GALLIPOLIS FERRY, W.Va. — In the early morning of Feb. 10, fire lit up the sky in Gallipolis Ferry, W.Va., as crews were called out in response to a structure fire on Clendenin Pike.
The historic Sandy Lewis Farm house burned down that night. The cause is undetermined. According to Point Pleasant Fire Chief Jeremy Bryant, the vacant home was nearly 80 percent involved when they arrived on scene. Considering the amount of flames, it required 30,000 gallons of water to extinguish the blaze. There are still several walls standing, but the majority of the home is gone and is likely beyond repair.
The original four-bedroom home was constructed in 1825, according to local historian Larry Sayre. At its creation, the farm was known as Poplar Grove and served as the residence for the family of General Peter Higgins Steenbergen. That family moved to the property in 1808 and lived in a log cabin while the home was being built. Over the years, several additions had been made to the home while maintaining the original style. The building was made of red brick, with locally sourced timbers and lime made from mussel shells taken from the Ohio River. The property, consisting of more than 1,600 acres, stayed in the family until it was sold at auction in 2008.
More recently, a couple lived in the original home as caretakers up until several months ago, when a falling tree disrupted electrical service to the home. Since then, the old farm house sat empty and in need of repair until that fateful morning of Feb. 10 when it was burned to the ground. In the months leading up to the fire, there was a problem of break-ins and vandalism.
When discussing the farm, Sayre said he was saddened to see the loss of a piece of local history.
“This home is older than most everything here,” he explained. “It’s older than the bridge, the railroads, and Route 2. I hate to see it gone like this.”
This is a shared sentiment across the area, in both Gallia and Mason counties. There are several historically-minded organizations seeking to preserve local sites like the Lewis Farm.
“If we don’t take care of places like this, they’ll all be gone; and we can’t just make more of them,” Sayre said, his sentiment reminding of the old adage – “those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”
Reach Morgan McKinniss at 740-446-2342 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.