Fire guts oldest part of Kingsport's historic 'Rock Ledge' home

Rain Smith • Jan 8, 2010 at 12:00 AM

A historic home off Bloomingdale Pike was engulfed in flames Friday, forcing a portion of the road between Pinecrest Road and Stuffle Street to be closed for several hours.

At about 11:10 the Bloomingdale Volunteer Fire Department responded to "Rock Ledge," a part of Kingsport’s history dating back to the turn of the 19th century. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, “Rock Ledge” is a 1.5-story log house built in the early 1800s.

According to Sr. Capt. Matthew Alley, two trucks were on the scene within two minutes of receiving the call. It took about 30 minutes to get the fire under control, with the assistance of several other area fire departments.

The home was put on the market in November of 2008 with a listing price of $297,500. It was still unoccupied, according to Alley, but electricity was running to the home.

While the fire is still under investigation, and not considered suspicious, Alley said preliminary information indicates it was ignited near the electrical box.

The oldest part of the structure, built in the 1800's, suffered the majority of the damage and appeared to be gutted. That includes the fireplace that graced a 1999 cover of Colonial Homes magazine, surrounded by antiques.

Two newer additions received smoke and water damage.

According to historical accounts, the home was built by attorney David Shaver. He arrived from North Carolina in 1798 and began buying land to establish a farm. By 1808 he had acquired 300 acres and began constructing the home for his wife, and their children.

When David Shaver died in 1835, his daughter Lucinda and her husband, John Welsh, took over the house, converted the old kitchen to a dining room, and built a new kitchen.

John Welsh, who had served as a captain for the Union Army during the Civil War, died in 1871. His daughter Leah and her husband, Lafayette Stuffle, continued living in the house and farming the land. Stuffle, a descendant of German immigrants from Maryland, named the house “Rock Ledge” because it was situated on a high, rocky portion of the property.

In 1871 Lafayette and Leah Stuffle’s son, Walker H. Stuffle, was born in the house. In 1929 the younger Stuffle added modern utilities to the home including electricity, plumbing, central heating and a bathroom. Walker Stuffle also expanded the main house by adding on other log structures from elsewhere on the property.

When Walker Stuffle died, his youngest son, Samuel “Bruce” Stuffle, inherited Rock Ledge. He and his wife, Virginia, raised five children on the property. Bruce Stuffle died in 1975, and Virginia Stuffle died in 1992. After that, their son Samuel Jr. continued living in the home and often showed the house and its furnishings to visitors.

As firefighters worked to douse the flames on Friday, several surviving family members looked on.

Fire departments responding along with Bloomingdale VFD were Sullivan County, Sullivan West and Warriors Path. Sullivan County EMS and the Kingsport Life Saving Crew were also on scene. No on was injured.

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