, West Virginia
February 9, 2001
We arrived early, so we had time to walk around the historic district in Brownsville in back of the castle. There are several blocks, but it is a small town and doesn't take long. Very old "downtown" homes of brick and wood right on the sidewalk present a picture of a time when good houses were right on the street, as in Williamsburg. It's a pleasant walk.
The castle tour starts in the old part of the castle. There is a pleasant fireplace with many utensils to be explained, including an old Puritan or Victorian crimping iron, some fur-trapper's accessories, kitchen items, etc. Visitors tried to guess what the tour guide was holding up, so old were the items that they were unfamiliar to us. The building was originally just this room, where trappers and traders stopped to get warm, where Jacob Bowman lived by himself until his wife arrived in Pennsylvania. The trading post also supplied Federal Troops during the Whiskey Rebellion.
Finished in that room, we moved on, and the story evolved into a rags-to-riches narrative about Bowman's many businesses and how astute he was and how determined to become rich. Parallel with this story we see the home expanding with new wings until it became a castle--still not very elaborate or formal until the final addition with a formal entrance and reception area for entertaining. The wife's clothing and accessories became finer and finer, too, and are displayed. Also, the family grew and their many children's items are displayed. All in all, it's a pretty American story!
There is a turret you aren't supposed to go up into, but it was a small group at the end of the day! The view was nice, as the castle is situated high above the Monongahela River, right across the street on high ground, and the guide explained that the river had served Bowman's business enterprises, such as his paper mill. It was easy to imagine living here 200 years ago. On the front porch, the guest entrance seemed to suggest that somebody would be along in a carriage soon. It was a nice front yard.
We hated to leave, but bought a print of Nemacolin in the gift shop (very inexpensive) to add to our collection, which we have arranged all around the dining room in our own antique house. I returned to Nemacolin once in winter and found it closed, just like The Century Inn, but I might have gone on a weekday. (They may be open now on weekends with a fire in the fireplace.) I have learned to wait for spring or phone ahead before venturing out along The National Road.
From journal Antique Shopping and Touring around Washington