Historic treasure restored

Abby and I had the great pleasure of attending a dedicatory reception June 19 for Oakland, the home built by James M. Stephenson starting in 1832, at 1131 7th St.

Oakland is a structure of not only local significance, but also state-wide and national significance, listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Stephenson was born in Fayette County, Pa., but came to this area at age 2 with other members of the Stephenson and Dils families. He married Agnes Miller Boreman, sister to Arthur I. Boreman, the first governor of West Virginia, with whom he practiced law. He served in the Virginia House of Delegates before the formation of West Virginia, and was a close friend of Henry Clay, who stayed at Oakland many times. He was a lawyer, banker and politician and had particular interests in turnpikes (including the Staunton Pike — which generally followed State Route 47 — and the Northwestern Turnpike — the original U.S. Route 50) as well as the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. He also was the second president of the Northwestern Bank of Virginia, the predecessor of United Bank.

His home passed down his family intact, in accordance with the wishes of his will, through December 2015, when it was donated by his great-great-grandson, John Lutz, and Pam Lutz, his wife, to the West Virginia University at Parkersburg Foundation. The home was occupied as a residence until the death of Mr. Lutz’s younger sister, Elizabeth Sammel Lutz, in February 2015. The Lutz family, including Mr. Lutz’s older sister, Kitty Coppock of Stowe, Vt., also established a fund for the use of the Foundation in the maintenance and upkeep of Oakland.

The restoration of this unique property fell under the capable supervision of Senta Goudy, Executive Director of the WVUP Foundation, who has worked tirelessly for the past three years to make the property usable as facility for the University and the Foundation. At present, the structural work is completed, the heating, ventilating and air-conditioning systems installed, the first floor ready for occupation and restoration of some original furniture, and selection and installation of wall coverings and fixtures are under way.

The project could not have been undertaken without the generosity of the Lutz family, the work of the indefatigable Goudy, financial support from J. Frank Deem, Nina and Frannie Phares and others, and scores of hours of time by David Roberts, current president of the Foundation, and past and present members of the Foundation’s Board of Directors, and the Board of Governors and administration of WVUP.

This area is very lucky to have a unique treasure such as Oakland. The Foundation has great plans for its future, including establishing a tradition as a premiere celebration venue for West Virginia Day, and a host of other events and activities. This project is well worth the support of all in the community and anyone who has any interest in the history of West Virginia, the antebellum United States and our area’s part in that history owes it to himself or herself to visit this treasure.

Richard A. Hayhurst