Hidden History: Glenville State College President’s Home

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GLENVILLE, W.Va. — The Glenville State College President’s Home was built more than 90 years ago in 1928 when the college was known as Glenville State Normal School. At the time, the President (then known as the Principal) stayed in the campus dormitory, Kanawha Hall. Architect R.A. Ellis — known for designing the dining hall at Jackson’s Mill — designed the home. Construction took a little over a year to complete, and Principal Rohrbough was the first president to stay in the home.  

Glenville State College’s President’s Home, the late ’30s vs today

“At that time, First Lady Lillian Rohrbaugh helped design different things like a rose garden in the backyard and planting trees around the area. Some of them may still be standing,” explained Jason Gum, Library Director at Glenville State College. 

Just two years after Principal Rohrbough moved in, the school was granted collegiate status and became known as the Glenville State Teacher’s College. The college had a couple of notable visits during that time, including Amelia Earhart and Eleanor Roosevelt. Earhart stayed in the President’s home during her visit, just a few months before her infamous disappearance. 

WATCH: President Manchin explains the role he would like the President’s Home to play on campus.

“[Earhart] gave a speech about feminist values in the 1930s, and how women should not live under their husband’s shadow, and to get out and actually do things and be leaders themselves,” explained Gum. “So a lot of our population here would have been female at the time, simply because we were a teachers education institution.” 

While Eleanor Roosevelt did not stay the night during her visit, she did stop by the President’s home after she also gave a speech on the impact teachers have on the world. 

In the ’50s, during President Harry Heflin’s administration, initial meetings for the West Virginia State Folk Festival took place in the President’s home. The founder of JCPenny stores gave a commencement speech in 1957 and stayed in the president’s house. 

“Everyone thought that he was going to stay one night in the house, and the stories go that he stayed a whole week. I guess he’d planned a vacation in West Virginia,” said Gum. “And so, they made the best of it, and basically the first lady and the president at the time were a host for more than one night.” 

Current President Mark A. Manchin and First Lady Gigi Manchin moved into the President’s home in 2020. Gigi assisted the college’s Physical Plant to renovate the house and its decor now has many historic artifacts and photos, which Jason Gum helped to procure.  

WATCH: President Manchin recalls the story behind the Homecoming Room — which features pictures of Glenville State College’s past Homecoming Queens.

“I’m really proud of the work my wife has done in the design and then color scheme. She came in and saw a vision. I didn’t see it. She came in here and said, ‘We’re going to do this, we’re going to do that,’” Dr. Manchin recalled.  

The Manchins’ plan is to use the home to allow faculty and staff to hold meetings or events. They also want to use it to connect with students. 

“It’s a beautiful house and I’d like to think that it reflects our personality, but most importantly, how important it is to the community, of course, the greater community at Glenville State, and all of the alumni who had the opportunity to come back and visit,” Dr. Manchin explained, “Many people have said how much they love the house…and I was shocked at how many people said they have walked by as students years and years go but had never been in the President’s home, and I’d like to think that our personality is such that we enjoy the company. We enjoy people coming by and visiting and just sitting down and talking, so I just think it’s a great opportunity to share the college campus.” 

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