Since its creation in the mid-19th century, the Glenwood Estate has been a West Virginia treasure. Glenwood, the main house, is a solid structure that combines unity of proportion and balance with great attention to detail, making it one of the state’s finest examples of classical Greek Revival architecture. Carefully maintained by the Summers-Quarrier family for over 120 years, the home’s exterior and interior have changed very little over the years, affording a virtual mirror of times past.
Glenwood was built for James Madison Laidley, a lawyer and politician from Parkersburg, West Virginia. Laidley came to the Kanawha Valley as a young man of 20 and founded the Charleston newspaper, The Western Register. A shrewd businessman, Laidley made profitable investments in the booming Kanawha Valley Salt industry. In 1850, for a price of $7,000, he purchased 366 acres of rich farmland near the Elk River in what is now Charleston’s West Side.
Workers labored on the estate for two years, under the direction of English-born stonemason William Preston. The forest echoed with the cracks of axes and calls of “timber” as trees were felled and hauled on horse-drawn carts to the construction site. Bricks were fired in a nearby kiln. The Laidley family watched the flurry of activity from their temporary residence, a two-story brick structure adjacent to the house site. Later called the “Quarters,” it was eventually used as servant quarters and as a kitchen for the main house.
The year 1852 brought proof of Preston’s architectural talent. Standing proudly on a hilltop overlooking the Kanawha Valley, the Laidley’s new home was a 12-room, two-story house with walls the thickness of three bricks. They named it “Glenwood” for the nearby rock-strewn glen cut by a stream that cascaded over what is now Mathews Avenue.
The family was to enjoy the house for only five years. In 1857, Laidley sold Glenwood to George Summers II, for whom Summers County would later be named.
Summers, an active politician who served in both the Virginia Legislature and the U.S. House of Representatives, won acclaim for his passionate speeches in favor of representation for western Virginia during the conflict that would bring about West Virginia’s statehood. A staunch pro-Union advocate, he participated in the Washington Peace Conference held in the spring of 1861, which sought to stem the tide of conflict rising between the north and south. Summers was not unknown to President Lincoln; according to historian W.S. Laidley, the president “contemplated, if not offered the Judge a place on his Cabinet or a place on the Supreme Court.”
Summers married Amacetta Laidley of Cabell County, a cousin of Madison Laidley who built Glenwood. Of their 13 children, only 2 children lived to adulthood. The younger, George Summers III, died of measles after running away from home to join the Confederate army. Lewis II inherited Glenwood upon his father’s death in 1868. He found the large farm too much to manage, and sold all but two acres of the land.
Lucy Quarrier, great-granddaughter of George and Amacetta Summers, lived in Glenwood until her death in 1983. Miss Quarrier was the last of her family to live in the grand old house, and she wished to preserve her cherished childhood home. In 1978, she deeded the estate to West Virginia College of Graduate Studies Foundation. Today, Glenwood is operated by the Historic Glenwood Foundation, successor to the COGS Foundation.