ELKINS, W.Va. -- On Sept. 1, we will have our chance -- those of us who have passed through Elkins, heading north on U.S. 33 to Canaan Valley or south on U.S. 219 to Snowshoe -- a rare chance to look inside the stately brick mansion that sits at the crossroads.
The Kump House and Farm will be open to the public for the first time during an all-day event that will feature food, traditional music, a pie auction and historical impersonators.
"Activities include tours of the historic home," a flier says, "which appears as it did when Eleanor Roosevelt visited Gov. and Mrs. Kump in the 1930s."
Well, not quite. Yes, much of the original furniture, rugs, lamps and artwork are still there. But the Kump house has no heating or water. Plaster is peeling from the walls and ceilings in most of its 26 rooms, where the musty smell of dampness lingers.
"Preservation is an ongoing process," said Heather Biola. "When you let it sit, there's 50 years of worth of work to do."
Biola is the coordinator of the Kump House Project for the city of Elkins, which owns the house. She also is a granddaughter of Herman G. Kump, who served as governor of West Virginia from 1933 to 1937.
Growing up in Elkins, she has memories of visiting her grandparents for Sunday dinners, and she can point out what bedroom belonged to what aunt or uncle.
"Halloween was the most fun. Granddaddy's birthday was on Halloween. There would be a big family dinner."
Biola also knows how to open the secret drawers in several bedroom dressers. "People didn't trust the banks then," she explained. "They had to hide their money."
It was during President Franklin Roosevelt's term that the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. was created and the Glass-Steagall Act was passed. Now, with the repeal of the part of the act that separated commercial and investment banking, Biola says the accomplishments of the New Deal are under fire.
Many political issues, such as Social Security, are the same then as now, said Biola. Hence the theme of this Labor Day weekend event, "New Deal at the Crossroads." "We're at a crossroads; we have to make a decision," said Biola.
"Herman Guy Kump was the man of the hour at the time of the worst economic crisis in West Virginia history," wrote John G. Morgan in "West Virginia Governors." Morgan credited Kump with guiding "the state from the brink of financial ruin to high, solid, fiscal ground."
"To Democrats at least, he was to the state what Franklin D. Roosevelt was to the nation. He was the New Deal, West Virginia style."
Unlike Roosevelt, Kump could serve only one term. He did accompany FDR when the president visited the Forest Festival while campaigning for re-election in 1936. There's a photograph in the music room of a Queen Sylvia shaking the president's hand with Kump smiling in the background.
"I've never met a president before," said the pretty, young girl. The president was overheard to reply, "Well, I've never met a queen before."
The Kump family knew Eleanor Roosevelt much better. She visited more often because nearby Dailey was part of a homestead community she founded in West Virginia.
Kump was a lawyer and banker in Elkins, where he served as mayor, prosecuting attorney and circuit judge. He was 48 when he employed Washington, D.C., architect Clarence Harding to design the Neo-Federal Revival house in 1924.
Biola said Kump needed a large house for his family of six children plus other young relatives who lived with the family. There wasn't much money left over to furnish the house.
George Latham, a well-known furniture maker from Buckhannon, made many of the beds, tables and dressers still in the house. Although they are unsigned, Biola said it's obvious which are his: the solid, sturdy walnut pieces with spindle legs and posts rather than the curved arms and legs of commercially made furniture.
After Kump's death in 1962, his youngest daughter bought out the other heirs, but she rarely lived in the house. Biola said her aunt, Mary Gamble Kump, taught at military dependents' schools in Europe and, for 16 years, in the Philippines. When she retired to Elkins, Biola said her aunt confined her living quarters to a few rooms that she kept heated.
Mary Gamble Kump died in 2008, leaving Elkins the house to be used for educational purposes and the property to provide a place to develop good citizenship for children and youth.
While bank trustees exercised due diligence in settling the estate, public meetings were held to decide the fate of the Kump house, which had been put on the National Register of Historic Places 25 years earlier. It was decided that the mansion would serve "as a center for educators to improve and support the success of West Virginia students for the 21st century."
Biola said the Kump Center has received four grants totaling $250,000 from the State Historic Preservation Office. The first grant was to the Mills Group for a plan on how to adapt the house into a center over a 10-year period.
The second grant went to replace the asbestos-laden roof, and the third paid for much needed masonry work.