Woodville – The John & Presley Neville House
Historic Woodville Plantation Tours
“Woodville,” the John and Presley Neville House of c. 1775, is the Pittsburgh area’s principal link with 18th-century American life and architecture. The National Historic Landmark is located in Collier Township and is open year-round for guided tours on Sundays from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.: $5 per adult, $3 for children (6 thru 12); under 6 free. (Special reduced admission prices are often associated with special events––see below.)
The grounds are open for free self-guided tours Wednesday through Saturday, year-round, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Special tours can be arranged for groups of 20 or more.
For special events or tours, call 412-221-0348 for details, or visit www.woodvilleplantation.org.
Woodville Plantation is located at 1375 Washington Pike, Bridgeville, PA 15017.
It would be quite a feat of the imagination to remove the verandahs, the Victorian Gothic decorative touches, even the little bedrooms, and return the home in one’s mind’s eye to the steep-roofed home that John Neville knew, four rooms and a central passage with a detached log kitchen. it was not a “Southern mansion” in either size or form, not the home of a Virginia gentleman as popularly envisioned. Yet that is, in fact, what it was. This was the home of a general, a former commandant of Fort Pitt, a rnan of wealth and education. John and Winifred Oldham Neville’s home was deemed “a temple of hospitality.” Its window panes still bear the signatures of guests and relatives, scratched into them with the point of a diamond. The parlor was the scene of at least two weddings, that ofMajor Abraham Kirkpatrick to Mary Arm Oldham Uohn Neville’s sister-in-law), and their daughter Eliza’s marriage to Christopher Cowan.
The interior reveal this way of life: the little plantation house is also a country sent from not long after the earliest settlement of Western Pennsylvania. The central passage, dining room, kitchen, parlor, and two bedrooms off the parlor have been restored, in part with complete accuracy, in part in a roomier consistent with the place and period. Both informed hard work and good luck have contributed to the restoration of the house and our knowledge of its history.
The parlor has a modern Brussels carpet, woven in England to a design of the late eighteenth century, while the furniture is of the period butnot of the house. The wallpaper reproduces one actually used in the parlor; the replica was out of print, but the few last rolls were discovered by chance.
In the dining room the carpet and furnishings are once again not original but in keeping, while Lhe walls are painted in a bright verdigris green popular in the late eighteenth century.
The bedrooms are papered in a replica of a pattern of c. 1815 that was actually discovered in the room under nine upper layers. Waterhouse Wall hangings, which reproduced the paper, is now selling it as the Woodville pattern.
Only the wooden trim in the chamber/nursery is a modern restoration; the rest of the interior is original.
Restoration of the kitchen, the original log structure of “Woodville,” was completed in 1993. The fireplace wall is of bare log and the wainscoting elsewhere is dark red brown.
Restoration of “Woodville” has taken years and is continuing, but the zeal and care of restorers and the leadership of devoted volunteers are being rewarded.
A Family Home For Two Centuries
The casual evolution of “Woodville” into its present form is still something of a mystery. Related generations of Nevilles, Cowans, and Wrenshalls added to and modified the house as they saw fit. It appears that a log building of c. 1775, now clapboarded, was the start. Then, after General John Neville and his son Presley were released from British imprisonment in 1781, construction began in earnest: a house with two ground-floor rooms and two upstairs under a steep roof, with dormers well up on its slopes, that hints at the Nevilles’ Virginia origin.
John Neville soon gave ‘Woodville” to Presley mid moved near by to his new, more pretentious “Bower Hill,” which tie was not long to enjoy. As collector of the new and hated federal excise tax on whiskey, John Neville was a major target in the Whiskey Rebellion of 1794, and his farmer neighbors burned “Bower Hill.” “‘Woodville” survived and spread, thrusting latticed verandahs forward, clapboarding the log kitchen, sending out bedrooms to the rear under extended roofs, and, as a final touch, assuming Victorian Gothic forms in its upper windows.
In 1973 Mary Wrenshall Fauset, the last occupant, died, and “Woodville” stood deserted. At this time the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers was planning a flood control project for the adjacent
Chartiers Creek, and the house was in danger. In 1976, though, the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation, a non-profit historic-preservation organization serving Allegheny County, bought the house from the Wrenshalls and sought a means of saving it. Landmarks and willing friends have since brought “Woodville,” one of ten National Historic Landmarks in Allegheny County, to its present state.
“Woodville,” the John and Presley Neville house, is owned by and is a museum of the Neville House Associates. Ownership of Woodville was transferred from Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation in 2007. Landmarks, the Neville House Associates, the Allegheny County Committee of the National Society of Colonial Dames of America, and various individuals constitute the Operating Committee that restores, maintains, and shows the house.
The Neville House Associates was formed in 1976 in the Chartiers Valley where “Woodville” stands and where the Nevilles once had 400 acres.
For information on house tours, rentals, or special events, or to become a member of the Neville House Associates, please call (412) 221-0348 or click here for more information or go to http://www.woodvilleplantation.org/