a year, the folly of the mispronunciation stuck and the house was quickly dubbed Charmadoah. In honor of Colonel Henry R. Miles and his daughter, this moniker for its charmed views of the Shenandoah River valley has remained with the house for over a century. After the death of her husband, Charlotte Miles seldom returned to Harpers Ferry to visit Charmadoah though she chose to lease the home so that it would continue to be used as a summer cottage. Edward Heyward Bowly, Jr. happily occupied the residence with his wife Mary Inez Shaffer after their marriage in 1909 for more than a decade.

Charmadoah stands high on the hillside above the winding Shenandoah River. Colonel Miles, in designing the house, specified that "from every room a view of the river must be seen." And so it is... from each alcove on each floor, magnificent scenes of the changing seasons captivate all who visit here. Four main rooms to the west extend from a central dividing hallway to capture the winding course of the Shenandoah River toward the Blue Ridge Mountains while another four rooms to the east overlook Harpers Ferry below where the Potomac River curves its way to the Chesapeake Bay. The sounds of the rivers rushing over the rocks provide a steady peace and restful atmosphere.

In the roaring 1920's, the dawn of an industrial era for Harpers Ferry, William F. Andes purchased the property from Charlotte Miles to make it his year-round home. As the deed uniquely states, the sale price then was negotiated to $3,000 paid entirely in gold coins. For years to come, Mr. Andes' daughter, Mary Virginia, fondly recalled watching the transaction with the bright gold coins used for its purchase. She and her two brothers, William and Eugene, were the first children to actually grow up with Charmadoah as a full-time residence. While the Andes family settled into their new home, the children each attended local schools and worked in nearby businesses: Mary as a clerk at Storer College on Camp Hill, Gene and Bill as assistants to Mr. Savory of the Savory Iron Works. Upon the death of Mr. Andes in 1958, the home passed to his daughter. She and her husband, Lloyd S. Hough, returned to Charmadoah after briefly residing at the family-owned Federal Hill farm estate near Charles Town and later at the storied Laurel Lodge of Harpers Ferry. Mary continued to raise a family of five in Charmadoah while caring for her aging father. Respectively, her children included Eugene Samuel Hough, Mary Josephine Hough Robertson, Lloyd William Hough, Phoebe Anne Hough Shaffer, and Shirley Mae Hough Caniford.

With the memory of the Great Depression just two decades earlier, Mr. and Mrs. Hough put their working knowledge together, and both opened businesses on the Charmadoah property. Mary renovated an old chicken-roost to become a ceramics gift shop while Lloyd put his agricultural skills to good use and converted the old stable into a dairy bottling plant. Hough's Dairy operated for nearly 20 years and, at its busiest times, served the entire Harpers Ferry area including residents, restaurants, and schools. Even today, decades after shuttering the business, the Hough's Dairy legacy endures while its collectible milk bottles fetch handsome prices at estate sales and popular auction websites. More recently, after the deaths of Mr. Hough in 1990 and Mrs. Hough in 2000, the house has passed to their youngest daughter, Shirley, who continues to own the home today. Her son, Joshua Caniford, has gladly assumed the responsibilities of being a full-time resident and caretaker of Charmadoah for over a decade. The entire family remains totally devoted to maintaining the home for family gatherings and year-round festivities. Holidays and local events graciously provide purpose for the house to frequently be filled with family and friends throughout the seasons. In recent years, significant strides have been made to always maintain Charmadoah as a family estate and preserve its noteworthy heritage for its enduring legacy and occupancy. Modern upkeep traditionally includes weekend get-togethers with chores doled out to fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, friends and neighbors alike.

As an ode to a by-gone era of Victorian design, the house retains many original exterior and interior architectural details. Transoms over each door and high ceilings make the house cool in the summer while hardwood floors and dual rising chimneys keep the residents cozy throughout the winter. Gallery-styled rooms open throughout the residence length and prominent surrounding terraces provide stunning views of the mountains and rivers abroad. English gardens abound and fountains can be observed on the grounds with views of the Appalachian Trail at the property's edges on Camp Hill. As a family, the present owners are committed to a high degree of pride in the maintenance and renovation of this true family heirloom. The estate has passed directly through generations of the family for nearly a century. It holds many wonderful memories and joys for all who enter its doors.


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