A restored Mannington B&B celebrates its 100th anniversary this year.
Gloria Cunningham always liked old homes. On work trips, she’d stay in bed and breakfasts, admiring the charm of the old structures and the hospitality she’d wake up to each morning. So when a friend mentioned that an old, empty house was for sale in Mannington, she went to take a look—and ended up with a new project.
The house had sat empty for six years. “There was wallpaper everywhere, even the ceiling,” Cunningham says. “There was old carpet on the floors. On the porch ceiling, all the boards were coming down. But once I saw it, I could see the vision.”
After purchasing the house in 2009, Cunningham spent five years incrementally making repairs and renovations. She pulled down the wallpaper, tore out the carpet, and buffed up the original wood floor. At the time, she was still living in her hometown of Farmington and commuting back and forth to Charleston for her job at the state Department of Education.
When Cunningham finally opened the Rhododendron House in October 2014—so named for the fabric she used for the curtains in the sun and dining rooms, and for the fledgling flower bush outside—the structure was returned in many ways to its original charm.
Harry Haught, then-president of the First Exchange Bank in Mannington, built the house in 1919. One of the early Sears Catalog homes, parts were shipped in on the local rail. Most of the original fixtures still remain, from the beveled glass French doors to the coffered ceilings to the ornate sconces.
The Rhododendron House has three rooms for guests, a sunroom, a library, dining and lounge area, and a pleasant front porch that draws guests in the summer.
Though she loved fixing up the old house, Cunningham’s favorite part of her relatively new role as a bed and breakfast proprietor is playing the host. She’s hosted guests from as far away as Australia and the United Kingdom. “The people you meet, they’re fun and they have stories to tell,” she says. “And people appreciate what you do. I try to accommodate if they left their charger at home, or if they need an iron or ironing board. Little things.”
In the spirit of accommodation, Cunningham lets guests decide when they’re ready for breakfast , and makes sure to check with guests about their dietary needs. She keeps a variety of breakfast options on hand but loves to serve a cream cheese-stuffed French toast with a side of fresh fruit.
Cunningham also offers the Rhododendron House up for events. So far, she has hosted a few Christmas parties, a baby shower, and some luncheons. She’s considering hosting a party of her own in the fall, to mark the house’s centennial.
But you don’t need to be a paying guest to get a look at the Rhododendron House. “Even if people just come by to look—that’s okay too,” Cunningham says. “I love showing it off and talking about it.”
306 Mead Avenue, 304.216.2622, rhododendronhouse.com
written by Emilie Shumway
photographed by Carla Witt Ford