Maple Shade, Putnam-Houser House
The Putnam-Houser House, also known as Maple Shade, was constructed in 1802 and moved to Blennerhassett Island by barge in 1986. The home has been restored to match its historic appearance and is open to the public for tours that include historic artifacts from the early 19th century. The home was built for the family of Aaron Waldo Putnam, the grandson of Revolutionary War General Israel Putnam. Prior to its acquisition and move by the state of West Virginia, the home was located on a parcel of land in Belpre on the Ohio side of the river.
Backstory and Context
Aaron Waldo Putnam moved from Connecticut to the area that is now known as Belpre, Ohio with his father when he was around 21 years old. Aaron's grandfather was Revolutionary War General Israel Putnam who is best-known today for his efforts in the Battle of Bunker Hill. Israel's cousin, Rufus Putnam, was part of the Ohio Company and was part of the first group of Americans of European origin to settle in what is now Marietta, Ohio, which is 13 miles upriver from where Aaron and his father established their homes. Putnam's family connection to the Ohio Company allowed Aaron Waldo Putnam to acquire land across the river from this location in 1789.
Aaron Waldo Putnam and his wife Charlotte built their family home in 1802. The name of the home, Maple Shade, comes from the maples and the shade the trees created around the house at the original homesite. The home originally sat on a hill with views of the Ohio River and had three rooms downstairs and three rooms upstairs. The downstairs had a living area, dining room and a room that included a trap door for access to the cellar. The upstairs had two bedrooms and a large room that was used for entertaining and dancing. There was also a one-room attic that had witches windows. The home did not have a kitchen as people with means typically constructed a separate structure on their property to reduce heat and the likelihood of a fire spreading and destroying their home.
In 1817, a brick addition was built onto the back of the home. The addition included a kitchen and more living quarters for the family. Modern amenities like electricity and running water were never introduced into the original main part of the house while the Putnam-Houser family inhabited it. The brick addition did have running water and electricity introduced when both became available.
After their deaths in 1822, Aaron and Charlotte's son, William Pitt Putnam, bought the family home for himself from his siblings. He passed the house down to his daughter, Mary Dana Putnam-Houser. When she died in 1952, her son Wendall Dana Houser became the owner of the home. The home and the land the home was on was bought by Shell Oil in the 1960s. Wendell Dana Houser, known as Dana, retained the right to live in the home, and he lived alone there up until his death in 1981.
After Dana's death the home, excluding the brick addition, was donated and transported by Shell to Blennerhassett Island in December of 1986. The state of West Virginia began efforts to restore the home 1999. With restoration complete and the hope of encouraging both tourism and promoting education, the home was opened to the public in the summer of 2008.
Steelhammer, Rick. A visit to Blennerhassett
Island's other mansion. The Washington Times. July 15, 2015.
Rufus Putnam. Encyclopaedia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/biography/Rufus-Putnam.
Israel Putnam. Encyclopaedia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/biography/Israel-Putnam.