E A Durham Home
The E. A. Durham Home (also known as the Durham-Peters Residence; 110 Chelsea Street) was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973.
The Durham-Peters Residence with twenty rooms was built in 1921 for Mr. and Mrs. E.A. Durham, oil executive, by Edward B. Franzheim, architect of Wheeling, West Virginia.
The E. A. Durham Home is an "Italian Villa style featuring pale stone and stucco with low pitched green tile roofs. It is elaborate and distinguished with handsome stone panels carved in the Quattrocento manner also with two loggie — one an open porch and the other a sun room which suggest pleasantly the pavilion of the Villa Medici at Rome."
The exquisite details of the exterior of the Durham-Peters Residence feature the use of stone in the Ionic columns, pediment of the front entry, porch balustrades, and the carved stone shields and dells robbia design in the panels. Delicate iron grille work was used on the front doors as well as the second floor balconies. Elaborate scrolled wood was used in the eaves with Italian tile for the porches.
All the interior rooms of the E.A. Durham House display the finest detailed execution of workmanship and beauty. The spacious reception hall has four Ionic wood columns and the paneled wood walls display moulding, garlands, Grecian urns and dentil grooved carvings. The wide stairway of the hall leads to a landing with a huge, clear leaded glass window of intricate pattern and beading relieved with delicate pink glass garlands of opaque glass. The Bernini type spindles of the staircase are enhanced by scrolled wood carvings on the exposed side.
The mahogany paneled living room has beautifully carved wood in the cornices and door pediment. The ceiling was elaborately decorated while this floor, as well as others, are parqueted. The focal point of the room is a magnificent six foot Carrara marble fireplace. It is decorated with the shield, dells, robbia, and dentil design with the shield motif repeated in the brass hood and the cast iron backing of the fireplace opening.
The Durhams traveled to Europe to select many fixtures and furnishings for the home. This is most evident in the two marble fireplaces; all the crystal chandeliers, sconces, decorated silver ones, and most notably the Dresden chandelier, sconces, and ceiling lights in the master bedroom; Italian tile used in the sunroom floor and rear entry hall; German silver in the sink of the butler's pantry and in the door knob, hinges, and window fittings of the dining room, Italian milk glass is found as the wall tile of the kitchen, powder rooms, bathroom, and utility room.
Though the Durham-Peters Residence is centrally steam heated, all rooms have gas-burning fireplaces with wood carved mantels with either marble or tile facing and hearths. The oak paneled billiard room with oak beamed ceiling has a massive stone wood-burning fireplace.
The E. A. Durham Home was meticulously and methodically maintained by Mrs. Durham until her death in the 1960's. Mr. and Mrs. Harry Peters purchased it in 1971 from her heirs.
Of the private residences constructed in Sistersville, West Virginia, as a result of the rich oil strikes of the 1890's, the Durham-Peters home is the most elaborate and elegant. Although its first owners were from Ohio, they chose to make their home, and to build their mansion in West Virginia, close to the source of their wealth. So intimately related to this source is the home that in its backyard there is a producing oil well which was capped in 1948.
As was to be expected, this local showplace became the center of the social life which grew up around the Sistersville oil industry. There are records of elaborate parties, balls, and other gatherings which were held amid the Mediterranean-type surroundings of the Durham residence. Caterers from Wheeling, Pittsburgh, and Columbus furnished food and drink to the guests.
Edward B. Franzheim, the architect, painstakingly oversaw the entire construction of the E.A. Durham Home with its myriad details. One story, related by Mr. Franzheim's daughter, illustrates this:
"Mr. Franzheim wanted the eaves to be painted cafe au lait and when the painter said that he couldn't mix the paint that color, Mr. Franzheim went to Springer's Restaurant, bought a cup of coffee with cream, carried it to the paint shop, and worked with the painter until they had the exact shade desired."
There are other fine residences in Sistersville which resulted from the discovery of oil, but none are so representative of the community's desire to have the best that money could obtain. The Durham-Peters House is a symbol of the gifts that petroleum can bring.
An Historic Preservation-Economic Development Study for Sistersville, West Virginia, by Zeighler, VanTrump & Shane of Pittsburgh, 1971.
Original Blueprints, Edward Bates Franzheim, architect, Wheeling, W.Va., 1921.
Bryant, Laura, Notes on the History of Sistersville, West Virginia. Annual Report of the West Virginia Antiquities Commission, 1971, Morgantown, W. Va.