Blennerhassett Island is one of my favorite places on earth. Blennerhassett is a small island in the Ohio River and the way there is via a stern wheeler riverboat from Parkersburg, West Virginia.
The island is operated as a state park for recreation and tours of a reconstructed mansion but what makes it truly special is the history of this place
You see, the island was settled in 1789 by Harman and Margaret Blennerhassett. As wealthy Irish aristocrats, they built what became known as the most beautiful home in the West. Remember, back then this area was vast wilderness.
The island gained national attention in 1806 when the Blennerhassetts allowed Aaron Burr to make it headquarters for his military expedition into the southwest. This decision was the beginning of the end of the idyllic life they had built for themselves.
That’s because this is where the Burr conspiracy was born. They are suspected to be involved in a treasonous plot to create a new country. There has been a fair amount of academic research and writing about this footnote in American history. If you’re a musical fan, you might know about Burr from the Broadway musical Hamilton.
Things came to a head for the Blennerhassetts when the Ohio governor became suspicious of the stockpile of weapons and growing numbers of men on the island. The state militia raided the island and the Blennerhassetts were forced to flee. They never returned to their home which was burned in 1811.
This is the 30,000 foot view of this historic series of events but there is so much more to know. You can learn these stories and more if you visit.
As I mentioned, the house was burned but not before the Ohio Militia and lots of souvenir seekers took what they wanted of the beautiful possessions the family had accumulated here.
Archeologists discovered the original foundation and the State of West Virginia began reconstructing the home in 1984. It was finished in 1991.
My earliest memories of visiting here as a kid involve a tour of the outside of the house. The interior wasn’t finished but someone would walk you around the exterior and tell the story.
Today the inside tours offer a glimpse of how these aristocrats lived. You can also see some artifacts that actually came from the home, salvaged by lookie loos all those years ago.
You can take a wagon ride tour, rent bicycles or just go for a walk. There’s a snack stand with simple foods like sandwiches, drinks and ice cream but you’re welcome to pack a picnic and take advantage of the outdoor picnic areas.
I have toured the home plenty over the years but my favorite thing here is to take the wagon ride. Don’t miss out on that.
Back on the mainland, where you buy your tickets and catch the ferry, the Blennerhassett Museum gives you more about the family and the island as well many more artifacts, artwork and technology that tell important stories.
Want to learn more about this place? Click here for more!
You do find the coolest places! Completely news to me. I wonder what they based the reconstructed interior on.
There was a good bit written about the home in the day including a story that described the staircase, wallpaper and the layout of some rooms. People who visited wrote about it as well since it was the finest home many of them had seen. I think it also involved educated guessing. Mind you, they used modern materials and techniques so they started out with a degree of inaccuracy. All the same, it’s pretty incredible as it feels authentic.