ANSTED, W.Va. -- It's an unusual home where examples of graffiti are preserved and showcased, and guests have included U.S. senators, a vice president, two secretaries of state, a Civil War general or two, and thousands of turnpike travelers.
But the Halfway House -- so named for its midpoint location between Lewisburg and Charleston on the old James River and Kanawha Turnpike -- is an exceptional place.
It may well be the oldest structure in Fayette County, where it saw service as a frontier blockhouse, a post office, a tavern and inn, and a temporary barracks for Union and Confederate soldiers.
For the past 19 years, it has been the home of former Charlestonians Anne and John Casto.
"When we moved here, it had been vacant for about 25 years," said Anne Casto, whose mother, grandmother and other ancestors dating back to the early 1800s have lived in the home. "The place was still structurally sound, and John had just taken an early retirement, so we decided to move up and tackle the project of restoring it."
The project included stripping away up to seven layers of wallpaper to expose and then paint interior walls, and hauling away truckloads of mouse-damaged mattresses and bedding.
"If we had a quarter for every gallon of paint we used, and every man-hour of work we spent on the house, we'd have enough money to do it all again," said Anne Casto.
The home also needed to be rewired and fully plumbed.
The two oldest rooms in the house were once part of a blockhouse built to protect colonial settlers from raids by Native Americans. A carving in a doorframe depicts what appears to be a uniformed militiaman beneath the date 1764 A.D.
The first owner of the building was Joseph Skaggs, son of Charles Skaggs, one of the Ansted area's earliest settlers. Casto said that sometime after 1810, one of her ancestors, William Tyree, acquired the property and expanded the structure, which was later used as a post office and then a tavern and inn, as well as a home.
The building's log walls were covered with yellow poplar planking, and frame-built wings, supported by peg-and-beam trusses, were added. An exterior, double-approach stairway was built to provide access to a second floor, where six bedrooms awaited weary turnpike travelers after stagecoach service was inaugurated on the toll road in 1827.
In addition to thousands of other stagecoach passengers and business travelers, the Halfway House, also known as Tyree Tavern, hosted such luminaries as Daniel Webster, a powerful senator and secretary of state under three presidents, and his Senate colleague and contemporary, Henry Clay, who also served a term as secretary of state.
Other guests included John Breckenridge, the youngest man ever elected to serve as vice president -- 35 when he was selected to serve with President James Buchanan.
During the Civil War, while William Tyree served with the Confederacy as a captain in the 22nd Virginia Infantry, his Ansted home was used by both Union and Confederate troops.
Confederate Gen. John Floyd used Halfway House/Tyree Tavern as his headquarters in August of 1861, a few weeks before he was wounded in the arm during the Battle of Carnifex Ferry.