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High Gate mansion, located in Fairmont, was built in 1910 for James Edwin Watson, the son of coal pioneer James Otis Watson, brother of U.S. Sen. Clarence Watson and brother-in-law of Governor A. B. Fleming.

High Gate’s architect was Horace Trumbauer of Philadelphia, whose commissions also included Boston’s Ritz-Carlton Hotel, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the nucleus of Duke University. High Gate was designed in what has been referred to as ‘‘Jacobethan’’ Revival style, borrowing elements from the architecture of English manor houses of the Elizabethan and Jacobean periods, particularly the use of half-timbering. The style was popular along Philadelphia’s Main Line and in the New York suburbs but is found infrequently in West Virginia. High Gate is perhaps the best example in the state.

The house’s most distinctive feature is its size and massing, coupled with a strong use of horizontal and vertical elements. Basically rectangular, it has a large service wing on the southwest and a porte-cochere and four-story octagonal tower on the west front. Fine craftsmanship and detailing are apparent throughout. The principal ground floor rooms continue the Jacobethan theme, with oak-paneled walls, parquetry floors, and ornamental plaster ceilings. Other notable features are the marble vestibule, Corinthian pilasters in the foyer, leaded glass windows, an oak-paneled elevator, and even a German silver sink in what was the butler’s pantry.

Following J. E. Watson’s death in 1926, the house was sold to the Sisters of St. Joseph, who used it as a rest home and later a kindergarten. It then became a funeral home and the carriage house a nursing home. In 1989, the nonprofit organization Friends of High Gate was formed to acquire the carriage house, which was about to be sold to a fast-food restaurant chain and torn down.

In 1993, the Friends of High Gate rehabilitated the carriage house, which was later transferred to the Vandalia Heritage Foundation, which promotes historic preservation throughout northern West Virginia. Now privately owned, the main house is a funeral home. The carriage house and grounds, also privately owned, is a popular rental venue for weddings, parties, public meetings, art exhibits, and other events.

High Gate was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.

Read the Historic Register nomination.

This Article was written by Margo Stafford

Last Revised on September 13, 2023


Williams, John Alexander. West Virginia and the Captains of Industry. Morgantown: West Virginia University Library, 1976.

"." National Register of Historic Places Nomination, West Virginia Division of Culture & History, 1982.

Cite This Article

Stafford, Margo "High Gate." e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia. 13 September 2023. Web. 24 July 2024.


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