The oldest house in wood county

The Phelps-Tavenner House was built around 1798 by Col. Hugh Phelps, making it the oldest brick house in Wood County. It was likely built just a couple of years before the Blennerhassetts’ mansion began construction.


Col. Hugh Phelps and his wife Hannah came to Fort Neal as newlyweds in 1787 with the first settlers. Hannah was the daughter of Capt. James Neal who is credited as the first settler in Wood County. The Phelps-Tavenner House was less than a mile from Fort Neal (Neal’s Station), which was situated on the Little Kanawha River under what is now the East Street Bridge.

Hugh Phelps was a prominent and respected man in his community. When Virginia legislature created Wood County in December 1798, they directed that the justices of the peace hold their first organizational meeting at the Phelps-Tavenner house! That meeting took place on August 12, 1799, with Phelps as the Presiding Judge. Many other meetings of the Wood County Court took place at his home before an official courthouse was built. For that reason, the house is considered to be Wood County’s first courthouse.

In 1806, Phelps was the colonel of the militia. In this house is where Phelps received orders from President Jefferson to arrest Harman Blennerhassett.


After Phelps died in 1823 and his wife in 1824, the house was sold to Thomas Tavenner. Tavenner was a very prosperous and influential man in the community, and at one time, owned 2.5 square miles of southern Parkersburg and other properties in the area and even in Wirt County. His family lived in the house for 118 years!


The other owners of the house were the Nolfs (1942-1951), the Villers, who significantly remodeled the house (1951-1962) and the Lifes (1962-2015). The Wood County Historical and Preservation Society purchased the Phelps-Tavenner House in 2015 to preserve the house and its history for the community and to create the Phelps Tavenner Research Center (PTRC) as a repository of local and family history.


The PTRC is housed in the Resource Barn on the property. It includes an extensive reference collection of local history books, pictures, scrapbooks, maps, files, cemetery records, yearbooks and more. There is also a family history center inside of the main house with information on over 450 families from the area.

The Phelps-Tavenner House and PTRC are open to the public for tours and research on Wednesdays from 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. and anytime by appointment. Call 304-489-1629 or 304-483-9863 to make appointments. For specific historical or family questions, call 304-699-5231. The house is located at 2401 Camden Ave, Parkersburg, WV.