Tavenner House Oldest House in Wood County
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The Tavenner house , the oldest house in Wood County, is full of life the Life family.
Bonnie Lou Life are residents of the Tavenner house at 2401 Camden Ave., in Tavenner Heights, Parkersburg, with their son, Jeff. Mrs. Life has watched as the house has undergone structural changes over the years, but she still has her memories of visiting the Tavenners when she was a girl. I've always loved this house But I don't really know why. I had even had one time tried to talk my dad into buying it, but he wouldn't. So, when my husband and I got the chance, we bought it.
The Life family has lived in the house which was built between 1800-1810, for 22 years However Mrs. Life used to visit the Tavenner family when they lived in the house during the 1930s and early 1940s. I used to come over and visit the three women Elizabeth, Beth and Hattie Tavenner, Mrs. Life said. I was the only young child in the neighborhood and the big kids didn't want me to runaround with them, so 1 would go over and visit the women.
They would talk about a lot of things especially the history of the house. I wish now I would have listened a little closer to what they said. While the Tavenner house is still on its original foundation and the exterior exemplifies the 1800 architecture the inside of the house has been drastically changed. Before the Life fainily purchased the Tavenner house, a former resident had ripped out walls and a spiral staircase. In addition, walls were built to accommodate extra bedrooms.
If I would have had the house earlier, I probably would have tried to keep things as the women had had them," Mrs. Life said. "But there were so many changes in the house, it makes me sad sometimes to think about them. Some Wood County residents dispute the age of the Tavenner house and have said the log cabin in the Parkersburg City Park is the oldest house in the area.
A representative of the state Department of Culture and His tory said the Tavenner house is considered the oldest house in Wood County because it is still standing on its original foundation while the log cabin does not. According to information published in the National Register of Historic Places, the earliest mention of the Tavenner house is in a deed book for a property transfer On Sept. 12, 1812, Hugh Phelps , transferred the property to his son John Phelps and his wife.
However, the house is named after Co. Thomas Tavenner, a prominent. early settler of Wood County, who purchased the house when he was 22 years old. After settling in his home, Tavenner was elected to several county and state offices. Tavenner was a justice of the peace in Wood County from 1807-1839 president of the Wood County Court, 1819-1821 and from 1840-1844; deputy sheriff and deputy marshal from 1816-1823 and a colonel-in the 113th Regiment of the Virginia Militia from 1812-1823. He also served in the Virginia House of Delegates.
Some even say the first trial was held here in the house, "Mrs. Life said. But I've also heard it was held out in the yard. Although the house was considered a landmark in the 1930s when Mrs. Life visited the Tavenner women, the house had a rather infamous reputation. Sitting adjacent to the house was a cabin that had been used to keep runaway slaves. Sometimes people would talk about the house because of the building where the slaves were kept a long time ago she said.
It was where the slaves were taken when they were brought back after running away. remember seeing the shackles on the walls of the cabin where they used to chain the slaves. Mrs. Life said she was once told by a Tavenner relative that an underground passage exists on the property. Now Ive never seen one but that doesn't mean it's not here somewhere she said. It's possible Mrs. Life wishes the house contained the historical semblance it had when she was a little girl.
I remember when parts of it were being torn down and remodeled on the inside, she said. Under the wood floors there were big trees. It look liked the tops had just been cut off and the trees were laid under the house to support the floor. I also liked the spiral staircase, but a person would have had to have been bone thin to get up it It was that skinny. Although she couldn't keep former residents from changing the interior of the house, Mrs. Life did find some interesting antiques. She found a child's black lace boot that had been meticulously made by hand. The boot apparently dates back to the early 1800s.
In addition, she found several iron kitchen' utensils that she wrapped in plastic and hung on her walls. My son Jeff, said if he got the house he would like to decorate the house as it was earlier she said. But I don't know whether he would or not. The Lifes' oldest daughter, Jenny, now married to Randall E. Ware, was wed in the house in 1982.
Jenny walked down the staircase in her lace wedding gown that leads into the living room from the upstairs of the old house. My guess is that Jenny's wedding was probably one of the very few that took place in the Tavenner house Mrs. Life said. It was a really nice home wedding. With all the hubbub surrounding the historical significance of their house, the Lifes have had little peace and quiet. We have quite a few people who want to come and see the house or want to take pictures Mrs. Life said. But it doesn't bother me I'm really interested in all this.
It appears the Life family, while living in the Tavenner house, has made history again. The Tavenner house will be honored for its inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places Although the house was selected to be placed in the register during 1983, a special ceremony is being held on March 29 at the Cultural Center in Charleston.
The Lifes have been invited to attend the ceremony and will receive an engraved certificate to hang on a wall in the Tavenner house:
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