I‘ve often said West Virginia’s rurality renders its architecture all the more stunning. In midtown Manhattan every building is a masterpiece, the architectural noise can be deafening, and buildings easily lose their character in the tumult.
The Mountain State is filled with such architectural wonders — a circumstance of booms and busts. As the extraction of oil, salt and coal have ebbed and flowed, they’ve left behind fantastic remnants of golden ages.
Join me as I explore some of the finest and most accessible architectural landmarks in West Virginia and delve into the histories their presence reveals.
The Craik-Patton House at Charleston is one of the best remaining examples of Greek Revival architecture in West Virginia. Though it bears all the hallmarks of the style as it developed in the U.S., its classical elements were imagined with the restraint typical of pre-war
western Virginia — “hardened somewhat by local interpretation,” historian James E. Harding wrote of the residence in 1975.
The house was built in 1834 for attorney James Craik, the grandson of George Washington’s family physician and the son of his secretary during his second administration. Craik soon after became an Episcopal clergyman, moved to Louisville, Ky., and sold the home to George Smith
Patton, Sr., a Confederate colonel and the grandfather of General George Smith Patton, Jr. Patton commanded troops at the battles of Scary Creek, Lewisburg, Fayetteville, Droop Mountain, and White Sulphur Springs before falling at Winchester in 1864.
Like all Greek Revival residences, “Elm Grove,” as it was later known, drew on classical antecedents en vogue in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. It was adorned at the front with a front-facing gable atop a projecting portico supported by four massive columns, suggesting the form of a classical temple. Elm Grove was one of the first frame residences clad in clapboard in the Kanawha Valley, many of which had until then been log-built.
In 1973 the residence was rescued from demolition after a campaign to raise money led by the National Society of Colonial Dames in America and was moved from downtown Charleston to its present location along the Kanawha River at 2809 Kanawha Blvd., East, in Daniel Boone Park.
The house is open for tours Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. though is closed for lunch at noon. For more information, visit Craik-Patton.org or call 304-925-5341.
By David Sibray
Photos by Paul Zuros