Martinsburg was a boom town during the civil war. It was developed by General Adam Stephens in 1773. It was the county seat for the entire Berkeley and Jefferson Counties in 1820. The advent of the B&O railroad brought many businesses to the area. Hotels and large warehouses and, of course, housing for the workers who worked in many of the factories, railroad and businesses that popped up in the area. There were three main districts along the railroad and in the town of Martinsburg.
The Downtown District was the center of town at the corners of King and Queen Streets and still is the center of town. Some of the industry there were the Heller Carriage Shop that was built in 1892, Farmer Hotel, which now are apartments, built in 1813 was Norborne Hall and was a poor house at that time, Miles Store, John Street Grade school which just recently became the Magistrates Court. The Berkeley County Courthouse was built in 1855-1856. When you go into the building you can still see the original architecture with the pressed tin ceilings and old iron vaults and lighting. During the Civil War it was used by the northern soldiers. The infamous confederate spy, Belle Boyd, was held there after she was arrested.
In the Boomtown District a large number of housing was built when electricity was brought in. In that district you would find; Interwoven Mills, which was a men’s hosiery and became the largest manufacturer of men’s hosiery in the world.
Historic District was comprised of the B&O Railroad and industrial buildings. Among the districts that are located within Martinsburg are: Fitz-Mathews Foundry and was the oldest businesses in Martinsburg built before 1851, a former apple processing company became Hannis Distillery and National Fruit Company in 1867. Along Water Street the Adam Stephens House and the Triple Brick Building and since it was the major district located around the Railroad it was the place where most of the activities of the Civil War happened.
In 1861 the troops of Stonewall Jackson pillaged and burned the Roundhouse, the major building and businesses. They completely destroyed 42 locomotives, 300+ rail cars, 36 miles of railroad track, 102 miles of Telegraph wire, 17 bridges along with the Roundhouse and all the workshops. 13 train cars were kept and used by the Confederate Army. It was a most horrible day for anyone who lived and worked in Martinsburg, West Virginia.
The Roundhouse was used to maintain, repair the Steam Engines and build freight cars that mostly transported coal. The turntable was used to bring in the cars or engines so the mechanics could fix or maintain various cars or engines. They were stored in the bays until read to use. 50 feet under the turntable was were the mechanics stood to repair and maintain the Steam Engines. Picture it being like the automobile oil changing stations we have today. The various workshops made parts for the Engines such as Frog and Switch points and they specialized in those. They are the parts on the train that guided the wheels from one set of railroad tracks to another. They got the name because that is what they looked like in those days. Picture this as you would be driving down the road and you are moving the steering wheel to go onto a ramp to your exit. In the shops beyond the Frog and Switch shop were many other shops that made various other parts including a blacksmith. The blacksmith made anything from making the axels to sharpening tools used to make train and railroad parts. Some of the components were shipped from Baltimore, Maryland. The components were ready to be put together when they arrived.
Above the high rising dome ceiling were the vents that allowed the steam to escape. The whole building was designed and built by an immigrant engineer by the name of Albert Fink.
The Roundhouse in Martinsburg was built with cast iron and is the only Roundhouse that still exists in the world today. There were at least 5 other Roundhouses of this kind at the time.
Today it is used for transporting of goods and shipments. Amtrak is also doing business there and so are the MARC trains. Though it has a long history of serving the people of this state and has had its days and destroyed, it is with the help of the people that we should continue on. West Virginia and the Eastern Panhandle steeps in history from the Civil War and it is part of our America’s heritage.