Renovations moving along on Smith mansion

CHESTER – Fourteen months ago, the C.A. Smith home in Chester was looking less like a historical landmark and more like history.

The porch was in danger of falling in, the staircase leading from the second to the third floor was nonexistent and the front stairs were crumbling.

Then the Fox family, owners of the Orchards at Foxcrest retirement community, bought the home and pledged to restore it.

“There have been a lot of years of neglect,” Jim Fox stated last year. “It’s a solid structure; it just needs some TLC.”

“The C.A. Smith house is an important part of Chester’s history,” Scott Fox said. “Our family wanted to secure the future of the house and ensure the home would be there for future generations to enjoy.”

The 6,000-square-foot house, which used to overlook Rock Springs Park and the Taylor, Smith & Taylor pottery, is being renovated for development into a historical inn that will serve the Chester area, the Fox family said in a news release.

The as-yet-unnamed inn will feature seven bedrooms, a dining room, a parlor and a library. Workers are taking care to restore the things that are salvageable and improve the things that are beyond repair.

“We are trying to renovate the home to its original condition, save as much as we can, while updating the electrical, fire safety and security systems,” Jim Fox said.

In addition to electrical upgrades, the house is getting a new kitchen, a state-of-the-art sprinkler system, and handicapped-accessible restrooms and entrances, the family said. The seven guest rooms also will be available for special events.

General contractor Shamrock Construction, owned by George McIntosh, also is taking pains to replace the porch ceiling and restore the exterior wood siding to its original condition. When workers removed the home’s modern siding, they were surprised to discover what is believed to be the original wood siding.

Inside, renovation plans include restoring the original wood floors, retaining the original marble fireplace, keeping as many of the original windows as possible, gutting and refurbishing the bathrooms, installing a fire escape and repairing the elevator.

When Chester founding father Charles A. Smith and his family lived in the house, it had 10 bedrooms and 10 bathrooms. Smith built the home in the early 1900s and moved into it in 1905, according to the book “A History of Chester, A Gateway to the West” by former Mayor Roy C. Cashdollar. Smith built an addition onto the house in the 1930s. He died in 1953 while still living there.

The Fox family said the house will not be called a bed and breakfast because, in West Virginia, the owner of a bed and breakfast must also occupy it. The inn will be named something to honor the home’s history.

So far, the house has not received any historical designation from the state or federal government. The family does not rule out such a designation in the future, however.

Work on the home is expected to be completed late this year or early 2014.

(Huba can be contacted at