Steve and Kath Rose have lived at the Cedars for a little more than a year. Originally hailing from England, they have been in this country for 15 years – long enough to fall in love with much that is American and not long enough to have lost their English accents. They have graciously agreed to open the Cedars for a Christmas Tour, Tea, and Performance on Sunday, Dec. 6. This event is sponsored by Alderson Main Street as their annual fundraiser. Because an English Tea, with small sandwiches and cakes, will be served in the ballroom as part of the event, visitors are urged to purchase their $10 tickets in advance to ensure entry at their preferred time of 1, 2, 3, or 4 p.m. The event consists of a tour of the house, dressed for Christmas in Kath’s signature style, followed, in the ballroom, by tea and a performance by Elizabeth Spangler as Mrs. Alexander McVeigh Miller.
Kath is a born entertainer who is never happier than when planning a huge party. They have long term plans to renovate the large barn on the property to accommodate weddings, reunions, and other special gatherings. Meanwhile, they are impressing their own special style on the venerable old Cedars.
Kath joins a romance novelist, a Congresswoman and Ambassador, and a lover of boxwoods as the latest “lady of the house” at The Cedars. This wonderful property has a long and interesting history. The Cedars was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978 through the efforts of Mr. and Mrs. Robert McCormack, the owners at that time.
According to the National Register nomination, The Cedars was begun in 1881 when Alexander McVeigh Miller brought his wife, Mittie Point Miller, to 10 acres land in North Alderson which had been given to him by his father, W. G. Miller.
The Millers began construction on a small unit of the house which grew into a large Victorian farm house. It was likely built of the fine hardwood lumber then available in abundance from the old growth forests in the area. The cornices above the interior doors and windows in the entry hall are apparently from that era and are Victorian in style.
Mrs. Miller lived there for many years and continued to write “romance novels,” a career which earned her the huge sum of more than $100,000 by 1910. Copies of some of her novels will be on display. She was the real breadwinner in the family as her husband never found a career in which he could be successful and had meager earnings as a schoolteacher. He did serve in the West Virginia State Senate from 1901 to 1909. She divorced him for infidelity in 1908 and moved to Boston.
Perhaps some events in her own life were a source of inspiration for her novels. Visitors may have a chance to ask her that question during Elizabeth Spangler’s performance as she portrays Mrs. Miller during the event.
The Cedars was unoccupied for a time until it was purchased in 1939 by Ruth Bryan Owen Rhode and her husband. They lived there for five years and made changes to the house to remake it from a typical Victorian farmhouse to a more elegant and classical style home. They moved two old buildings to the site to be used as a guest house and horse barn. They also added the large garage with the recreation room above, known to locals as the “ballroom,” to the west side of the house.
Mrs. Rhode was the daughter of William Jennings Bryan and was one of the most prominent women of this nation in her time. In World War I, she served as a nurse. After the war she had a successful career as a college teacher and lecturer. In 1933, she was elected to the United States Congress from Florida. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt appointed her as Minster to Denmark where she is likely to have met her second husband, Captain Borge Rhode.
The next owners were Mr. and Mrs. Andrew McThenia. Mrs. McThenia focused her attention on the landscaping of the estate. Beginning in 1945, her planning and work involved the growing and use of hundreds of English boxwoods throughout the grounds. Remnants of her efforts, including what may be the largest cypress tree in West Virginia, can be seen.
After being sold by the McCormacks, The Cedars passed through many hands before being bought by the current owners, Steve and Kath Rose, who live there now with their daughter, son-in-law, and two beautiful grandchildren. Steve Rose said, “We fell in love with West Virginia and bought a cabin in Grassy Meadows. Then we saw this wonderful old house.”
Many other events will be taking place in Alderson this weekend starting on Friday, Dec. 4, with a bonfire just west of the Historic 1896 C&O Depot beginning at 5 p.m.; the Annual Christmas Parade lineup beginning at 6 p.m. and the Parade and Grand Illumination starting at 7 p.m. The parade will travel through the historic downtown of Alderson before proceeding across the Alderson Memorial Bridge where the Queen of the Lights will wave her magic wand illuminating the bridge. The parade will end at the Alderson Community Center for the Arts and Humanities where the young and young-at-heart will be able to visit with Santa and have a treat.
Alderson’s shops including the Artisan’s Gallery; Wolf Creek Gallery; Bridge Walk Shops; and the historic Alderson’s Store will be open for Christmas shopping on Friday night until 8; their usual hours on Saturday; and on Sunday from 1-5. The Johnson Memorial United Methodist Church will be holding its Annual Bazaar on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Sunday, noon to 5. In addition to craft items, the Bazaar offers a soup, sandwich, and dessert lunch for $6 on both days.
Tickets for the Tour, Tea, and Performance at the Cedars cost $10 and are available from the Alderson Visitor Center (Thursday – Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.), Bridge Walk Shops (Tueday – Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.), and Alderson Main Street members. Call 304-646-9199 or 304-445-2005 for more information. Please purchase in advance.