Historic Bethany, West Virginia
Steeped in local history
The town of Bethany, West Virginia, is steeped in local history and is an important dimension of Bethany College.
Originally settled in 1769, Bethany had been inhabited by the Mingo and Shawnee nations. The Town of Bethany was given its name by the founder of Bethany College, Alexander Campbell, in 1827 so that a post office could be located here. Campbell then became Bethany’s first postmaster.
When West Virginia received statehood in 1863, Bethany College was its only degree-granting institution in higher education and is the oldest institution of higher learning in the Mountain State.
Campbell’s home, sheep farm, family cemetery, a substantial portion of Campbell’s private library and many 19th century documents were given to the college for preservation and use. Today, the Bethany Historic District is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
A National Historic Landmark
The Campbell Home, home to Bethany College founder Alexander Campbell, was built between 1795 and 1840. This farmstead was home to at least 20 people in the early 1840s and visitors were so numerous that 32 chairs often stood ready in the dining room.
The household gathered for worship twice a day in the old parlor. The cook prepared hearty meals for extended family and guests. Guests in the Campbell home included Jefferson Davis, future president of the Confederacy; James A. Garfield, trustee of Bethany College and future president of the United States; and Judge Jeremiah Black, U.S. attorney general under President James Buchanan.
“Strangers Hall,” with its 19th century French scenic wallpaper, Campbell’s hexagonal brick study, a schoolroom, and gardens still welcome guests today.
Campbell Mansion was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1970 and registered as a National Historic Landmark in 1994.
CHRISTMAN MANOR AT PENDLETON HEIGHTS
Situated on a hilltop overlooking the campus, Pendleton Heights is the oldest building at Bethany College. Through the years, Pendleton Heights has been home to Bethany presidents, faculty, and students. It has served as a welcome venue for U.S. presidents, governors, senators, and congressmen, and it was listed on the U.S. National Register of Historical Places in 1975.
Pendleton Heights was built in 1841, by William Kimbrough Pendleton (1817-99), one of Bethany’s first faculty and the College’s second president. Pendleton is credited with the design of the house and for keeping careful record of all costs and materials. The structure had Gothic architectural additions made in 1872 with funds from Ms. Katherine Pendleton. The renovations gave the residence similar details to that of Old Main.
Bethany College purchased the 9,340 square foot, 20-room house in 1887 from President Pendleton when he retired. Since that time, Pendleton Heights has served as the traditional home of Bethany’s presidents, Deans, and even as a dormitory. The house received significant renovations in 2002 with donations from Dr. Neil Christman 55’.
DELTA TAU DELTA FOUNDERS’ HOUSE
The Delta Tau Delta Founders’ House is one of approximately 16 structures in the Bethany Historic District built prior to the 1860s.
It was here that eight Bethany College students first met in the fall of 1858 to found Delta Tau Delta, a social fraternity. The Bethany group was the principal undergraduate chapter of Delta Tau Delta from 1859-61. After the Civil War, the chapter returned to Bethany but financial difficulties caused the national fraternity to revoke the charter. It eventually returned to Bethany in 1965.
In addition to being the founding house of Delta Tau Delta, during the course of its history, the house has served as a private residence, a boarding house, a teahouse, a display area for Delta Tau Delta national fraternity, and the office of the Heritage Resource Center (later named Historic Bethany).
The centerpiece of the Bethany College campus, Old Main is one of America’s finest examples of collegiate Gothic architecture.
Built in 1858, Old Main includes Commencement Hall, used for concerts, convocations, lectures, dramatic presentations, special functions, dinners and other gatherings. After the Civil War, steps were taken to complete the second wing of the building, which was to be used as a chapel. This became known as Commencement Hall at the time of its dedication in 1871.
At the opposite end of Old Main is Kirkpatrick Hall of Life Sciences, devoted to biology, microbiology and botany laboratories, a greenhouse, faculty offices, labs, library rooms, and conference rooms. Old Main also is the home of the Academic Parlour, used for lectures, receptions, and special gatherings; the Trustee Board Room; Trustee Hall of Fame Room; Office of the Provost; Office of the President; and classrooms.
Restoration work on Old Main began with the exterior during the initial phase in 1976 and continued through 1984.
Society Hall, comprising the east wing, burned in 1879 and was not rebuilt until 1911-12, at which time it was renamed the Earl W. Oglebay Hall of Agriculture. Oglebay Hall was again restored in 1998-99 and renamed Kirkpatrick Hall of Life Sciences.
THE OLD MEETING HOUSE
The Old Meeting House is a church used occasionally for services throughout the year, such as Women’s History Week, but particularly during the summer months, when Bethany Memorial Church conducts services there on Sundays. Visiting religious groups have also used the old church on special occasions.
The church was used for regular worship services from 1851 until 1915 and was a simple, rectangular building without adornments. After the new Bethany Memorial Church was built in 1914-15, the meeting house was only used on special occasions.
Prior to 1900, some maintain that almost 800 ministers were ordained in this church. On commencement each year from the opening of Bethany College until 1955, elders of Bethany Meeting House, professors of Bethany College, and graduating seniors who had committed themselves to the Christian ministry, gathered in the first Bethany Church and later the Bethany Meeting House in the early morning for a service of commitment and ordination.
Choose Your Own Tour
Due to time constraints, areas of interest, etc., our visitors are seeking different aspects of the Bethany experience. Therefore, we have developed a list of available tours, the costs, and the approximate time required. Please contact Historic Bethany to reserve a time. You may pick and choose as you like – a tour a la carte.
There is no charge for unguided tours of the Campbell Cemetery, Old Main and the Old Meeting House.
* Adults and children ages 6-17; children ages 0 to 5 are free *
For reservations, bus groups, meals, advice on lodging or further information contact:
7729 Main Street
Bethany, WV 26032