Historic Parkersburg home opens doors to visitors
PARKERSBURG — The Wood County Historical and Preservation Society and the Parkersburg and Wood County Public Library teamed up once again to reconnect Parkersburg to its roots with a fun-filled day of activities at the Phelps-Tavenner House, the oldest residence in the county on an original site.
While the Historical and Preservation Society offered tours of the grounds, the library set up a storybook walk, interactive storytime, crafts and other fun activities for kids to enjoy. The bookmobile was also in attendance for people to check out.
The National Register lists the house as being built circa 1810, when the region was still in the American frontier, but through lore and other documents “we feel it was probably built prior to 1799 and is the actual place where Wood County was formed,” said members of the Wood County Historical Society who were giving tours have noted.
Built by Col. Hugh Phelps, the house, located at 2401 Camden Ave., is the most historic property in Wood County, relating specifically to the pioneers of the area.
According to Mary-Ann Gwyn, who was one of multiple people stationed around the grounds to tell the history of the house, the home was the gathering place for many of the political, economic and social events of the day.
Phelps himself served as sheriff of Wood County, and was an early justice for the county and a colonel in the 113th Regiment of the Virginia Militia.
Phelps also operated a tavern, or “ordinary,” most likely in his house, where travelers and influential men of the area enjoyed food, conversation and “spirits.”
Wood County was even formed in Hugh Phelps’ house, as it also served as the first Wood County Courthouse.
Col. Thomas Tavenner purchased the house when Phelps died in 1823. It was owned by Tavenner’s family until the last grandchild died in 1940.
According to Gwyn, the house layout was adjusted in the 1950s, creating the layout guests see today, but many walls, bricks and other original pieces still stand today.
“The upstairs was originally two bedrooms, but now it is three, and there is a bathroom,” she said.
The Phelps-Tavenner House was acquired by the historical society in 2015. Since its construction and until 2014, the last owners being the Life family, the house was used as a residence. The home is now called the Phelps-Tavenner Research Center.
New to the home this year was several diorama and paintings done by Marj Teague, a descendant of Hugh Phelps.
Attendees could also shop for plants, many of which were “heirloom” plants who can trace their own roots to the Phelps-Tavenner land.
Madeline Scarborough can be reached at email@example.com