Harman Blennerhassett, a wealthy Irish aristocrat, settled on the wilderness island in 1798, where he built a magnificent mansion. Designed in the Palladian style (like Mount Vernon), the house contained 7,000 square feet of floor space. Its rooms were furnished with furniture purchased in London and Baltimore, oriental carpets, oil paintings, and porcelain made in Paris. The hardware on some of the interior doors was made of silver. Alabaster lamps were suspended from the ceilings by silver chains. A 2-1/3 acre flower garden and two huge lawns surrounded the house. It was one of the most elegant estates in Virginia and was the most beautiful home west of the Alleghenies.
In 1806, however, Harman became entangled in a mysterious military enterprise with Aaron Burr. As a result, President Thomas Jefferson accused both men of plotting treason in attempting to establish an empire in the Southwest.
photo of the formal dining room at blennerhassett island state parkBlennerhassett fled the island, but was captured and put into the Virginia State Penitentiary. Although Burr was tried and acquitted and Blennerhassett released from prison, the lives of both men were ruined. Interestingly, most historians now agree that Burr had set his sights on northern Mexico for his dominion, today's state of Texas.
The exquisite mansion accidentally burned to the ground in 1811, eventually leaving no trace of its graceful, semicircular lines. However, modern archaeologists rediscovered its foundations in 1973. Through a continuing program of careful historical and architectural research, the mansion has been recreated for visitors to see. Work on furnishing its interior is still in progress.
The mansion is open every day the island is open. General public tickets for mansion tours are purchased at the Island Ticket Booth. Mansion tours meet at the circle in front of the mansion and last approximately 45 minutes. Tours are guided by docents dressed in period correct costumes. Tours go rain or shine.
THE PUTNAM HOUSER HOUSE
Putnam Houser HouseThis house was built in Belpre, OH in 1802. It was moved to Blennerhassett Island by barge in December, 1986. Thanks to the generous help of the Blennerhassett Historical Foundation and the donations of many local benefactors the house is restored and open for tours. Read more
PUTNAM-HOUSER HOUSE TOURS
Putnam-Houser House, also referenced as “Maple Shade” is only open to the public Friday – Sunday. Admission is free and there are no tickets needed. A host(ess) is onsite for greeting and questions.
THE ISLAND BEFORE BLENNERHASSETT
Blennerhassett Island's antiquity spans back to Ice Age hunters 9,000 years ago. Native American tribes lived on the island almost continuously, until white settlers began to flock into the Ohio Valley in the 1780s.
Many artifacts and tools dating to these ancient residents of Blennerhassett Island are on display at the Blennerhassett Museum of Regional History in downtown Parkersburg, at 2nd and Juliana streets.
Blennerhassett Island is a noteworthy historic location for a variety of other reasons. During the 1760s, the famous Delaware Indian, Nemacolin, made the island his home. In addition, it was visited by many renowned figures including George Rogers Clark, King Charles X of France, Johnny Appleseed, Henry Clay and Walt Whitman.