Backstory and Context
Built in 1907 as an eight-bedroom, 14-room mansion equipped with 8 working fireplaces was originally designed for Benjamin Hancock, his wife Ora and their 10 children. This mansion of sorts is an example of American Four-Square style architecture.
Charles Hancock was both a commercial and industrial pioneer in Mercer County, where Bluefield is located, during the 1890s. Self-educated by daily readings of headlines from the New York Times, Hancock amassed his fortune by developing the Bluefield Hardware Co., the region' largest wholesale hardware and mine supply outlet. Between the World Wars he also created the Bluefield Furniture Co., which became one of the South's larger and more prosperous furniture wholesale businesses. Beyond this he also had dealings with the coal industry. His businesses are still operating.
Charles died at home during the WWII years and the family lost a son in the war. With other children grown and moved out, Ora Hancock sold the house to the Del Ramage family who resided in the house until Bluefield State purchased it in 1962. The neighborhood was once historically white and fashionable, with the coal mining and the railroad booming in the area, the neighborhood became predominantly black by 1962.
From he time of its latest purchase, the home was used by Alpha Phi Alpha as a multipurpose fraternity-social-cultural center. Upstairs served as housing for undergrad students, whereas the more open downstairs was used meetings, picnics and balls. This "Alpha House" became the largest building owned by African-Americans in the region.
Still used minimally as a residence, the house is still standing though not a 'cultural mecca' for regional African-Americans as it used to be during segregation.