The Master Armorer’s Quarters, also known as the New Master Armorer’s Quarters, the Daingerfield House, and Building 36, is a historic residence in the Lower Town area of Harpers Ferry. The structure was built in 1859 to house the U.S. Armory’s Master Armorer, replacing the Old Master Armorer’s Quarters beside it. During the Civil War the building was used as a headquarters for several Union officers including Ulysses S. Grant. The Master Armorer’s House came under the possession of the National Park Service as part of the Harpers Ferry National Historical Park. Today it has been restored and serves as an information center for the park.
During the first half of the 19th-century the United States government
constructed many homes in Harpers Ferry to supply lodging for the national
armory’s employees. In 1822, a lot on the south side of Shenandoah Street became the site of a one-story brick office for the armory’s Paymaster. At this
time, the Master Armorer lived in a house located next to the Paymaster’s
office in 1812 (the Old Master Armorer’s Quarters; today a Dry Goods Store
exhibit). In 1848, the paymaster left his office and the building was leased
out for the next ten years. The space briefly served as a clothing store for
tailor T. J. W. Sullivan, then a law office for Isaac Fouke. From 1851 to 1858 the
mayor’s office and the council chamber for the Harpers Ferry town council was
housed here. In 1858, the building was moved to a location on the grounds of
the Musket Factory to make room for the erection of a new house for the Master
Construction for the New Master Armorer’s Quarters began in 1858
and was completed by July 1859. The first residence of the house from July 1859
to August 1860 was the Paymaster’s Clerk John E. Daingerfield, as current
Master Armorer Benjamin Mills did not wish to live so close to the river.
Instead, they swapped homes with each other until Mills was replaced. In
September 1860, the new Master Armorer Armstead M. Ball moved into the
residence. He would be the only Master Armorer to live in the home, leaving
when the Civil War began in 1861.
The house’s strategic location in Harpers Ferry made it a temporary
headquarters for Union officers traveling through the area. In September 1862,
Col. Dixon S. Miles utilized the space and died there on September 16th after
being wounded at the Battle of Harpers Ferry. In 1864, the house was the
headquarters for Brig. Gen. John D. Stevenson, commander of the Military
District of Harpers Ferry. Stevenson notably displayed the corpse of
Confederate guerilla John Mobberly at the house. Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant
spent the night of September 16, 1864 at the house on his way back from a
meeting with Maj. Gen. Philip H. Sheridan.
In 1963, the Master Armorer’s Quarters was included in the
establishment of Harpers Ferry National Historical Park. Soon afterwards the
National Park Service restored the building. Today it serves as the park’s
information and orientation center. Additionally, the building contains a few
exhibits such as a scale model of Harpers Ferry and firearm displays.