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Sunrise

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1905. 746 Myrtle Road
  • Sunrise

William Alexander MacCorkle (1857–1930) served as West Virginia's ninth governor, from 1893 to 1897, and was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1910. Between those stints, he collected stones and antiques and built Sunrise, where he hosted nearly every notable who came through town.

His mansion stands on a splendid site in South Hills, overlooking the Kanawha and downtown far below. Architecturally, the house is an awkward but earnest attempt to master the then-emerging Colonial Revival style. Each main facade of the two-and-one-half-story, rockfaced stone mansion has a monumental, fourcolumned Doric portico with full entablature and pediment. The inordinately heavy entablatures, correctly detailed with triglyphs, metopes, guttae, and mutules, extend the full width of each facade. Fenestration of the north facade, overlooking the valley, is rigidly symmetrical, whereas the south, or entrance, facade is emphatically not. The south facade is embellished with stones MacCorkle collected on his extensive travels around the country, and each is identified with a carved notation of its origin.

Inside, the two-story, paneled living room, or great hall, occupying the full length of the western half of the house, is focused on a phenomenal stone chimney breast. MacCorkle pilfered the stones, many carved as shields, from such places as the Aurelian Wall, Rome's Colosseum, London Bridge, Newgate Prison, and, closer to home, the Alamo. The governor reinforced his rock collection with furnishings from famous places and houses associated with famous people. One awed guest noted “a prayer chair from Westminster Abby [ sic],… a desk once the property of and used by Charles Dickens,… [and] a chair … the property of Marie Antoinette who had often sat in it.”

The Sunrise Foundation, formed in 1961 to purchase the house, turned it into a museum and art gallery. After the foundation purchased Torquilstone (next entry) it adapted Sunrise as a children's museum. In 2003 the museum moved downtown to the Clay Center, and the future use of Sunrise is, at this writing, undecided.

Writing Credits

Author: 
S. Allen Chambers Jr.

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