Popular Posts

Wednesday, February 11, 2015


When I was 8 years old, my parents and I moved into one side of a huge mansion:  It had been converted into a duplex. It was located in St. Albans, West Virginia and sat on Hudson Street and the side faced Kanawha Terrace.  Having lived in three other places prior, it was the first time that I had my own bedroom. And I was thrilled beyond belief.

My parents knew that the mansion was old but would never find out just how old it actually was.  We were told that it had originally sat where  the high school is now located and that at one time had served as a stagecoach inn--the latter making sense and the main street Kanawha Terrace was formerly the James River Turnpkike which was basically a dirt road that was highly traveled in the 1800's.

Our side had the huge entrance, a spiral staircase and ceilings so high that my mom had to sew two full size flat sheets together just to make one panel. That's a lot of sheets for part of a mansion that had tall windows in every room. I'm guessing that the ceilings were at least 14 feet tall. And there was a huge fireplace. The floors were wooden and beautiful.

On the first floor was that huge entrance and to the right was a living room that was gigantic in size. No, we didn't have much furniture so it looked pretty sparse. Behind the entrance was a long hall to the kitchen which was on the back: It had many windows and was wide as well as long. I wouldn't find out until 4 years ago that it was not the original kitchen at all but at the time, it was an assumption.

One thing about the entrance was that it was so huge that my parents put a dining room table in it where many meals were served and eaten. Our table sat way back from the huge front door. In the entrance to the left, was a door that was under the staircase: I well remember my dad keeping his hunting guns and the like in there.

Going up the massive spiral staircase [where my imagination just went wild,] there was a huge hall and to the left was my bedroom. I couldn't begin to tell you the happiness I felt for just having it: It was my very own and I would spend a lot of time painting or writing in it. Being able to look out the second floor window made it all the more special.

In the hallway sat a huge roll top desk: Apparently the owner from whom we rented had left it there and my dad used if for his work as he was an insurance adjuster.

Across from my bedroom was my parent's bedroom: It was as big as a ballroom. Could have been one at one time no doubt. There were many times that I would put my aunt's old dancing costumes on and twirl around imagining that I was in a grand ball room.

If you're wondering where the bathroom was located, it was in the upstairs hall before you'd get to my bedroom. It was huge and had a claw-footed bathtub, a huge old sink and a tile floor. It was the only room that didn't have a wooden floor--although I'm sure it had been covered up in retrospect.

We just lived in the one side for a year but to me it was nirvana. I remember the woman that lived on the other side: She had two small children and was divorced.  The neighborhood was full of kids my age and for once, I had freedom to actually ride my bike and play.  To an 8 year old, it was ecstasy. 

And it would be the place where I would get my first pet: He was a huge black and brown tabby. Thinking he had come from one of the mansions that sat across the street on the side of our house, my mom made me go with her, with the cat in my arms, to the first mansion. "Nope not my cat" said the first owner. At the second mansion, we heard the same thing. Fate was on my side that day as the cat became mine: How he loved roaming the huge mansion. 

My parents decided to buy a house and after many weeks of searching too many houses in the nearby neighborhood, they found one and it was about four blocks to the east of the mansion but located way up on a hill. That house would be "mine" for 5 years.

During those 5 years, I was off our hill a lot and would pass by the huge mansion where we lived and remember every single detail.  I would think to myself "It's still there" and that gave me satisfaction.

At the end of living in what I thought was the most incredible house ever my parents decided to move back to where both of them worked. 
Extreme sadness came over me for I knew that things would never be the same and they weren't ever.

On the good side, I could still see the ancient mansion for my aunt, uncle and cousins lived four blocks from it:  I would spend many a holiday with my parents and them or spend the weekend with my aunt and uncle. Yes, it was still there--a sign for some permanence for me.

Years passed. 

Many trips were made by my driving down to this town to see the mansion as well as to visit my relatives.  The mansion stood there towering over other much smaller houses like some grand dame overseeing her property.

Two years ago a long time friend of mine took me back to see the mansion: It had a "for sale" sign on it. And it looked nothing like it did when I had lived there or the later years when I would see it. It had been converted back to its original state and was one huge place.  Did I peek inside of the windows? You bet I did and oh the memories came flooding back--of the side where my parents and I lived as well as the other side where the woman with two small children had lived.

I found myself thinking about buying the mansion knowing full well that it would have been preposterous and yet the thought lingered. That day I took many pictures of it with my camera and upon coming on, downloaded them to my laptop.

On facebook, a dear friend of mine who had lived on the next street from the mansion as a child and young adult,  messaged me that the mansion was on the historic register and had a name: "Rosedale." I found the site of the historic register and was just blown away to learn that it had been built in 1818 and was the oldest house in St. Albans, West Virginia. And aside from that, the entire house was pegged together.

Last summer I heard the awful news:  Someone had torched the very top of the mansion.  Even worse was seeing it on the news in its ravaged state:  It was still standing but the top was burned.  Yes, someone had bought it and there was no news of anyone living in it fortunately. But to me it made me sick at heart.  I couldn't call my parents to tell them the horrid news or the historic information I had found out about "Rosedale" for both of them had died nor could I call my aunt and uncle who lived close by due to the same reason.

High hopes were held by me that "Rosedale" could be restored for after all it was on the historic register of St. Albans, West Virginia. But on my part, I had no idea of the severe damage to the inside nor did I see it. Could I have driven down to see it in its horrible state? Yes but in actuality, I knew I didn't want to see it ruined.

And then the inevitable happened over a month ago: "Rosedale" in all its former glory but reduced to ruination was demolished. I saw the photos of it on facebook in a group in which I am in and there was nothing left of the grand dame but a pile of wood and rubble. One look at that photo was quite enough for me:  It made me heartsick. 

No, I didn't own it, only lived in it one year but it was the happiest year of my so-called life up till that time.  I will forever miss that house as no doubt all who live in the neighborhood feel the same way. But at least I have my memories of being able to live there--and nothing or no one can take that away.

Sherry Hill

Copyright © 2015
Sherry Hill
All Rights Reserved

I took this photo almost two summers ago.

This photo of Rosedale is how it originally looked as it sat facing Kanawha Terrace.  Photo from the St. Albans Historical Society. Notice the side part--it was not there when the mansion was moved.