Sitting atop Malvern Hill only feet from the roaring line of Union cannon, the West House became an instant battlefield landmark. The original house dated from approximately 1831, but was rebuilt decades after the Civil War. The current structure is partly on the original brick foundation, and the entrance road is in its wartime location. The Wests owned a large farm and more than a dozen slaves to operate it.
Chaplain Edward Neill from Minnesota left a vivid account of the house and its occupants during the battle. When Confederate shells burst near the house, "The family with some of their neighbors, in consternation fled into the cellar, to which there was access by a large outside door. The head of the house in great distress inquired, ?What shall I do?' There was a dressing-table draped with red cloth, and I suggested that it be torn off and fastened on a long pole over the house, in the hope that it might alter the range of the shots. It was distressing to hear the moans and see the tears of the women in the cellar?."