Welcome to

The Gilbert


The Gilbert House is located in the National Historic District of Middleway, West Virginia, a ten minute drive West of the Jefferson countyseat of Charles Town. The house is a 'pivotal structure' in the heart of the old colonial village that was founded as a millsite along the original settlers trail into the Shenandoah Valley.

Please call (304) 725-0637  or inquire at either gilberthouse@hotmail.com or gilberthousebb@yahoo.com

The Gilbert House  is  not   taking reservations at this time;  maintenance and construction activities are being undertaken.  Please check again in a July.



Here and Nearby

THE ROOMS:  There are three guest accommodations. Each has queen sized bed and attached bathroom. One is a suite. Some have wood burning fire places.  Rates are $70 to 140 per night, including full breakfast.

THE HOUSE:  The main house was added in 1830 to a preexisting structure that dates to 1760. The house was custom built of local limestone for a wealthy mill owner who then gave it to one of his children as a wedding present.

THE VILLAGE:   Identified in the late 1720's by millwrights from Pennsylvania as a possible mill site. The Smith brothers occupied what is now Middleway and had a hemp mill operational by 1732.  There was prosperity in the first century but conditions changed and structures in the village did not need to be removed to make way for progress. Now, the village boasts a large collection of colonial era buildings.

THE WIZARD CLIP:  The village is associated with a celebrated ghost story from the 1790's. A nearby farmer had a haunting that defied the help of local clergy.  Catholic priests from Maryland were brought in to remedy the situation.

About the Rooms

THE REMINGTON ROOM: This third floor room is invitingly old country; it has a view to the backyard, gardens, and a log house. Romantic country decor includes vaulted ceiling, curtained bed, marble washstand, and a sitting area. The cross and bible doors still have the early 1830's feather painting.

THE VAN BUREN ROOM: An oversized room, almost a suite, with comfortable country elegance. You'll be greeted by a large 'verdure' tapestry, a formal fireplace, an English armoire with beveled mirror and rich carving, a 'campaign' bed, two sitting areas and much more. Such comfort, you may never want to leave.

POLK SUITE: Named for the 1830's wall graffiti of the 'future' president, this suite is designed for your luxury. Rich ruby tones of oriental carpets, a prayer rug on the wall, the large fireplace at center stage in the living room all pamper you with delight. The bedroom is lavish with bedding amid an ornate 18th century rope bed, romantically set off with curtains around the alcove. Adding to your delights are an oversized English armoire with two oval mirrors, and an inlaid wood dresser.

You'll surrender to the irresistible mood of this suite when you lay your eyes on the bathroom with the large clawfoot tub.

Prices: Full weekend (Friday and Saturday nights) for up to three couples) is $550 plus 9% State and local taxes.

CANCELLATION POLICY: Upon reservation, your rooms can not be offered
to anyone else for those days. Reservations must be prepaid or guaranteed with
a credit card. Cancellations made within 16 days of booked date may involve
a charge up to $200. This charge may be used as a partial credit for a future

stay from mid November to mid September period. (valid for one year)

Payment may be made by cash, check, AX, MC or Visa.




History of The Gilbert House

The Gilbert House, c 1760, is an imposing greystone building of early Georgian style catalogued in the Historic American Building Survey (HABS) and is a pivotal structure in the National Register of Historic Places: Middleway, WV Historic District.

The House is richly decorated in charming old world fashion. An antique lover's delight, it is decorated with pieces that have wonderful stories: from paintings of noble families to mirrors from Shoenbrun Palace. Fine European decor including tapestries, rare orientals, throne chairs, etc. are among the items collected by or entrusted to the Heilers. The bedrooms are large and invitingly appointed.

The magnificent house is constructed in a L shape. Remaining from colonial times is the stonework of the back wing.  In 1829, some preexisting structure was cleared away for what is now the main part of the house. Wealthy local industrialist Conrad Kownslar commissioned this addition so his son, Dr. Randolf Kownslar could have a home and office in Middleway.

Noteworthy features include an off-center front entry flanked by two sets of windows to the North and three sets of windows to the South. Front to rear dimension is a generous 25 feet, and there are six working fireplaces. Some cross and bible doors typical of the era still show their original feather painting.  Graffiti includes a child's growth chart started in 1839. Also, a drawing of yet to be President James K. Polk dating from 1832 can be seen in the bridal suite.  Polk's political rival for being Jackson's VP was Martin Van Buren who was a personal friend of Conrad Kownslar.

Mr. Kownslar lived nearby in his 32 room 'castle'. His enterprises included mills for producing fine paper used for printing official government documents. He gave each of his ten children a house upon marriage.




Jacob Gilbert, for whom the house is named, came here in 1854.  Loyal to Old Dominion, he spent the Civil War years interned at Fort McHenry even though he was in his sixties. Wartime damage to the house is said to be limited to some front windows being shot out during local skirmishes.

The Gilberts were druggists.  The drugstore structure was at the North side of the house until 1970.

The Gilbert heirs sold to the Shirleys in 1906.  Lolly Shirley survived until 1967, with cistern water, minimal electric service, and an outhouse.  By 1970, the first flush toilet graced the house, with water supplied from a drilled well.

Preservation of the original structure is strictly practiced while modern conveniences are being added. The generous size of the rooms allowed the addition of ensuite bathrooms. Although there is apparent new building over the back wing, the original structure has been retained unaltered by the present owner.



The Village

Take a step back into history by visiting the Historic Distric of Middleway. This genuine colonial village has a large collection of 18th century log houses and retains its original street layout from when it was an important regional center and hub of many roads (and earlier native trails).

The first organized party of European settlers into the Shenandoah Valley blazed a trail in 1729 that connects millsites and other settlements. By 1732 the Smith family's proprietary village of Smithfield had an operational hemp mill. By 1734, the family received a special royal charter and grant for free land, carved out of the Fairfax grant. The village  incorporated in the 1790's after the Smiths sold off much of their in-town land.

Notable persons who settled in the region near Middleway included Adam Stevens, Horatio Gates, Charles Lee, brothers and nephews of George Washington, and many others. A regional militia was organized in 1775 and served with great distinction as the Virginia Blues during the Revolutionary War.

By 1807 a post office was brought into town, but the name of Middleway had to be used. The Virginia tidewater town was given prefernce to the name of Smithfield.  Middleway refers to the village's location halfway between a ford across the Potomac and the larger regional administrative center at Winchester.

By 1830 the village had grown and was prospering as a service center for an area of about 100 square miles.  The main street was lined with shops and houses.  There were many churches, taverns, inns, doctors, saddleries, smithies, and other service providers for nearby farmers and travelers.

The townspeople voted in 1833 to prevent the B&O railroad from coming near the town. This started a period of decline in the relative importance and prosperity of the village. In the late 1870's, less costly Great Plains wheat destroyed the economy of the Shenandoah Valley and further eroded Middleway's prosperity. The result is a Middleway essentially unchanged from 150 years ago. Despite the changes in the village's fortunes there is a bright side.  In recognition of its well preserved architectural and historic character, the Middleway Historic District was created and admitted to the National Register of Historic Places in 1980.

Middleway and Jefferson County favored Old Dominion's decision to go with the Confederacy.  Fortunately, only minor skirmishes occured in the village. The 1863
admittance of West Virginia to the Union did not include Jefferson nor its neighbor
Berkeley County. These counties were added belatedly after 1864 when it was apparent that Union victory was at hand. The Union did not want the B&O mainline to be in Virginia at wars end. During this interim period another WV village was able to appropriate the name Smithfield, and discard a less fortunate name.

Whether it be the remembrances of taverns, shops, and lost structures, or the presence of old log, brick, and stone houses, churches, mill sites, graveyards, or just the quaintness of the village, Middleway is waiting for your visit.



Wizard Clip

A haunting from the 1790's is integral to Middleway village.  This is the Legend of Wizard Clip. Half a mile from the village center, Adam Livingston's house experienced strange events. Coals would pop out of the fireplace, non existent ropes hampered access to the house, animals were found dead, and there was an almost constant clipping sound. Towns people leaving the house found their cloths cut into with crecent shapes.

Nearby Protestant clergy were perplexed and could not help.  'Voices' urged Livingston to go to Maryland to seek out Catholic clerical help. Upon study, a possible reason for the problem was traced to the spirit of an overnight lodger who had died in the house; before succumbing, the unfortunate said he was Catholic and wanted a priest for last rites.

With approval of their bishop, several priests performed the ritual (if it had been a person who was so hexed, the ritual would have been an exorcism) to remove the demons and spirits from the house. All went well.  The grateful farmer heard more voices who urged him to donate land to the priests, to show his appreciation for their services. This donated land is now the Priest Field retreat center.




Your Host

Slightly overworked?  Good natured?  Generous?  Maybe even a bit eccentric?
He will strive to delight guests and make the stay at the Gilbert House a special one. In 1983, with his late wife, Jean, they found a dream house in the quaint historic village of Middleway, WV and decided to share their prize by providing Bed and Breakfast to special people.

Jean Died in early 1993, but her legacy remains. Her influence in the decorations and manner of running the Gilbert House are everywhere. Much of Jean's artistic calligraphy is evident.

Jean was into art, music and local activities, but she was also a 'Wall Street person' before coming to Middleway. She worked as a Chartered Financial Analyst for major Boston banks after being a pioneer as one of the first women to obtain a Harvard MBA. Jean was born into a Chinese grocery man's family in rural Jamaica.

When Bernie and Jean married in 1974 there were two professional careers in the household; both professions were held by Jean as she took on an added job of Visiting Professor of Finance and Control at the newly formed Simmons Graduate School of Management for Women.  At the time, Bernie was a professional student at Harvard. Bernie had previously worked as a project engineer at a very large environmental engineering company.

Bernie has always cooked for the Gilbert House and continues to produce his acclaimed breakfasts. He is always keeping his eyes open for items to buy, prepare, and serve.  Now retired from government service but still a traveler, he continues to shop for regional items.  Overseas trips also yield interesting additions for house and guests. His experiences of living and visiting Europe, Asia, Africa, and Latin America exposed him to a wide variety of cuisines and cultures. History is also one of his passions.

Bernie hopes you will enjoy his home and all the love it represents.



The Gilbert House

Thank you for visiting.  Please call again soon.  (304) 725-0637

gilberthouse@hotmail.com  or  gilberthousebb@yahoo.com