Julia-Ann Square’s Castle back on the market
PARKERSBURG — A new author is being sought for the next chapter in the history of the Castle in the Julia-Ann Square Historic District.
The house at 1209 Ann St. was built around 1833 by Peter G. Van Winkle, a Parkersburg attorney who played a significant role in writing the West Virginia Constitution and was one of the newly formed state’s first two U.S. senators. In that role, he was among seven Republicans who broke with the party to prevent the impeachment of President Andrew Johnson in 1869.
Referred to as the “Castle” because of its turret-like towers, the house was bought by Standard Oil in the fall of 2013 with the idea of refurbishing the historic structure and using it as a place for company officers, directors, shareholders and guests to stay when they were in Parkersburg.
Standard Oil renovated the first two floors, but a slow-down in the oil and gas industry prompted the company to look at another use for the property as a bed and breakfast inn and venue for events like parties and wedding receptions. Although they won approval from the Parkersburg Board of Zoning Appeals over the objections of some residents, that never materialized.
Not much work has been done on the house in the last three years, and Standard Oil is looking to sell the property.
“Standard Oil has decided to sell it because … they’re focused on oil,” said Calvin Harper, a contractor working on special projects for the company. “They would love to see the right person come in and finish restoring it.”
A lot of material purchased to complete the restorations on the third floor and attic remains in the house, said neighbor Bob Francis, a retired air traffic controller who lives across the street from the house. He volunteered to mow the lawn and maintain the yard and is now working for Standard Oil to clean up and make repairs inside the house.
“It needs work,” Francis said. “But it’s not beyond repair yet.”
There have been some leaks, and Francis said he was surprised to discover about a month ago that someone had forced their way in through a window and had been staying in the house. It’s a situation that isn’t unfamiliar in the area, although one not generally associated with the stately homes of the historic district. The windows have now been secured by Francis.
Despite the dust and other evidence that the home has been empty for a while, Francis saw the positives as he walked through recently. He pointed to multiple fireplaces hand-carved from Corinthian marble from Italy and ornate woodwork.
“All the woodwork is just tremendous,” he said. “You’ll never see this kind of stuff again ever built.”
The purchase and restoration of the house was spearheaded by former Standard Oil President Rick Zelnar, who passed away a couple of years ago. Harper said the company hopes a buyer will want to pick up the baton and make the house what Zelnar hoped it would be: a centerpiece of the neighborhood.
Longtime Julia-Ann Square Historic District resident Judy Smith agrees.
“Rick Zelnar had a passion for the house and what he wanted to do with it that was perfect, but fate took us another route,” she said. “I would love for it to sell because all the headway that Mr. Zelnar made is going the other way with it just sitting.”
Harper estimated the company spent more than $700,000 renovating the house. They expect to take a loss on the sale, looking for a purchase price “north of $300,000,” he said.
“We’re an oil company,” Harper said. “As beautiful as the building is, it’s not in our industry.”
Evan Bevins can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.