Judge Frank Cox House
Portrait of Judge Frank Cox.
Undated photo of Spruce Street. The Judge Frank Cox House is visible on the right. The photo suggests that Spruce Street was once a more residential road.
A 1965 view of the house. Many elements in this photo were later additions to the house and were reversed by Ball and Dinsmore's restoration.
The house today.
Backstory and Context
The Judge Frank Cox House was constructed in 1898 according to plans by Elmer F. Jacobs. The home is built in a Queen Anne Revival style in which Jacobs often worked. The two and a half story building features brick construction with a stone foundation. The defining element of the Judge Frank Cox House is a three-story tower that faces the street. Built at the intersection of Pleasant and Spruce Streets, the front of the structure is the Spruce Street entrance. This entrance is framed by a large wooden porch. The roof of the building was originally slate, though it has been replaced with asphalt shingles. An impressive five chimneys pierce the top of the Judge Frank Cox House. The interior of the home features ornate wooden doors, trims, and mantels. The oak staircase is lit by stained glass windows, which are original to the building. The Judge Frank Cox House largely retains its original architectural character.
Judge Frank Cox was born in Monongalia County in 1862. He attended local schools before matriculating at West Virginia University. After being admitted to the bar in 1883, Cox practiced law alone for several years before forming a law partnership with George C. Baker. The two lawyers specialized in oil, corporation, and chancery law. In 1888, Cox was elected as the prosecuting attorney for Monongalia County. Cox selected Baker as his deputy assistant. In 1894, the roles were reversed, and Cox served as deputy assistant to Baker. The partners continued their law business in the 1890s and briefly rented the historic Stone House before constructing their own dedicated offices at 162 Chancery Row.
Cox expanded his political and personal influence in the early twentieth century. In 1904, he was elected to the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals and became president of the court by 1907. However, Cox resigned from the court the same year and returned to Morgantown, where he reestablished a law practice with Baker. Cox purchased large amounts of real estate in the Morgantown area and served as vice president of the Board of Trade of Morgantown. Cox was also active in community organizations such as the Methodist Episcopal Church, Masons, Odd Fellows, and Modern Woodmen of America. Cox died in Morgantown in 1940.
Following Cox’s death in 1940, ownership of the Judge Frank Cox House passed equally to his children, Stanley R. Cox and Margaret Cox Cowell. A series of untimely deaths, civil suits, and business transactions caused ownership of the home to shuffle throughout various Cox family heirs for many years. During this tumultuous period of possession, the Judge Frank Cox House was rarely used as a residence and was instead rented to local businesses. The building briefly served as the West Virginia University faculty club in the 1940s. From 1954 to 1955, Velma Gene Dalton ran the Morgantown Beauty School from the house. For a period of time in the 1960s, the home hosted the Mancinelli Funeral parlor. The Judge Frank Cox House was also the site of Dr. Margaret Stemple Zeck’s offices. In the early 1980s, ownership of the building finally passed out of Cox family hands, when John P. Ball and Robert Dinsmore purchased the house. The two men were instrumental in restoring the home to its original state. They used the Judge Frank Cox House as offices for their law firm for many years. More recently, the building has hosted a bakery, gallery, and consulting offices.
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Historic Judge Frank Cox House, Main Street Morgantown. Accessed October 6th 2020. https://mainstreetmorgantown.wordpress.com/historic-judge-frank-cox-house/.
Moore, Nancy and Steven Lee. Judge Cox Residence, National Register of Historic Places. September 13th 1983. Accessed September 14th 2020. http://www.wvculture.org/shpo/nr/pdf/monongalia/84003626.pdf.
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Petitte, Clyda Paire. "Cox House, Morgantown, W. Va." 1965. West Virginia & Regional History Center. Accessed October 6, 2020. https://wvhistoryonview.org/catalog/052843.
Bocan, John M. "Judge Frank Cox House, 206 Spruce St, Morgantown." 2013. Wikipedia. Accessed October 6, 2020. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Judge_Frank_Cox_House#/media/File:Judge_Frank_Cox_House_Morgantown_WV.jpg.