Morris Harvey, the Person
Morris Harvey, born in 1821, led a long prosperous life in Fayette County, West Virginia and was one of the county's most outstanding citizens. Harvey, a Confederate Veteran, was a famous banker, churchman and sheriff of Fayette County. He was also president of the Continental Divide Gold and Silver Company.
Harvey had made a fortune by buying up acreage along the New River and Loup Creek in Fayette County, land others considered unusable. He then convinced the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway to build a line through the New River Gorge to develop southern West Virginia's coalfields. When the railroad was completed, Harvey's previously worthless riverfront property provided the only access to the mines of the New River Gorge.
Like many other wealthy 19th-century entrepreneurs, Harvey became a philanthropist late in life, donating large sums of money to various groups and institutions. One such institution, the University of Charleston's beginnings can be traced to Barboursville Seminary in the former Cabell County Courthouse. The seminary opened in 1888 but struggled financially. By 1900, the school was faced with closing its doors but businessman Morris Harvey came to the rescue. Morris Harvey and his wife Rosa, devout Methodists, helped the Barboursville Seminary pay off its outstanding debts. To thank the Harveys, the seminary's trustees renamed the school Morris Harvey College.
The Harveys also donated $100,000 for a new campus to be located in Charleston. However, Morris Harvey died in Fayetteville on April 2, 1908 at the age of 87 before seeing the move take place. Twenty-seven years later, in the fall of 1935, school president Leonard Riggleman finally moved the college to Charleston, offering its first classes at the Kanawha County Library. Harvey's dream of a Charleston campus wasn't realized until 1947, when the school moved to its present site opposite the State Capitol along the Kanawha River. The college's name was changed to University of Charleston in 1979, but the school still honors its early benefactor with the Morris Harvey Division of Arts and Sciences.
The Morris Harvey House
The Historic Morris Harvey House was built by R. H. Dickinson and completed in 1902 for Morris and Rosa Harvey. This 3-story, 14-room Queen Anne-style house has five guest areas, seven fireplaces and two antique bathrooms with clawfoot tubs and water closets.
One of the first homes in town to have running water, this house was equipped with an elaborate water gathering system. Rain water was caught running down the roof and directed into an 800 gallon copper cistern which is still located on the second floor.
After the death of Morris Harvey, the house stayed in the Harvey family until 1931. From 1931 to 1953, it served as the parsonage for Methodist ministers. For the next 40 years, there were various owners.
In 1993, the house was purchased by Elizabeth Bush and her husband George Soros. Under their ownership, the house went through extensive renovations, including the restoration of the seven original oak fireplaces with Italian tile. Since 1994, the house has served as a bed and breakfast inn. The inn is currently owned by Bernie J. Kania Jr. and his family. They continue the high standard of customer service that is a trademark of the Historic Morris Harvey House.
The Morris Harvey House has been placed on the Register of Historic Places by the Department of Interior and has appeared in numerous newspaper and magazine articles, including the book "Historic Inns of West Virginia".