BOAZ, W.Va - A warm fire in the hearth, hot Wassail, homemade fudge, cookies and a grand Christmas tree welcome visitors to Henderson Hall Plantation during the hall's special holiday tours throughout December.
The hall, at 517 River Road, is open daily from noon to 5 p.m. Special holiday tours will be held from 1 to 7 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday through December.
Tickets for the special tours are $7 for adults and $4 for children. For more information, call 304-375-2129 or 304-485-5446.
John and Grace Lambey of Bridgeport, W.Va. were among those visiting the hall on Friday afternoon.
"We've always intended to stop in. We've been by the house several times," John said.
The couple decided to visit on Friday for Grace's birthday.
"It was wonderful. We love it," Grace said of the plantation following their tour Friday.
"Words cannot describe the house. It's so much more than I expected," John said.
His favorite part of the Victorian-era, Italianate home was the Belvedere overlook on the top of the home. The Lambeys said they hope to return for another visit and will recommend the hall to others.
"This is our big season, as a fundraiser, we did very well last year during the holidays," said Dave McKain, director of the Oil and Gas Museum in Parkersburg and Henderson Hall.
Wrapped in history, the hall is one of the few surviving, intact historic homes in the U.S. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the house was completed in 1859 by George Washington Henderson.
This will be the fifth reincarnation of the holiday tours. Mike Rolston, the former owner and the last Henderson family descendant to reside in the hall, started Christmas tours in 1989 or 1990.
The home contains artifacts and historical treasures preserved through more than 200 years of the Henderson clan, who rubbed elbows with the likes of George Washington, George Mason, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison.
From the Scottish family's arrival in the valley from Virginia, to its part in the West Virginia statehood movement, ties with pioneers and patriots to being a key witness in the Burr-Blennerhassett treason turmoil, the Henderson family played key roles in many of the historic events that shaped the Mid-Ohio Valley.
Archibald Henderson was the fifth commandant of the Marine Corps, one of the longest-serving Marine Corps commandants and technically the first American-born commandant.
Thomas Henderson was a well-known military doctor and minister in the Episcopal Church. He wrote the first written manual on medicine for the Department of the Army in 1820-1830, and he, along with Francis Scott Key, started the first Episcopal Church in Georgetown.
Among documents found at the house are local ballots from the Lincoln-Douglas presidential election, diaries, a letter written by Robert E. Lee to Elizabeth Henderson and original land grants signed by then-Virginia governor Patrick Henry.
Buildings on the grounds include the first Wood County schoolhouse, the oldest in the state; an 1826 carriage G.W. and his wife took to Niagara Falls when they were married. The plantation was once a major horse boarding and breeding farm, breeding standard trotters sold throughout the country for racing, and the family was part of the oil and gas industry boom. There are three Adena Indian mounds that are 2,000 years old. John James Audubon and John Chapman, the legendary frontier missionary and nurseryman known as Johnny Appleseed, were among the many well-known visitors to the plantation.
Long-term plans have been developed for the hall and a major fundraising campaign is in the works. Plans include restoration to its turn of the century grandeur inside and out, development of a research library and artist center and plans for Civil War reenactments and other living history and tourist activities on the property.