Yellowwood (Pt. 1)
I started to get serious about photography around ten years ago, it was around that same time I also became obsessed with the architecture in the town that I resided in. Huntington, West Virginia is not by any means a huge city or anything but in the early 1900’s was certainly somewhere to be. The advancement of the railroad and shipping along the Ohio River made Huntington grow at a rapid pace. One property in particular always caught my eye, instantly hypnotizing me with it’s beauty.
In 1911 an Adirondack log cabin style house called Yellowwood was built on the southern side of the city by Mr. and Mrs. S.P. Hager. The original purpose was for it to be used as a hunting lodge, but three years later as Huntington continued to grow they decided to convert the structure into a home adding an English Tudor section in 1914. Yellowwood covers 6,000 square feet (not including the basement and secret passageways) and sits on two acres of land. An eclectic mix of woods including pine, oak, chestnut, hickory, and poplar were used in construction. The majority of the raw materials used in the build were from the surrounding land including the cobblestones that make up the bordering wall and chimney. In it’s prime the house was surrounded by gardens, wildflowers, and a dry lily pond but as it sit’s now overgrown weeds and fallen tree limbs are all that remain.
Over the years I’ve taken numerous photos of this house, constantly day dreaming about it in it’s glory and especially if it were mine. While photographing it last summer a neighbor and his friendly yellow lab approached me to inquire what I was doing. During our brief conversation we compared a few notes on it’s history as I inquired about the plaque with the names on the rear patio. It was then that he informed me of the previous owners and part of the sad story that had left the house in it’s current state. Dr. Constance Hayden was a psychiatrist and her husband Dr. Richard Ansinelli was a cardiologist both in Huntington. The home had actually been in Dr. Hayden’s family for quite a while. Her parent’s rented the garage apartment from the second owner, Mr. Jameson, in the early 1960’s before acquiring the home in 1962. It was in 1988 that Dr. Hayden and her husband purchased the property from Hayden’s mother before restoring the home. I’ve seen a few photos of the house after the restoration and it was everything and more than I imagined while day dreaming all those times. The interior was filled with books, art, and antiques from around the world as well as from right here in West Virginia. Amongst these exquisite items was a handcrafted grand piano matching the wood of the house that Mr. Jameson had commissioned for his son, a concert pianist at Carnegie Hall. According to a 1992 local magazine article, it was the setting for quite a few Hallmark Christmas card photos as well.
From what I could gather about Dr. Hayden, she was a former US Army psychiatrist who did consulting and research in Washington, DC along with having a private practice in Huntington that doubled as a research center. Among her list of accomplishments she helped develop a drug for bipolar disorder. Her practice in Huntington primarily focused on chronic pain management and sleep disorders. In the late 90’s a divorce left Dr. Hayden with control of the home but her declining mental state left her incapable of maintaining it. In 1997 she was involved in a high speed police chase originating in Lawrence County, Ohio and ending across the bridge in Huntington. Charges were dropped after the court believed she was incompetent to stand trial. The following year as a result of the police chase the WV Board of Osteopathy placed her medical license on restricted status. In 2003 she published a book titled “The True Art of Survival” on which the cover photo of her was taken at Yellowwood.
This is where the story gets a bit fuzzy. The last listed owner is a woman named Erin Hutchinson from eastern Kentucky. Upon trying to find out who this was I discovered that she was the wife of Chris Hutchinson, a man who allegedly coerced Dr. Hayden, in her unstable mental state, into selling him the house for cheap. Sadly Dr. Hayden did not have the ability, even after a lengthy court battle, to reclaim the property from him. According to neighbors, Hutchinson lived there for a brief time but was booted for whatever reason from the home. I’m not sure if this had anything to do with the court battles involving Dr. Hayden or the mortgage company. Shortly after his departure, “vandals” broke in and completely trashed the place. Go figure. Chris Hutchinson had owned and operated at least ten different electrical and security businesses between 1990 and 2012. In October of 2013 he pleaded guilty to tax fraud for failing to pay $250,000 in employment taxes and was sentenced to a federal prison.
According to the neighbor with the friendly lab, the bank who mortgaged the property occasionally sends someone there to secure it and mow the lawn but it’s future at this point is unknown. He was just as interested in the property as I, telling me about how he used to go to the courthouse to follow the case before it went cold. I don’t think whomever controls it now have been able to resell the property because of the ongoing lawsuits. A few years ago during a massive storm a tree fell on the front of the house knocking a hole in the slate roof. There has been talk of it being demolished because of the insanely high cost needed to restore the home but I honestly do not see how someone could even fathom the idea of doing so.