The Baker Years
By all accounts, Harry Baker was a horse trader (both literally and figuratively), a trait that may have influenced his decision in 1905 to build his home within comfortable hailing distance of the rural lane that meandered from Cheat Neck toward the Pennsylvania line.
Baker and wife, Elizabeth, built the two-story frame dwelling on a 3 1/2-acre tract carved from the original 400-acre Norris/Baker homestead. The Bakers or their Norris antecedents had occupied the parcel deeded them by King George III since Baker family ancestor William Norris arrived in Cheat Neck around 1772.
The quiet country road that wandered past the Baker home is generally referred to as WV Rt. 857. That roadside location served the Bakers well during the years of the Great Depression: opening their doors every week after church, they served popular Sunday dinners including chicken of sufficient renown to attract diners from as far away as Pittsburgh.
Harry Baker lived in a frame bungalow he built at the rear of the property following the death of his wife until shortly before his death in 1962. He had sold the main house and a little less than an acre surrounding it to across-the-road neighbor, Charles Wiedebusch, in the late 1940s.
The Wiedebusch Years
Recalling her father’s rationale for purchasing the property, Harriet Wiedebusch Raese said, “He was sure Mr. Baker was planning to turn the house into a nightclub, so he bought it. I think he paid $12,000 for it back then.”
Wiedebusch made major alteration and improvement to the structure in the 1940s, including the addition of a two-story columned portico designed by his son. He also restored many of the original windows with double-hung, nine-up/nine-down replacements, renovated the two bathrooms, installed modern gas heat and sealed three of the home’s original five fireplaces.
Adding a second staircase from the dining room to the rear portion of the structure’s second level, Wiedebusch rented the home as two apartments. Raese recollected WVU football coaches Art Lewis and Ed Shockey as early tenants.
The Landacre Years
Several owners bought and sold the property through the 70s and 80s. When the Landacres purchased the home in 1989, repairs and additional renovation were long overdue.
After purchasing the historic home at 475 Fairchance Road in 1989, Duane and Joyce Landacre updated its interior decor throughout and operated the 2,400 square-foot property as a successful bed and breakfast, The Maples, for several years. With 10-foot ceilings crossed by boxed structural beams, the home’s dining room is bright with natural light admitted by large side windows overlooking flagstone porches and patios. “Honestly, it resembled Herman Munster’s house when we moved in,” Duane Landacre recalled, not at all the ambiance the Landacres envisioned for the bed and breakfast they planned to operate in the house.
Despite its cosmetic dreariness, structural engineer Bob Sheets inspected the house before the Landacres bought it and declared it sound.
“Bob said the place was built like a fort,” Duane Landacre said, laughing.
After scraping layer upon layer of paint and wallpaper and removing yards of unsalvageable wall-to-wall carpet, the Landacres restored the interior decor to one more closely resembling the original. Papering the living room in a deep burgundy tonal stripe, Joyce emphasized the boxed structural beams crossing the first level’s 10-foot ceilings. Deep off-white woodwork and cabinetry contrast with gleaming poplar and red and white oak floors.
The Landacres contracted carpenter Ken Bolyard to install custom floor-to-ceiling cabinets to flank the wood-burning fireplace in the office/den. Bolyard also built and installed the custom shelving bracketing the living room fireplace. Working from Joyce’s sketches, Bolyard fabricated the crescent and bulls-eye mantle and surround echoing the motif above the main entrance door and sidelights.
The Robinette Years
By Jeff Robinette: In 2002, my law firm, Robinette Legal Group, began to outgrow its office space in downtown Morgantown. I wanted to develop a space that would accommodate new growth, but also give spacious rooms to my staff. I looked for various locations, but could not decide on a space. On trips to the mountains with my family, I often noticed the old Baker home and admired its character, especially the Georgian style portico that was added to the home after it was built by the Baker family in 1905. Then, one day I’m looking through a land magazine and saw the property up for sale. I was skeptical at first, due to the location and cost of anticipated renovations, but after meeting the owners, Joyce and Dwayne Landacre, I felt that I could take a chance on the property. My plans included completely gutting the interior and installing new everything, but still keep the old-world charm the house originally had.
Months of drawings and revisions finally yielded a plan for demolition. I contracted with Bob Westwood as the general contractor and had dozens of other contractors working on the property at one time or another. The furnishings and construction contain nice features from Germany (conference room chandeliers), India (iron gate and iron fencing), Belgium (fireplace mantle), to name a few. Finally, after nearly two years of renovations, the building was ready to be occupied in October 2004. At the height of the defense law practice, I had over a dozen employees working in the building – and it was really busy with activity. When I changed my law practice to personal injury in 2009, I no longer needed the same number of employees and space. The renovations were planned to include an eventual use as a home, should the law practice needs be completed. The very elegant décor of the new proprietor, Kathleen Crumbaker, adds even another rich chapter to this wonderful old house.
By Kathleen Crumbaker: When I moved to Morgantown from Vermont in August of 2010, I was looking to buy/create a business that would allow me to keep my elderly mother living with me rather than in a nursing home. My three grown children and two grandchildren live in Morgantown, so what better place to reside. I began looking at properties whereby I could perhaps start an assisted living center for the elderly. I considered a property that would have taken more capital and time than I could manage on my own. My daughter, Jessica White, passed the Robinette Legal Group building every day on her way to work. She suggested that I take a look at it. Not being one to always follow accepted protocol, I decided to stop by one day unannounced. I recently learned that Jeff was less than enthusiastic about showing me around in the middle of his work day. At the end of our tour, he turned to me and said, “you know, I really enjoyed showing you around.” It was very obvious to me how much loving attention was put into every aspect of the building’s renovation. I learned that Jeff and his wife Terry were saddened at the prospect of a large company buying the building they had put such time and effort into, and as Jeff stated, “chopping it to pieces”. They were delighted at the prospect of it being turned into a Bed and Breakfast. As attractive as the house was, all of its embellishments were on the first floor. The second story was plain and utilitarian. When I took occupancy in mid-October, my mission was to create “World Themed” accommodations. There are two theme rooms and two theme suites all with private bathrooms on the second floor and one Suite with a private courtyard and large fireplace on the first floor. The rooms and suites are described in detail on the rooms and reservations pages as are the two Conference Rooms. Also please check out the credits tab where I have thankfully given credit for all the talented work several others provided. Our collaboration can be viewed on this website and hopefully enjoyed up close and personal when you are our guests.
In October of 2018, The Lake Manor was purchased by Katie Maranto who will continue to provide the elegant comfort and luxury our guests have come to expect.
The focus of this most beautiful facility will include a greater emphasis on using our house and grounds as the perfect venue for weddings, showers, parties, meetings, and gatherings of every type.