West Virginia grants $3.5M makeover to historic mansion

A former owner added Corinthian columns to the Holly Grove mansion in the early 1900s. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

A former owner added Corinthian columns to the Holly Grove mansion in the early 1900s. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) – Built in 1815 by a salt industry pioneer, the Holly Grove mansion has been going through a slow-moving but comprehensive multi-million dollar makeover.

The handsome brick structure has stood vacant since 2004 when the Bureau of Senior Services moved its offices to Charleston Town Center.

In 2005, the state Department of Administration added Holly Grove to its list of capital improvement projects and committed $3.5 million to interior and exterior renovations.

Now, roughly five years later, Holly Grove is starting to show signs of improvement.

Exterior restoration began in August and is wrapping up, said Department of Administration spokeswoman Diane Holley-Brown.

Alleghany Restoration from Morgantown is the contractor for the work, which included painting and repairs to masonry, wood, gutters, downspouts, and window frames. The exterior phase cost $364,776.

A $2 million portion of the funding has been set aside for evaluating and documenting the interior. Holley-Brown said this process has taken longer than expected and is crucial to mapping a design.

“Through the evaluation and documentation work, the original paint colors, finishes and even wallpaper were identified,” Holley-Brown said. “The mansion was renovated in 1905, so it required us to look deeper to uncover the history of this mansion from a structural aspect.”

Named for holly trees that surrounded it, the mansion was built next to the lot that has been occupied by the Governor’s Mansion since 1925.

Holly Grove contains 5,675 square feet of floor space. It was built by Daniel Ruffner of the pioneering family that moved into the Kanawha Valley from the Shenandoah Valley.

The Ruffners were a force in developing a booming salt industry and they welcomed many distinguished guests into their magnificent 15-bedroom home. Among them were Daniel Boone, Henry Clay, Sam Houston, John Audubon and President Andrew Jackson.

A fire destroyed much of the interior in 1832, but the walls were not damaged.

The house stayed in the Ruffner family through the 1860s, when it fell into disrepair. It changed ownership several times until 1902 when James Nash purchased it.

Nash made several modifications, which gave Holly Grove the look it has today. He added back porches and the white Corinthian columns.

In 1974, Holly Grove was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. A year later, the state bought it.

Holley-Brown said plans for interior restoration are about 80 percent complete. The New York-based architectural firm of Swanke, Hayden and Connell is handling the job.

Once the design is finished, the state will invite contractors to bid on construction work.

Holley-Brown said it’s too early to say when that contract will be awarded.

It still isn’t known how the restored structure will be used. Several ideas have been considered, including transforming the mansion into a multipurpose facility that would contain meeting and office space as well as a welcome center.

“As the project evolves, the state will make its final decision,” Holley-Brown said.


Information from: Charleston Daily Mail,


Copyright 2010 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP-ES-04-25-10 0002EDT