From charming bungalows to stately mansions, several homes throughout Charleston hold bits and pieces of stories that makeup the city’s history, stories of birds and valleys, politics and industry. The owners of these homes were among Charleston’s finest residents, and the homes themselves remain some of the most beloved pieces in Charleston’s architectural history.
- Bird Haven
Bird Haven was owned and named for Israel N. Johnson, once the state ornithologist and author of Birds of West Virginia, Their Economic Value and Aesthetic Beauty
This charming bungalow-style cottage was built and named for West Virginia state ornithologist and author Israel N. Johnson. The bird-lover built the two-story home in 1895, including painted clapboards with Victorian features, seen especially at the front bay window and on multiple gables. Bird Haven is one of the oldest frame houses in the South Hills neighborhood. During his time there, Johnson wrote his book Birds of West Virginia: Their Economic Value and Aesthetic Beauty. Johnson was also well known for the prized dahlias he grew at Bird Haven.
Glenwood was named for a rock-strewn glen on the 366-acre property bought by James Madison Laidley, founder of the Charleston newspaper and later politician
Named for a nearby glen, Glenwood has remained nearly unchanged since its completion in 1852. It took two years to complete the two-story home made of brick (laid three deep in the walls), wood, and sandstone, under the direction of stonemason William Preston. The house was built for James Madison Laidley on 366 acres he had purchased near the Elk River. At twenty years old, Laidley had founded the Charleston newspaper The Western Register. Five years after building the home, Laidley sold it to George Summers II, politician and namesake of Summers County and spouse to Laidley’s cousin, Amacetta Laidley. Upon his death, Summer’s son Lewis inherited Glenwood, selling all but two acres of the land. The home stayed in the Summers family until 1983. Today the house is operated by the Historic Glenwood Foundation.
An elaborate three-story Georgian-style mansion, Sunrise was built for West Virginia’s ninth governor William A. MacCorkle.
Arguably one of the grandest homes in Charleston, Sunrise was built in 1905 for West Virginia’s ninth governor, William A. MacCorkle. The three-story stone Georgian-style mansion features a gabled roof with dormers, Doric columns, and a magnificent view of Charleston from the massive north side portico. The property is as interesting as the mansion itself. A small marker on the land marks the grave of two women shot during the Civil War. They had been accused and convicted of being spies and were shot on the spot. MacCorkle discovered the remains of the women on his land and gave them a proper burial. Additionally, the arched stone shrine on the property was dedicated to MacCorkle’s daughter, Isabelle, after her death from a car accident. Upon his own death in 1930, MacCorkle’s ashes were placed inside.
Built with a bit of a competitive spirit, Breezemont and its spectacular view was built for Cornelius C. Watts, a former attorney general, in the same year that MacCorkle built Sunrise (photo courtesy of Jerrye and Roy Klotz)
Breezemont was built for beauty, a spectacular view, and a bit of competition. Set on a hill overlooking Charleston in 1905, the stunning home was built for Cornelius C. Watts, a former West Virginia attorney general. The Neo-Classical Revival mansion built of stone with a red-tile roof was constructed in the same year as MacCorkle’s Sunrise in the South Hills Neighborhood. Watts apparently wanted his home to rival that of the former governor.
- Young-Noyes House
Built in 1922, the neo-Classical Young-Noyes House was sold to Morris Harvey College (now University of Charleston) and has served as its President’s House ever since (photo courtesy of Jerrye and Roy Klotz)
While many Charleston homes on the National Register of Historic Places have contributed to the beauty and history of the city, none have contributed to the education of its citizens in quite the same way as the Young-Noyes House. Since 1951, the neoclassical mansion has served as primary residence of the president of then Morris Harvey College, now the University of Charleston. The home was built in 1922 for Mr. and Mrs. Roger Atkinson Young. Architect Ludwig Theodore Bengston designed the home, along with several homes and public buildings throughout the Kanawha Valley and elsewhere in West Virginia. The home was built of white-painted brick and features fifteen rooms and the impressive tetra style portico with two-story Doric columns. If the portico itself isn’t impressive enough, it offers a breathtaking view of the Kanawha River.
Built for Dr. Rhuell Hampton Merrill in 1922, the English Tudor estate has remained in the Merrill family ever since (photo courtesy of Jerrye and Roy Klotz)
This stunning English Tudor estate has been in the same family since its completion in 1922. Bringing his English-born roots into his plans, architect Fred Crowthers designed Briarwood along with other homes in Charleston, including the Barnes-Wellford House. The home was designed for Dr. Rhuell Hampton Merrill, the minister of the Kanawha Presbyterian Church from 1898–1907.
- Cox-Morton House
Still owned by the descendants of its first owner, Frank Cox, the Cox-Morton home was built as an American Foursquare. The Doric portico was added in the 1920’s.
Also known as Home Hall, the Cox-Morton House was built in 1902 on two acres for Frank Cox. Often called the “Great Wildcatter,” Cox was secretary of the Republic Coal Company, the West Virginia Colliery Company, and the Carbon Coal Company. Built as an American Foursquare home, the Doric portico was added in the 1920’s giving the home a Colonial Revival touch. Cox’s daughter, Alice, married James Morton of the Morton Coal Company, and the house was passed on to the couple. The home is still owned by Cox’s descendants.
Dalgain, with its white stucco façade and green roof, was built by Robert E. McCabe upon his marriage to Margaret Fleming Ward, daughter of engineering giant Charles E. Ward
This American Foursquare house was one of many built during the 1910’s. Dalgain, also known as the McCabe House, was built in 1916 for Robert E. McCabe, a prominent Charleston attorney. McCabe built the white stucco and green-roofed home for his new bride, Margaret Fleming Ward, daughter of engineering giant Charles E. Ward. The year after McCabe built his home, his father-in-law built his residence, Stoneleigh, adjacent to Dalgain.
- Holly Grove
Widely recognized for its beautiful half-circle portico, Holly Grove was once a full-fledged plantation that entertained important guests such as President Andrew Jackson
One of the more well-known mansions in Charleston, Holly Grove was once a sprawling plantation with outbuildings, barns, shops, and a granary. Built in 1815 for pioneer of the West Virginia salt industry Daniel Ruffner, Holly Grove once greeted such distinguished guests as Henry Clay and President Andrew Jackson. The Ruffner family was well respected in the Kanawha Valley during the nineteenth century, and he served as both justice of the peace and high sheriff of Kanawha County. The original house was rectangular with a small entry portico, but when James H. Nash bought the home in 1902, he added the famous half-circle portico with massive columns.
SEE ALL 10 HISTORIC HOMES GRACING CHARLESTON, WEST VIRGINIA, HERE