Council of Independent Colleges Historic Campus Architecture Project


Alexander Campbell Mansion and immediate environs

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Institution Name: Bethany College (WV)
Original/Historic Place Name: John Brown home/Campbell homestead
Location on Campus: Rt. 67 East
Date(s) of Construction:
ca. 1794-1795original construction; original mansion Brown, John
1819addition of Buffaloe Seminary
ca. 1832-1836addition of study Hobs, Louis
1836addition of dog-trot, out-kitchen, dining room, pantry and upstairs farm manager's quarters Campbell, Alexander
1840addition of Strangers' Hall
Designer: John Brown; Louis Hobs; Alexander Campbell
Type of Place: Individual building
Style: American colonial, Gothic revival (Glossary)
Significance: architecture, culture, education, history, religion
Narrative: see below
References: see below
Foundation: sandstone (local) and limestone, fitted together with clay (1794 section); further additions also of local sandstone; Campbell cemetery wall: cut sandstone possibly from grist mills on Buffalo Creek
Walls: clapboard oak siding painted red; beaded clapboard
Roof: Campbell Mansion: standing seam tin on original structure and additions; schoolhouse: standing seam tin; springhouse: channel drain steel; study: standing seam tin replaced with terne coated stainless
1795-1913private residence
1819-1822other (Buffaloe Seminary)
1868-present (2006)outdoor space (cemetery; now burial site for administrators, faculty, and members of the Campbell family)
1913-1920private residence (and Bethany College farm)
1990-present (2006)library (small library and store, as part of Renner Visitor Center)
1990-present (2006)museum (in 2002 became Renner Visitor Center)

The house was built by John Brown circa 1794-1795 and was originally used as his private residence. The original section of the house built by John Brown ca. 1794-1795 faced toward the west and consisted of three rooms on the ground level that were used as a kitchen, a pantry, and a bedroom. This area had a large stone fireplace. The area remains as it was originally. The first floor had three rooms: a parlor and two adjoining rooms to the north of the parlor, one of which may have been a dining room and the other a bedroom. A stairway in the northwest corner of the parlor led from the basement to the second floor. The partition between the two rooms was later removed. The parlor had three doors, four windows, and a fireplace. It now has two doors. A stairway from the parlor of the original structure led to the second floor. Alexander Campbell removed this in 1819. The walls of the parlor were of walnut sections, with a carved wood border shaped by John Brown at the top near the ceiling. Brown also fashioned the fireplace. These features remain unchanged. There was a front porch on the west side of the house. The second floor contained three bedrooms. A piece of the original clapboard found in the attic confirms that the original house was painted red.

Brown deeded the house and 350 acres to his son-in-law, Alexander Campbell, on March 27, 1815, in consideration of one dollar. Campbell was a man who believed that education could make a difference in the building of a new nation. In 1818, he established Buffaloe Seminary for boys of the ages 10-17 in his own home. In December 1822, Campbell closed the seminary and diverted his energies toward the areas of preaching, debate, scholarship, publishing, farming, and political reform. Always an educator, however, he provided for his own children and those of the neighborhood a schoolhouse near the northeast corner of his home. Bethany College, chartered by the Commonwealth of Virginia in 1840, embodied its founder's educational philosophy, which asserted that education must be provided for all members of society. As part of his grand scheme of four institutions in one, which included the family, the school, the college, and the church, he established the Primary and Preparatory Institution for boys between the ages of seven and 15. The college prospered, and graduates of Bethany carried the influence of Campbell with them. More than 200 institutions of higher education and some 200 academies and institutes reflected Campbell's example. Of these, a few still in existence today include Butler University, Texas Christian University, and Drake University. Today, Bethany is the oldest degree-granting institution in West Virginia.

In 1819, Campbell made the first of several additions to the house in when he expanded it to the west in order to accommodate the seminary. He enclosed the front porch and added a hallway where the porch had been, along with a large classroom on the first floor and an upstairs dormitory. When the seminary closed in December 1822, Campbell divided the classroom and created a master bedroom and a dining room on the first floor. Bedrooms for his family were created on the second floor where the dormitory had been. On March 28, 1820, John Brown deeded another 136 acres on Buffalo Creek to Alexander Campbell for $100.00. With the establishment of a postal district on June 2, 1827, the name Buffaloe, Virginia, had to be changed to Bethany. Alexander Campbell was the postmaster and his home, Bethany House, served as the post office. Campbell added a brick section in 1836 to enlarge the dining room and to create a pantry and upstairs farm office. A dogtrot and out-kitchen were also added circa 1836. In 1840, he added a guest wing with a formal parlor and two bedrooms, known as Strangers' Hall, to the west wing. The mansion was host to a number of distinguished guests, including James A. Garfield, trustee of Bethany College, president of Hiram College, and future president of the United States; Judge Jeremiah Black, U. S attorney general under President James Buchanan; statesman Daniel Webster, a strong Federalist from New England; Walter Scott, evangelist and one of the founding fathers of the Disciples; John C. Calhoun, a noted states' rights advocate from South Carolina; socialist Robert Owen; Jefferson Davis, future president of the confederacy; and Henry Clay, the Great Compromiser from the West who negotiated the Missouri Compromise.

On July 13, 1946, the Campbell Historical and Memorial Association, who had been deeded the house by Earl W. Oglebay, transferred to Bethany College the rights to the house, grounds, and personal property contained therein. Bethany College and the Disciples of Christ Historical Society assumed joint management and control and formed the Campbell Home Committee, which was responsible for restoration and preservation of the Campbell home. The farm was deeded to Oglebay's grandson, Courtney Burton, on March 26, 1951. On April 21, 1952, Burton deeded the farm to Bethany College, and by February 26, 1954, Bethany College had full ownership of all of the Campbell property. The Campbell Home Committee undertook restoration of the exterior and interior of the home between 1954 and 1963 and installed a caretaker. In 1984, the Heritage Resource Center was established at Bethany College to oversee the home and coordinate interpretive tours. On July 4, 1990, the newly restored Campbell Mansion was dedicated, thanks in large part to a gift of $410,000 from the estate of Hazel Campbell, whose husband, Robert Miller Campbell, was a grandson of Alexander Campbell. Part of the restoration included removal of the apartment that had been installed in the wing where the dogtrot and out-kitchen were located. Construction for the 1989-1990 restoration was done by Brown, Eichman, Dalgleisch, Gilpin, &Paxton of Charlottesville, Virginia. In 1992, a Landscape Documentation and Restoration Study was conducted, and in 1994 a plan was executed to begin restoring the landscape as it would have been circa 1840. In 1993, the Heritage Resource Center was renamed Historic Bethany, and in 1994, first floor rooms were renovated to depict the rooms as they would have looked in 1840. The Campbell Mansion was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1994.

The Campbell Mansion is designated as a museum and is used by Historic Bethany to conduct tours and to provide historic interpretation and lectures for visitors. Since its restoration in July 1990, approximately three thousand annual visitors have made the pilgrimage to tour the Campbell historic sites. The Renner Visitor Center was completed in the spring of 2002 to provide a comfort station for visitors, offices for Historic Bethany staff, and a viewing room for visual programming and interpretation. There is also a small library and a store for the sale of relevant material and memorabilia. The study, schoolhouse, and cemetery are included in the interpretive tours. The springhouse is viewed from the exterior only. The Old Bethany Meeting House and Old Main are also offered as part of the Historic Bethany tours. God's Acre is still used as a burial site for Bethany College administrators and faculty, as well as members of the Campbell family.


Charleton, James H. Campbell Mansion [Bethany College (WV)]. National Register of Historic Places designation report. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Interior/National Park Service, 1970.

Carney, Brent. Bethany College. Charleston, SC: Arcadia Publishing, 2004.

Power, Frederick D. The Life of William Kimbrough Pendleton, LL.D., President of Bethany College. St. Louis: Christian Publishing, 1902.

Woolery, William Kirk. Bethany Years: The Story of Old Bethany from Her Founding Years through a Century of Trial and Triumph. Huntington, WV: Standard Printing and Publishing, 1941.


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Last update: November 2006