Prichard House

Huntington City, Cabell County, WV

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The Frederick Charles Prichard House [†] was designed by an unknown architect and constructed by John J. West. The period of significance is 1921 to 1923 when the house was constructed.

Prichard was born in Grayson, Kentucky on March 1,1871. His father, Lewis Prichard, Jr., M. D. was a prominent physician, banker, and businessman. Dr. Prichard was bom in Kentucky, married in that area and later moved with his wife and young family to Charleston, West Virginia.

At that time, 1884, he became one of the charter members of The Charleston National Bank and four years later became the bank's president. He had a special interest in real estate and soon began acquiring large blocks of West Virginia coal land. Lewis Prichard's second son, Fred, attended Notre Dame, became a civil engineer and entered into business as a coal operator. Soon he was involved in other fuel-related industries, banking, wholesale grocery and several retail businesses. On October 24, 1894, he married Alice Clare Wilson.

In February 1909 the Prichards moved to Huntington, West Virginia. Frederick Prichard and Houghton A. Robson purchased property in downtown Huntington to build an office building. The Cincinnati architectural firm of Elzner and Anderson developed the plans. Their firm is credited with designing the rngails Building, Denton Building, and Children's Hospital in Cincinnati, as well as the Homestead Hotel at Hot Springs, Virginia, and a building on the campus of Berea College in Kentucky.

Prichard took a keen interest in the construction of the Robson Prichard Building. The C. H. Hancock Construction Company of Lynchburg, Virginia was employed as the construction firm. Presently called the Chafin Building, it is a very attractive Beaux-Arts styled symmetrical ten story stone and brick building. It has a tenth floor attic story and a two-story tall ground floor. Its front facade is embellished by a pair of two-story brick five sided colossal applied columns, flanking a pair of central glass and pierced brass first floor doors. Large windows flank the columns and then two large applied brick pilasters finish each corner of the front fa9ade. Pediments, console brackets, round cartouches, wreaths, dental molding, a Greek key pattern and a running bead provide the ornamentation. At the time the building was built it had 175 office spaces, fireproof vaults, combination locks in all offices, vacuum steam heating system, ice water fountains on each floor, hot and cold water in each room, lighting by bottled gas and electricity. The Huntington Banking and Trust Company became the building's first floor tenant with Prichard as the vice president. Later, he became the bank's president.

Most likely encouraged by the fast growing economy and his interest in building, Frederick Prichard started the construction of his small but costly home in 1921. His builder, John J. West, known for his attention to quality and detail, and the Pittsburgh firms of Joseph Home Company and Boggs and Buhl Co., provided the interior finishing, door knobs and bath fixtures. The local Wilson Cabinet Company supervised the interior woodwork. Before completion, it was said that the house cost $300,000. Most likely finished in 1923, the roof unfortunately leaked from the beginning. The silk draperies on the sun porch were ruined at an early date.

The Prichards are known locally for building several other buildings, all reflecting different styles popular in the early twentieth century. In 1923 the Prichards actively began planning their next project, a school for orphans. They had no children of their own and wished to provide a home and education for needy children. It was their plan to build a school and a hotel that would be financially supportive of one another. On April 20, 1924, the Prichard School's board of trustees was established and construction of the school and the hotel soon began. Built on 500 hundred plus acres in Ona, West Virginia, the school opened in 1927. It was a working farm with a herd of pure bred cattle. Children received a scholastic education and training in husbandry.

Again the Lynchburg, Virginia firm of C. H. Hancock Construction Company was employed as the builder. The Prichard School was constructed for $150,000. The architectural firm of Mahood and Van Dusen, from Bluefield, West Virginia drew the plans. It was constructed of native stone taken from quarries on its own land. A completely fire proof three-story building, it has limestone sills and trim, metal casement windows and at one time had a slate roof. Its steep roof has gables, hip-on-gables, multi-level eaves and a curved porte cochere. The chimneys are exterior and interior and the entry porch has three round doorways. The over all effect is one of an English manor house that must have been quite impressive when it stood alone on a knoll. Now the area is crowded by recently built small ranch style homes. The Prichard Hotel, which opened in 1926, was built by architect/builder Henry Ziegler Dietz of Indianapolis. Mr. West, the builder of the Prichard House, was reported to have said that Mr. Prichard gave him such a hard time on the house that he (West) brought in another contractor for the Prichard Hotel. One would wonder if the fact that the residence leaked from the beginning might have been a factor in choosing another builder.

The Prichard Hotel is a simply styled Beaux-Arts building of light stone and brick. Curved window surrounds accent the upper and lower one fourth of the building. Each surround encloses a group of four windows, two over two sash, and is embellished by surface decorative swags. An occasional set of windows, treated in this manner, has a balustrade windowsill. Random appliedpaired Ionic columns decorate the lower fourth of the front fa£ade. The hotel is a mirteen-floor building that once had 300 guestrooms, each with a private bath and an outside exposure. The Prichards planned that the school/farm would support the dining room of the hotel and the hotel would provide funds for the school.

In the early stages, it publicly appeared the plan was successful, but a court house deed shows that Mr. and Mrs. Prichard deeded their beautiful new home to his younger brother in 1926. The Huntington City Directory indicates that the Prichards moved to their hotel, and his brother and family moved from Virginia to live in the house. The house was lovely, but too small. The next income and the coal industry began to decline. A carefully planned program of philanthropy had gone awry. In December of 1928 the Prichards moved to Texas to start anew. " I am just about even," Prichard said according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer. "I have arranged to rent a small Texas farm on credit. I expect to plant some citrus trees. I have no regrets. Business provides some stimulating experiences and I enjoyed all of these during my business career." "The Prichard School is the owner of real estate worth at least $1,500,000 and will develop as has been planned. I expect to come back." Although the Prichards visited the school on many occasions, they did not return to live. From 1927 to 1950 the Prichard house was vacant at times and was also a rental. In 1950 the recently widowed Mrs. Mabel McClintock Ritter purchased the home for $53,000. Her husband, Lloyd Charles Ritter, was a significant leader in Huntington business affairs. He was responsible for the 1926 construction of the Sixth Street Bridge over the Ohio River and the earlier construction of the Frederick Hotel. Huntington's Ritter Park is named for the Ritter family. In 1909, Mr. Ritter gave fifteen acres of land to the city in the early period of the park's development.

Mrs. Ritter refurbished the house, repairing the roof, fence, recanvassing, painting, adding kitchen and butler pantry cabinets and the mirror and trim in her bedroom. She finished the interior of the chicken house and most likely added or enlarged the cedar closet in the attic. By 1960, the roof terrace was covered with a tar paper and gravel roof.

With the death of Mrs. Ritter in August of 1961, Jessie Vaughan Ratcliff purchased the house for $60,000. Her husband Gilbert A. Ratcliff, M. D. was an extremely busy obstetrician who is credited with delivering over 10,000 babies in the Huntington area during his career. He lived to be 101 just a few months short of living in three centuries. The Ratcliffs repaired, cleaned, painted, and refinished the floors in the main house and the guesthouse. Although it was their inclination to leave the property as original as possible, they did cover the copper roof of the sun porch with a rubber roof and remove the tar paper and gravel roof and put down a rubber roof on the roof terrace. In 1992 the rubber roof was replaced with another.

The Italian Villa> or Renaissance style of architecture is not common in the Huntington area although there are a few examples. In 1887 after much controversy and litigation, the county government was moved from Barboursville to Huntington to an Italianate Villa style building on the corner of Ninth Street, at Four and One-half alley. It housed the jail, the city and county government until 1901 when the new county courthouse and city hall were built. Then the building became the Boone Fire Station. This towered, bracketed building with its curved windows and doors has since been razed and no information on the date of construction has been found. An Italianate home built by William Hope "Coin" Harvey and Frank Bliss Enslow in 1874 still stands at 1305 Third Avenue. It has a front curved gable roof, arched and framed windows and doors and brackets and column supports. An Italian Renaissance stone home was built in 1928 on Staunton Road over looking the Ohio River.

Of Mr. Prichard's four building projects, the Prichard School and the house are the most year the brother returned to Virginia. Unfortunately, the hotel did not produce the anticipated similar. The school is a successful combination of English, French and Italian architecture and the house is a splendid example of Italian Renaissance. Both buildings are European in feeling, asymmetrical hi design, of great mass and balance, and have dominant vertical features anchored by their horizontal elements. The roof lines for each structure provides the element that blends their many details into a quiet cohesive whole.


Although stone is not an unusual building material in Huntingdon, the Prichard House is the only granite house in the surrounding residential area. The exterior treatment is also exceptional in that every block was individually cut to correspond with the over all pattern. The quality of its materials and workmanship are remarkable and continues to impress current day architects, builders and craftsmen who have worked on the house. The house stands on its original lot and has had very few alterations or improvements over time. It is a good local example of the Italian Renaissance style of architecture.

&dagger' Ann D. Ratcliff, owner, 1300 1th Street, Huntington, WV 25701, {richard House. nomination document. 2000, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places. Washington, D.C.

Nearby Neighborhoods

Street Names
12th Street


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