Two mansions are a blessing

While attending a recent meeting with several state legislators at the Capitol in Charleston, I was reminded of the architectural gems that grace the campus of Davis & Elkins College. This meeting occurred in the Governor’s Conference Room at the Capitol. As I listened to the conversation, my eye wandered to a framed picture on the wall. It looked amazingly like Graceland. Soon I looked to another wall and saw a picture that I was certain was a historical picture of Halliehurst.

Wanting to be courteous, I waited for the conclusion of the meeting to wander over to both pictures for a closer look. Sure enough, in the Governor’s Conference Room in the West Virginia Capitol Building in Charleston, there are two sizable and beautiful pictures of the mansions that adorn the D&E campus. Both pictures date to the time when the families of Senator Henry Gassaway Davis and Senator Stephen B. Elkins inhabited their “summer homes” in the mountains of West Virginia.

As I stared upon these two pictures, I was once again reminded of what a treasure these two historic buildings are for Davis & Elkins College, the city of Elkins and the state of West Virginia. They are a source of pride for all of us.

Many alumni have shared with me their collegiate experiences with these two iconic buildings. Some remember living in them, others taking classes or having choir rehearsals, some recall their theatrical experiences, while others smile as they tell of prying plywood from the windows of a closed building to sneak in and do whatever college students did in days of old … and continue to do in this day.

How thankful I am to the leadership of former President Dorothy MacConkey, the Board of Trustees, and particularly the late Ralph and Mary Frances Shepler for their vision and fortitude to lead the effort to save and renovate these historic buildings. Had they been demolished, it would have been a huge loss to the College, the town, and, as my recent visit to Charleston confirmed, the state of West Virginia.

Every morning that I walk into Halliehurst, where my office is located, I marvel at the surroundings in which I am privileged to work. From the massive wooden front door, to the fresco over the fireplace in the Great Hall, to the rich and detailed woodwork throughout the building, Halliehurst is truly a marvel. Likewise, Graceland always amazes with the two-story view from the main entrance, to the exquisite stained glass, to the view of God’s creation from the veranda. These two mansions are a true blessing.

As President of the College, my commitment to the D&E community is to preserve and treasure the gifts bestowed upon the College by the families of Senators Davis and Elkins, namely Halliehurst and Graceland. They have stood for more than a century as a beacon on the hill, and God willing, they will continue for the next century to link our historic past and our promising future.

The journey continues….


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