The Stealey-Goff-Vance House dates back to 1807, when it was constructed for tanner Jacob Stealey. It is the oldest home in Clarksburg, and likely the oldest building in general. Stealey died in 1841, but the home remained in the family's possession until 1881, when John Stealey sold the property to Nathan Goff Sr., a former member of the West Virginia House of Delegates. Goff's widow remodeled the home around 1891, adding Victorian details such as the gable roof and detailed exterior millwork. During the early twentieth century, the home served as a boarding house and doctor's office before it became the property of Amy Roberts Vance in 1933. When Vance died in 1967, her sons donated the historic home to the Harrison County Historical Society with the stipulation that the property would serve as a headquarters and museum. The historical society offers tours of the home by appointment, as well as special programs at the house throughout the year.
Backstory and Context
The Stealey-Goff-Vance House, also known as the Amy Roberts Vance House, was built in 1807. Jacob Stealey, the original owner of this house, purchased land from George Jackson in 1795. At the time the land was known as "Tanyard Mill." Stealey earned his income through being the first community tanner and was successful in his trade. In order to have water running through his tanyard, Stealey bought more land from Jackson in 1807 and he built his house on this extra land near Elk Creek. There is no record for how much construction of the house cost, though Stealey purchased the land for 709 dollars. Construction was likely extremely expensive, as Stealey had locally acquired stone, brick, and wood used. These materials were difficult to acquire for the time period and indicative of Stealey’s importance and wealth.
The Stealey-Goff-Vance House is the oldest known brick house in Clarksburg, and likely also the oldest extant building. The structure is Federal in architectural style, two-stories, and rectangular. The verticality of the two floors is emphasized through a particularly high rubble foundation, giving the house an almost looming facade. Five bays of windows grace the front and back of the building, though the side walls have no openings. A chimney on each end would have provided enough warmth for the home. Though largely typical of Antebellum construction, the Flemish bond brickwork throughout the building is exceptionally laid. A small two-story ell near the back of the house likely served as a mostly detached kitchen, due to the danger of fire spread.
After Stealey passed away in 1841, the house and tanyard stayed in the hands of his son, John, until 1881, when Nathan Goff Sr. purchased the property. Goff was frequently Clarksburg’s president in the middle of the nineteenth century and also served in the West Virginia House of Delegates from 1863 to 1866, and again in 1870. After Goff died, his widow Mary R. Horner Goff maintained the property from 1885 to 1908. Under her tenure in circa 1891, the house was renovated and updated with Victorian features. These included a center gable, a small porch, and bracketed cornice. The changes were made to bring the relatively simple house more in line with the styles near the turn of the twentieth century. The detached two-story kitchen ell was replaced with an appended single-story brick construction — fire concerns no longer prevented kitchens in the home.
After Mary Goff’s death in the early twentieth century, the Stealey-Goff-Vance House remained in the Goff family, though they did not live there. The space was instead rented as a boarding house and for a doctor’s office. This usage continued until 1932, Amy Roberts Vance purchased the home the next year. Vance commissioned some minor renovations to restore the house for use as a permanent residence. Vance was an outspoken civic leader and mother. Her two sons, John and Cyrus, followed her lead and became politically active. Cyrus went on to serve in cabinet and executive positions for three presidents.
At the time of Amy Vance’s death in 1967, her sons donated the home to the Harrison County Historical Society with stipulation that it be used as a museum. Today the house is used as headquarters for the Harrison County Historical Society and tours of the home are available by appointment. The building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979. Renovations by the historical society to preserve the structure were completed in 2016. The house is indicative of the growth pattern of Clarksburg, as it sits nearer Elk Creek, the wellspring of the area, than it does to the center of downtown now. It is a significant location not only as one of the oldest, if not the oldest, buildings in Clarksburg, but also for its association with the famous Clarksburg families Stealey, Goff, and Vance.
Chambers, S Allen. Stealey-Goff-Vance House, SAH Archipedia. January 1st 2012. Accessed March 25th 2021. https://sah-archipedia.org/buildings/WV-01-HR17.
Collins, Rodney S. Stealey-Goff-Vance House, National Register of Historic Places. April 11th 1978. Accessed March 25th 2021. http://www.wvculture.org/shpo/nr/pdf/harrison/79002580.pdf.
Cork, Timothy P. The History of Clarksburg, The W Newsletter. April 2nd 2017. Accessed March 25th 2021. https://winewsletterwv.blogspot.com/2017/03/issue-212.html.
Pauley, Michael J. Downtown Clarksburg Historic District, National Register of Historic Places. July 19th 1982. Accessed March 25th 2021. https://npgallery.nps.gov/GetAsset/ce68bc09-5ff0-4266-8041-89c13538848d.
Stealey-Goff-Vance House, Harrison County Historical Society. Accessed March 25th 2021. http://www.harrisoncowvhistoricalsociety.org/vancehouse.html.