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Stifel Fine Arts Center (Edemar)

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1910–1912, Charles W. Bates. 1330 National Rd. (west corner of the intersection of National Rd. and Cypress Ave.)
  • (West Virginia Collection within the Carol M. Highsmith Archive, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division)

Wheeling architect Charles W. Bates referred to himself as an architect and engineer, and the November 1912 issue of Ohio Architect identified him as a “specialist in the design and supervision of reinforced concrete construction.” With that in mind, one can appreciate his design for this large brick mansion, or at least try to understand it. A monumental Corinthian portico extends across the facade, overwhelming everything behind it. Deeply fluted columns seem to support a full entablature and brick parapet, but the intercolumniation is far broader than classical proportions, not to mention anyone's comfort level, dictate. Not to worry. The columns are terra-cotta over concrete with steel innards, bolted into the steel framing of the porch ceiling, which, in turn, is riveted to the steel frame of the house. The exterior trim, including the elaborate doorframe, is terra-cotta.

Edward W. Stifel, president and chairman of the board of J. L. Stifel and Sons, at one time one of the country's largest producers of calico cloth, insisted on fireproof construction throughout. Bates accommodated his client with concrete-enclosed steel I-beams that support poured concrete subfloors. Wooden parquet floors cover the subfloors except in the hall, where marble is used. The house contains some thirty rooms, and interior decorations are on the lavish side. A stained glass window depicts two versions of a castle that overlooked the family's ancestral village of Neuffen, Germany. One view shows it in ruins; the other represents the artist's conception of how the castle would once have looked. An elaborate call-bell system remains, while various basement rooms designated as fur storage, trunk storage, and wine cellar illustrate the “upstairs-downstairs” nature of a proper Edwardian establishment.

After the builder's widow died in 1976, the family deeded Edemar (a contraction of the names of their three children) to the Oglebay Institute to become the Stifel Fine Arts Center. Because of the solid, fireproof construction and because the property had been well maintained over the years, few changes were necessary to bring it up to code for its new, more publicly oriented use. Its current incarnation seems most fitting for a house that has always appeared more institutional than domestic.

Writing Credits

S. Allen Chambers Jr.

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