HISTORY OF COOK HOUSE
Mackey's Antiques & Clock
1249 Gihon Road
Parkersburg WV 26101
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Living briefly in Ohio after their arrival in 1795, the Joseph Cook family moved to the Parkersburg, Virginia area. Parkersburg was only a cluster of log houses located at the Point, an area where the Little Kanawha and Ohio Rivers meet. By the time Joseph died in 1824, he had purchased important tracts of land near it. It has been estimated that most of the area lying between Seventh and Nineteenth Streets and the Ohio River and St .Mary's Road once belonged to Joseph or his son, Bennett. In 1823, Joseph deeded 108 acres to Tillinghast.
In 1820, Tillinghast married Betsey Russell of Marietta, Ohio. In the house they built, seven of their eight children grew to adulthood. Tillinghast, like many men before the Civil War, was extremely versatile, being involved in farming, politics, surveying, land speculation, private banking and mercantilism. In the 1840's, he sold Windsor chairs and patent medicines and later helped one son get started in a furniture business and another in farming. Like his father, he owned slaves, but apparently only briefly. He suffered greatly during the Civil War when many of his relatives and friends fought and spoke against the Union which, in his mind, was unforgiveable.
During their nearly fifty years of marriage, Tillinghast and Betsey saw many changes take place in Parkersburg from the completion of two turnpikes and the coming of the railroad to the forming of the new state of West Virginia. The lifestyle, cultural influences, goods and ideas came, not from eastern Virginia but from New York, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Wheeling and Cincinnati. By the time Tillinghast died in 1869 and Betsey in 1873, the city had become one of the wealthiest in the state due to the oil boom in the area. Their farm was in the way of urban growth and their children benefited financially when Tillinghast's vast acreage was partitioned and later became part of the expanding city.
Although the Cook family for almost 150 years, It has had few alterations. although it spastoral setting in the middle of a 108 acre farm is now gone. It was not the typical farm house even in the late 1820s, when it was built. Its late Federal style reflects relatively sophisticated architectural influences particularly in the front facade.
It is not known who inspired the style, but there is some affinity to certain decorative features on the Cook House and those in Marietta, Ohio which have been attributed to a Marietta man named Joseph Barker. Barker, unfortunately, left no written records of his architectural work although he is known to have aided the Blennerhassetts in the early nineteenth century and may have had a hand in the design of their island mansion. He probably did not contribute original designs for his houses but worked from builder's manuals. It is likely the Cooks asked his advice be cause both Betsey and Tillinghast had known him for many years. Not only were there marriage connections, but many of the Marietta houses attributed to Barker were owned by Cook relatives.
Tillinghast and Betsey must have been considered bold to build a dwelling of this style in a frontier area where the traditional rectangular house form, its long side facing the street, prevailed. Although the wings would seem to make the house appear long, the vertical elements are more dominant, particularly before the house received new roofing and brick painting in the 1970s.
The accentuation of the vertical line is significant in over six windows. the deep semy-elliptical doorway and the fine Flemish bonding of the bricks. The brick details forming a pattern of alternating headers and stretchers and the dogtooth pattern of the corbeling of the cornice (now partially hidden by shingles) are fine examples of the brick mason's craft. Decorative features such as the classical doorway with its delicate pilasters and fan light, as well as the arched fanlight in the gable, are elegant adaptations of more sophisticated houses in eastern and northern cities.
The interior also reflects a sharp break from tradition. Instead of the first floor, two or four room plan with center stair hall, the Cook House entrance hall is a living area with a fireplace and full windows flanking the entrance. The original use of the rooms is not certain, but the main bedroom had been located in the north wing for most, if not all of the house's history. It is also believed that the kitchen was located in the south wing and the west wing contained two small rooms. However the house was used, it must have been large, elegant and special for the Cooks who had been living in Tillinghast's boy hood home, a log structure not too different from the majority of houses in Wood County at that time. The house is still special; it is one of the few direct links to the area's early history and should be protected for its architectural, historical and humanistic significance. The Cook family should be commended for preserving Tillinghast and Betsey Cooks home.
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