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An Island Visit

Paddle Wheel trip to Blennerhassett Island Historical State Park


Parkersburg, WV was my destination today. While my car is being repaired I have been taking day trips in my rental car to points of interest in this region. The City of Parkersburg (pop. 35K), the 3rd largest in WV, lies at the confluence of the Ohio & Little Kanawha Rivers and is just across the river from the State of Ohio. It has an interesting past so I decided to learn more about it.
It was a beautiful Sunday morning and I learned that the paddle boat trip to Blennerhasset Island left each half hour. Arriving in town about 11:00 am I followed my GPS to the Blennerhassett Museum to purchase my ticket. About two blocks away from the museum I happened to notice the Blennerhasset Hotel, a beautifully restored Queen Anne-style brick building having been built in 1880. It was meal time so I decided to stop for lunch. Sunday Brunch was their only offering so I accepted. It was a delightful experience for it was very civilized both in decor and in cuisine. All very good.
From there, I proceeded to the museum then to the boat, a short two-block walk to water's edge where we boarded. The leisurely half-hour cruise to the island was fun. Once there, we saw, in all it's glory this beautiful mansion, a likeness to Mount Vernon in VA.
The Blennerhassetts, an Anglo-Irish couple with ties to the British aristocracy, sold their country estate in Britain and ventured to 'romantic' America to build an estate on the edge of the wilderness. They found their dream by purchasing in 1798 an island overlooking the Ohio territory, part of what would soon become (1803) the Louisiana Purchase. They built this mansion, then one of America's largest homes along with a farm, slaves, cattle, etc. It became known far & wide and anyone of any importance visited the Blennerhassetts who entertained them in European 'high style'. Aaron Burr was one of their visitors and he befriended them. Aaron Burr, as you recall, shot & killed Alexander Hamilton in a pistol duel. He also served as Vice President under President Thomas Jefferson in his first term. Burr, a man of ambition, conceived the idea of creating his own nation out of the Louisiana Purchase land, specifically the Spanish portion. He convinced Harmon Blennerhassett to join him and promised a Lordship title in the new nation. Of course, Blennerhasset's wealth was a part of the scheme. Burr recruited a small army and trained them on the island. Word of this got back to President Jefferson and he sent Federal troops to squash the treasonous act. Burr & Blenderhassett fled but were arrested and tried for treason. Eventually, they were acquitted on misdemeanor charges, but the abandoned mansion estate was plundered in their jailed absence. It was burned by unknown causes in 1811 and later the State of WV foreclosed on the property and assumed ownership. In the 1980's, the State, under the leadership of the 'King of Pork', Senator Robert Byrd, who served in Washington, DC from 1953-2010 ( 57 yrs.), decided to rebuild the Blennerhasset Mansion on its original foundations and make the island into a Historical State Park. It opened in 1991 and hosts 50K visitors each year. The history, the romantic story, the connection to Aaron Burr, and the beauty of the mansion and its grounds all make it an attraction.
I enjoyed my visit there very much.

Posted by dixter 07:13 Archived in USA Tagged island visit an

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