Grosscup Road Historic District
The Grosscup Road Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1984. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [†] Adaptation copyright © 2013, The Gombach Group.
The Grosscup Road Historic District in Charleston, Kanawha County, West Virginia, is significant because it is a concentrated area of well preserved houses from Charleston's early suburbanization. The development of the area coincided with Charleston's "boom" years of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The early owners of these houses were families who achieved great wealth during this period. They were Charleston's powerful industrialists, businessmen and political leaders. The residences they built for themselves were fashionable, well constructed houses that today present a wide spectrum of architectural styles.
Charleston and the Kanawha River Valley experienced rapid growth and economic development in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In 1873 the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad came to Charleston. The access to transportation and the abundant natural resources stimulated new industry and commerce. Charleston permanently regained its position as capital city of West Virginia in 1885.
The coal and natural gas industries stimulated related enterprises. William C. Kelly moved his Kelly Axe and Tool Manufacturing Company to Charleston in 1934. Kelly built a large Colonial Revival house at 15 Grosscup Road in 1919. Fred Paul Grosscup, another early resident of the Grosscup Road Historic District, established several natural gas utility companies.
The pivotal event in Charleston's industrial development was World War I. The Kanawha Valley's vast chemical industry that today has plants from Union Carbide, I.E. Dupont and Monsanto, was created to meet the war time demand of 1917. Industrial suburbs such as Nitro, Belle and Dunbar were developed to accommodate the plants and their workers.
It was during this period that Grosscup Road's development skyrocketed. The old residential area of Charleston soon became inadequate to house the growing population. In 1880 Charleston had only 4,192 residents. By 1900 it had grown to 11,099 and by 1920 Charleston was a city of 39,998 residents. The business district began to expand into the old residential section. This further aggravated the situation.
In the 1890's, real estate speculators shrewdly bought the land of the hills across the Kanawha River. Robert S. Carr organized the South Charleston Improvement Company in 1891. This company owned almost the entire South Hills. Later, the Grosscup-Meyers Real Estate Company, owned by Paul B. Grosscup acquired all of what is now the Grosscup Road Historic District.
After the South Side Bridge was completed in 1891, South Hills, particularly the ridge overlooking the city, became attractive to Charleston residents. In 1907, South Hills was incorporated into the city.
The early residents of Grosscup, Roller, and Roscommon Roads were figures significant to Charleston's business and political activities. Hon. James H. Ferguson (1817-1898) was a Charleston lawyer with a lifetime spent in West Virginia's politics. He was a member of the West Virginia State Legislature in 1864 and played a large role in shaping the laws of the newly formed state. He lived in a frame house that was incorporated into the home of H. Rus Warne, at 8 Grosscup Road. Another important political figure was Joseph N. Kenna, who lived on Grosscup Road during the 1920's. Kenna was elected to the West Virginia Supreme Court in 1932.
Prominent business figures included William Allen Pugh, who bought W.C. Kelly's house. Pugh was the managing partner of Pugh Furniture Company and vice president of the Union Gas Companies. William C. Kelly, Paul B. Grosscup and Fred Paul Grosscup are described above.
H. Rus Warne, an early Grosscup Road resident and designer of ten houses in the Grosscup Road Historic District, was Charleston's earliest and most important architect. The Boone County Courthouse (206 Court Street, Madison, WV) was designed by Warne and is on the National Register of Historic Places. Many public buildings in Charleston were designed by Warne. Most notable of these are the City Hall (501 Virginia Street), Masonic Temple (107 Hale Street) and Charleston High School (1201 Washington Street East).
The Grosscup Road Historic District is significant as the residential development which resulted from the commercial and industrial boom Charleston experienced in the early twentieth century. The early residents were Charleston's powerful business and political leaders. The houses have been altered minimally over the years. The atmosphere of an early twentieth century neighborhood remains unspoiled.
Interview with Carter Blunden, July 30, 1983.
Charleston City Directories.
Charleston Daily Mail, Kanawha Valley Progress Edition. June 4, 1939.
Interview with Francis Dalkins, Evelind Ernst and Lucille Stark, July 18, 1983.
Interview with Ann McClanahan Davis, August 15, 1983.
Laidley, William S. History of Charleston and Kanawha County. Chicago: Richmond-Arnold Publishing Co., 1911.
Lambert, Oscar D. West Virginia: Its People and its Progress. Charleston: Historical Record Association, 1958.
Permar, Robert, et al, eds. West Virginians. West Virginia Biographical Association, 1928.
Rice, Otis K. Charleston and the Kanawha Valley. Woodland Hills, CA: Windsor Publications, Inc., 1981.
Shawkey, Morris Purdy. West Virginia. Chicago: The Lewis Publishing Co., 1928.
Tipton, J.C. Charleston and its Resources. Issued under the auspices of the Charleston Business and Industrial Association, 1898.
West Virginia: Special Limited Edition. Chicago: The Lewis Publishing Co., 1928.
† Alice Carter, Grosscup Road Historic District, Kanawha County, WV, nomination document, 1983, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.