Historic house on Camden Avenue could be for sale

PARKERSBURG – An early 19th century home built by one of the first settlers in what later became the city of Parkersburg could be for sale.

The Tavenner home on Camden Avenue, among the oldest continuing residences in the area, is part of the estate of Lawrence “Ray” and Bonnie Life, who lived in the house for about 40 years. The two died just a few weeks apart in December.

John Life, one of the sons, said the family is working through the estate. Life said the house has not been put on the market, but the heirs are “needing to get rid of it.”

“We haven’t done anything with it yet,” he said. “My parents passed away and it is part of the estate.”

The Tavenner House is on the National Register of Historic Places.

The main house was built by Hugh Phelps around 1810. Phelps was among the early pioneers in the area and prominently figures in Wood County history.

He served as sheriff of the county, was a colonel in the Virginia Militia and led the mission to Blennerhassett Island in December 1806 to arrest Harman Blennerhassett and Aaron Burr on suspicion of treason. Phelps’ earlier home at Neal Station was the county’s first courthouse.

Bob Enoch, president of the Wood County Historical and Preservation Society, said the house is one of the most historically significant structures in area.

“It was built by Hugh Phelps in 1810, how much more historical can you get.”

The house is surrounded by government property – several city lots and the state-owned U.S. 50. Life said he’s talked with city officials about purchasing the property.

“They’re the ones who benefit most,” he said.

Parkersburg Mayor Bob Newell said no formal discussions regarding the purchase of the house have happened. And Newell said it’s unlikely the city would pursue a purchase.

For the last several years the city has sought to sell or swap its parcels of land there, but the mayor is willing to assist the historical society if it chooses to pursue the sale.

“We want to make sure the house is saved,” Newell said. “And if the city could be of assistance, once the estate is settled, maybe we can settle it.”

Enoch and several other members of the historical society toured the home.

Life said it does not matter to him.

“I don’t hold any ties to it,” he said. “I’d rather see it go to a historical society if they can do it, but I don’t think they can do it.”

Life’s brother, Joe Life, would like to sell his house and move into the Tavenner home. Joe Life said they grew up in the house and he retains some sentimentality for the place.

John Life is waiting to see what Joe wants to do before a decision is made.

“He hasn’t sold his house yet,” John said.