The Page Vawter House at Ansted is a Fayette County landmark, which is as treasured for its beauty as it is for its history. The site of the stately mansion from Hwy 60, even while it is deteriorated state, caused people to stop, take pictures and pause to imagine its beauty in its prime. It was the dream home of a man as impressive as the house itself.
The man was WIlliam Nelson Page who was born near Rustburg, Virginia in 1854. After completing his education in engineering at the University of Virginia, Page went to work for the Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad. The railroad sent Page to West Virginia several times while it was completing its historic line through the New River Gorge. On one of these trips, Page struck up a friendship with the noted English geologist and surveyor, David Ansted.
Page was engaged by the British owned Hawks Nest Coal Company to engineer the construction of a narrow gauge railroad spur from the town of Ansted, down the New River Gorge, to the main line of the C&O Railroad. Page impressed his new employers by completing this major engineering feat both faster and more cheaply than they had anticipated. He soon became recognized as an important man to know. Legend maintains that it was Page who convinced millionaire Henry H. Rogers to build the Virginian Railway from Deepwater, West Virginia to Tidewater, Virginia. Fact remains Page service the railway as its chief architect and first president.
By 1878 Captain Page was appointed by the Board of Directors of the Hawks Nest Coal Company to serve as the company manager. He led that company through a period of enormous growth until 1884 when it was reorganized as the Gauley Mountain Coal Company. In 1890, the Gauley Mountain Coal Company built an elaborate mansion for its president and general manager on a knoll in the town of Ansted. It was a structure whose beauty would capture the eyes and imagination of viewers for over a century.
The house was originally built in an L-shape which was laid on a cut stone foundation. It is a two story frame structure which features a two and one half story gabled pavilion centered on the front. One of the most striking features of its design is the expansive wrap around veranda supported by bracketed columns. The structure is further enhanced by fifty-two, eight foot tall, double hung windows and five high, capped, and paneled brick chimneys.
No expense was spared on the interior of the house. Inside are 15 room, plus a dressing room and butler's pantry. Every room in the house is oak paneled with wainscoting. The woodwork includes door and window facings of solid walnut and floors of oak. Eleven fireplaces were included to heat the spacious mansion. Each fireplace has a ceramic tile hearth and carved Victorian mantel of cherry, oak and walnut. The originality and grace of its design has served to make the home one of the foremost landmarks in south central West Virginia.
In 1917, Page retired and moved to Washington, D.C. The mansion was still owned by the Gauley Mountain Coal Company. At that time the coal company divided the house in two, adding an additional staircase and removing the original kitchen and servant staircases, as well as adding two additional rooms. After it had stood empty for several years, the company offered it to Captain John Vawter who managed the company store in Ansted. As a trusted friend and employee of Page for over forty years, Vawter was very familiar with the house. He and his family initially rented half of the house. Mr. Vawter made it his home until his death in 1928. After his death the house remained with his son and daughter, Eugene and Julia Vawter, neither of who ever married. The two siblings eventually purchased the home in the 1950's. Julia, who out lived her brother remained in the house until her death in 1983. Miss Julia's nephew, David Fox, had moved in to to help care for his aunt. After the death of Miss Julia, David purchased his siblings interest in the house and remained there until his death in 2005.
It has been a strong, graceful presence in the town of Ansted for 120 years. There is no reason this magnificent home shouldn't stand for another 120 years!