Merging the past with the future, Parkersburg has always been known for its rich history. One piece of that history was donated to the Foundation at WVU Parkersburg.
The Stephenson mansion, also known as Oakland, has been part of Parkersburg for 183 years and the Foundation is hoping for 183 more.
On Tuesday, December 29, 2015 WVU Parkersburg Foundation accepted Oakland, a mansion built by James Stephenson in 1832. The Foundation was not only given the home, but everything inside, with many items dating back to the 1800’s. The gift also included the six acres it sits on at 1131 Seventh Street and the home’s mascot, Bartholomew, a rescue dog that belonged to Betty Lutz before her passing.
This exquisite gift was donated to the Foundation by Stephenson’s great-great grandson, John Lutz and his wife, Pamela. Lutz received offers to buy the property, but most of those plans involved tearing the house down and that is not what he wanted. He looked to other avenues to see what could be done with the home and that is what led him to the Foundation. They decided on the WVU Parkersburg Foundation after consulting with numerous historic groups in the area. Several people in local historic preservation organizations thought the college would be a great fit to carry on their ancestral home, according to the Foundation.
The Foundation’s goal is to use Oakland to develop more resources for the college. According to Randy Law, President of the Foundation’s Board of Directors, the job of the foundation is to raise money for the college. His belief is that Oakland will do just that.
Though the structure is in remarkable condition, all of the heating, cooling, plumbing and electric need to be upgraded to meet building codes for a non-residential facility.
The Thrasher Group out of Bridgeport W.Va., was hired by the Foundation for all architectural and engineering services. The board interviewed numerous groups and selected the Thrasher Group based on their knowledge and experience with upgrading historic structures for modern use.
This may sound expensive but, to help with all of this, Stephenson’s great-great granddaughter and John Lutz’s sister, Katherine Lutz Coppock, established the Oakland fund. This fund will help the foundation preserve the building and prepare it for public use.
After all the renovations are completed, the Foundation plans on turning the home into an alumni center as well as enhancing the college’s academic functions. “There are opportunities for academic work at the site including history, economics and business,” Senta Goudy, executive director of the WVU Parkersburg Foundation and WVU Parkersburg Vice President of Institutional Advancement said. Goudy also commented that there is a lot of potential at Oakland and they were not closing the door on any ideas.
That being said, Goudy wants to reassure students that Oakland is owned by the Foundation, not the college, so tuition and fees will not be affected with the gift that was made to the Foundation. The funds for maintenance and upkeep will be taken from the Oakland Fund and donations and gifts from the community.
The development of Oakland is not dependent on student enrollment. “The college works very hard to provide a quality education for our students. Tuition and fees are established to help support that education, but the tuition and fees do not cover the entire cost of that education. Tuition and fees accounted for 23 percent of the WVU Parkersburg budget in 2015. The college depends on an allocation from the State of West Virginia, grants, and support from the foundation to provide the resources to pay faculty and staff, maintain the facility and provide student support services,” Goudy said.
The Foundation’s business plan for Oakland is designed to help the college bring in more revenue, enhancing student academic experience and will connect with the community.
Students can now breathe easy knowing that tuition and fees will not be raised because of Oakland. The mansion will be a place of great pride for the college, the students and the community.
by Amber Deeter