Hidden History: Adaland Mansion

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PHILIPPI, W.Va. – The Adaland Mansion originally took four years to build in 1872. Augustus Modisett, founder and president of Farmer’s Bank in Philippi, owned the property at the time. The property changed hands a few times before Judge Ira E. Robinson purchased it in the 1920s. The judge was the one who gave the mansion the name Adaland after his wife, Ada Sinsel Robinson.

After financial problems caused Robinson to sell the mansion, it was bought and sold a few more times before Anker Energy Company became the owners. The coal company ended up giving the mansion to the City of Philippi along with the barn, the carriage house, and around 20 acres of land for historic preservation. The city enlisted local garden clubs, the Philippi Garden Club and the All Seasons Garden Club, to restore the house in 1996.

Watch Jeannie Mozley, one of the garden members, talk about the restoration process.

The original interior of the mansion included eight bedrooms, two parlors, a living room, a library, a sitting room, a large dining room, and a kitchen. Many of the building materials were found and crafted on site. For example, clay from the land was used to make handmade bricks.

In 1920, the house was remodeled by Judge Robinson to include two bathrooms, a closet in place of one of the bedrooms, and removal of part of the wall between two rooms in order to create a law office. In addition to the door connected to the rest of the house, the office had a door to the outside so that it would be accessible to visitors without having to bring clients into the home area.

Two rooms are only accessible from the outside–a second floor traveler’s room, which now serves as the bride’s room for weddings, and a ground floor breakfast room.

Mozley said that one of visitors’ favorite parts of the mansion is the basement, which would have been the kitchen and servants quarters when the Modisetts built the house. Today, the basement features several antiques to show how people cooked food over a fireplace and made clothes. The basement had three outside entrances so that servants could come and go without disrupting the affairs of the main house.

Watch: Jeannie Mozley explains why she keeps coming back to the mansion, after over 25 years of volunteer service

Judge Ira E. Robinson

Judge Robinson was the most famous person to own the house. He was a classmate of Albert Modisett, Augustus Modisett’s son. According to Adaland: The Historic Restoration by Barbara A. Smith, the two kept in contact until a tragic car accident took Albert’s life in 1935. The friends would write letters to each other, where Albert would express homesickness, but Albert was able to visit Adaland on occasion.

We are all so pleased that our old home fell into the hand of a personal friend who has the pride and the means to keep it up

Albert Modisett, in a letter to Judge Robinson

Robinson was a well-known lawyer who eventually became Chief Justice of the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals. He ran for governor in 1916, but lost by a narrow margin to John Cornwell. After his political career, he became a charter member and chair of the Federal Radio Commission, which later became the Federal Communications Commission.

The Adaland Mansion is available for tours on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Saturday and Sunday tours could be arranged by appointment depending on if there is a private event scheduled. The mansion also holds public events which you can find on their calendar on their website. For more information on events and tours, call the mansion at (304) 516-1124

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