The Golden Age estate built by the Vandergrift family awaits its next chapter
On 500 wooded acres in West Virginia, about an hour south of Pittsburgh, a Golden Age estate commissioned by the Vandergrift family awaits a new owner and a new purpose.
Overlooking the Ohio River on a hill in Wellsburg, the 73-room mansion was built c. 1901 at the behest of Joseph B. Vandergrift, son of Jacob J. Vandergrift, a Pittsburgh riverboat captain and financier who lived for a time in the Pennsylvania oil region.
Vandergrift called his summer estate “Vancroft”, but sold it in 1904, starting a chain of owners that included Mount Saint George Land Co. The Knights of Saint George incorporated a care home that remains today, adding 22 rooms to the manor’s 39. . The property, currently held in trust, is listed for $ 3.8 million.
“It’s very cool,” says Jayla Robinson of Paull Associates, the listing agent based in Wheeling, West Virginia. “I joked with my broker that I can now add ‘historical tour guide‘ to my resume. When I screen this place, I tell people to allocate a few hours. You will spend more time in some rooms – they are so detailed. It’s just breathtaking, magical.
Although it has been vacant since the last owner, Gene Valentine, passed away in 2019, utilities are still in use and the property – more recently known as Aspen Manor – has a chalet occupied by tenants. A guard performs the checks and any necessary maintenance twice a week.
The site is closed, so visitors must be accompanied by Robinson, who has answered around 30 calls since registering in late August and has made around a dozen visits. The property could be used as an upscale destination, summer camp, hunting lodge, wedding venue, or other nursing home.
A history of the property compiled by William Earle Brinker – who lived there from 1911, when he was 5, until 1925, when his family returned to Wilkinsburg – has listed 31 buildings and facilities, including a pumping station , a spring house, a corn nursery, an animal enclosure and gas well. Among the structures were a bowling alley, gymnasium, kennel, greenhouse, smithy, power station, five windmills, and a clubhouse where Vandergrift had an office and organized dog and rooster fights in one room. .
During Vandergrift’s ownership, a fire destroyed a rear section of the mansion, according to Brinker. “This damaged section has been rebuilt with some modifications,” he writes. “The water tower has not been rebuilt. The pool was sheltered, but the interior plastering and pool fixtures were never completed. According to the story, the fire was contained by the use of two explosions of dynamite.
During the Brinker family’s ownership, a dairy barn and two silos were also destroyed by a fire caused by an intruder, he notes.
When he lived there, says Brinker, “there was a large rose garden on the southwest side of the mansion. The rhododendrons on the northeast side of the house were beautiful to see in full bloom. The property’s roads were alternately lined with fast-growing poplars and slow-growing maples.
Vandergrift, a horseman, had a figure-eight racing track built on site, but the southern part of the track later became a graveyard, Brinker says. In addition to the gardens, it recalls several orchards, with fruit and nut trees, and a vineyard that the Knights of St. George later enlarged.
Alden & Harlow of Pittsburgh, who designed philanthropic institutions and country houses for prominent families including Andrew Carnegie and the Mellons, drew up the plans for the Vandergrift estate, according to an application form for the National Register of Historic Places submitted in the 1980s.
“Many plans for the mansion and other structures still exist and are carefully stored at Vancroft,” the form reads. It is not clear whether the historic designation has been granted.
“People love history – maybe that’s why it sells,” says Robinson. “When I listed this, it was so private and isolated for so long that a lot of locals didn’t know it was there. There are springs and streams throughout the property, and a few flat, grassy areas. At one point there was [gardens]. “
In addition to the manor house and the connected care home, 10 other structures remain on the site, including a barn, a gazebo, a shed and a workshop. The mansion has a commercial kitchen, a library, a billiard room and a chapel built on the site of a swimming pool. Covering an area of over 54,000 square feet, the estate has a full basement, central air conditioning, electric heating, elevators, public water and sewer.
Much of the furniture remains in both the mansion and the care home, including a Turkish room and a Japanese room. A buyer could include the furniture in the sale.
“Everything is negotiable – you bring in the offer and we go from there,” says Robinson. “Part needs love, but where can you find a usable 500-acre parcel of land? I really grew up to love him. Every time I go there is something that I didn’t notice the first time around, something beautiful.