Historic Henderson Hall on
the Ohio River in West Virginia
Imagine an architectural and historical gem that contains all of the major themes of West Virginia settlement and history. Indian mounds, the Civil War, the oil and gas industry, transportation history, and the history of commerce in West Virginia are all contained within the 64-acres of the Henderson Hall Historic District and the 21 rooms of the mansion.
Where is Henderson Hall?
Seven miles north of Parkersburg, two miles south of Marietta Ohio, on the banks of the Ohio River sits a magnificent Italianate mansion that once housed the mighty Henderson clan.
A 20-minute film at Henderson Hall is a helpful introduction to this unique historical home. The Henderson family was friends with George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison. On the advice of George Washington, Henderson patriarch Alexander Henderson, Sr., purchased the 2,000-acres that used to comprise Henderson Plantation. The 65-acres that remain have become known as the Henderson Hall
Historic District, and in 1957 it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Touring Henderson Hall
Our group from the Staunton-Parkersburg Turnpike Alliance spent a few pleasant hours touring Henderson Hall with the President of the Oil and Gas Museum, David McKain. Next to the ample parking is a pleasant place to sit and eat lunch under a shelter before passing the Adena Indian mounds to enter the elegant Henderson Hall.
The brick structure was designed and built by Marietta, Ohio architect John Maynard Slocomb (1810-1882) and built from 1856-59 using brick, stone, and timber from the Henderson estate. In front of Henderson Hall is the original mounting block, a three-stepped stone that allowed for mounting a horse or entering a carriage. The front face of Henderson Hall reflects the characteristic, Italianate symmetry with arched top windows, a broad eaves, and a crowning, windowed cupola.
The builder of Henderson Hall, George Washington Henderson (1802-1866), and his wife Elizabeth Ann Tomlinson (1810-1888), would have been one of the original power couples of western Virginia. Ms. Tomlinson’s family lands were original tomahawk claims, whereby early settlers chopped rings around boundary trees to claim land. The original Henderson family land grant deed is signed by Patrick Henry and hangs on the wall at Henderson Hall. Famous visitors to Henderson Hall include American composer Stephen Foster and John Chapman, aka Johnny Appleseed.
Collectors of History
While others have referred to the Henderson Family as pack rats, I would rather describe them as conscious collectors who were quite aware of their place in history. The carriage house contains the 19th century carriage that the original couple, George and Elizabeth, took to Niagra Falls on their honeymoon. The one-room schoolhouse contains the original benches and slates. There is an entire room filled with clothing worn by various generations of Hendersons for over a hundred years. Furniture, wallpaper, artwork, and furnishings have been kept within the house since it was built.
Documents and ledgers are still being uncovered and catalogued within the walls of this rich, national treasure that tells the story not only of the Ohio Valley and West Virginia, but of our country. While Henderson Hall is several miles off of the Turnpike, the connection to transportation history, oil and gas history, the Aaron Burr and Blennerhassett conspiracy, native American history are all salient themes of The Pike.
Directions to Henderson Hall:
From Parkersburg, take Route 77 north and take the Williamstown exit and go south on Route 14. Follow Route 14 by going left at the Shell gas station. After going a couple of miles look for a sign and turn right onto Old River Road. Henderson Hall will be on your left. For more information or to schedule private or group tours please call 304-375-2129.
Hours: Everyday from noon-5pm; Admission: $5