By Ben Crookshanks
Bed and breakfasts are charming old houses, usually large two-story (in many cases, three-story) buildings which have been restored to their original grandeur and equipped with modern conveniences. Many of these houses were built during the Guilded Age, which stretched roughly from the end of the Civil War to after World War I. This was a time when there was no income tax and some individuals acquired vast fortunes. It was customary, at that time, if you had it, you flaunted it. Mark Twain, the man who named the age, was on a first name basis with several millionaires. His income was nowhere near theirs. He almost went bankrupt trying to keep up with them.
When you see a bed and breakfast, it is safe to assume the original owner was a wealthy and influential resident. Occasionally it will be the home of a local historical figure. The Morris Harvey House in Fayetteville is one of those.
Morris Harvey was an interesting character. If there was ever an individual who lived a full life it was Harvey. He was born in 1821 in Raleigh County near the present day town of Prosperity outside of Beckley. At the time, Raleigh County was still part of Virginia.
Harvey was a banker, churchman, coal operator, Confederate soldier during the Civil War and served two terms as sheriff of Fayette County. In fact, he has the distinction of being the only man to serve as sheriff while Fayette County was part of Virginia and again when it became part of the new state of West Virginia.
Over his lifetime, he amassed a large fortune, mainly from coal. He was also president of the Continential Divide Gold and Silver Company. Morris Harvey had no descendents and in his later years, he gave away a large portion of his fortune. One donation he made ensured his immortality. Barboursville College was failing when his generous contributions saved it. After he passed away in 1908, the college was renamed Morris Harvey College in gratitude for his generosity. In 1989, it was incorporated as the Morris Harvey College of Fine Arts within the University of Charleston.
The three-story Morris Harvey was finished 1902. It had seven fireplaces and a unique and elaborate rain gathering system. The rain flowed into an 800 gallon copper holding tank on the second floor. The indoor cistern supplied water for the house which was the very first in the area with indoor plumbing.
Harvey was only able to enjoy his dream home for six years. After his death, the house would change hands eight times. For a number of years, it belonged to a local church and was the ministers residence. It had been standing empty for a number of years and in pretty sad shape when the current owner, Elizabeth Bush and her husband purchased it in 1993.
It was a lot of work, but the old house has been restored to its Victorian splendor and a few modern amenities added. The Rosa Suite on the first floor features a fireplace, full antique brass bed and furnishings, connecting full bath complete with antique shower, brass-footed tub and air conditioning.
The Grand Suite on the second floor features a full bay window with antique day bed enclosed with fretwork and stained glass. Furnishings include a queen size cannonball bed, fireplace and full bath.
The Harvey Room on the second floor offers a full antique bed, fireplace, half bath within the room with a full antique bath including a brass footed tub and shower right down the hall.
The Loft on the third floor features two separate bedrooms, each with a full antique bed. This room is air-conditioned and has a full bath.
If you would like to learn more about Morris Harvey Guest House, call Elizabeth Bush at 304-574-1902.