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Feb. 24—FAIRMONT — It was 1966 when the first of the fully laden dump trucks began rumbling down from Pittsburgh on those pre-interstate roads.

And Carol McWilliams couldn’t wait.

She knew that the architectural vision she had been carrying around since she was a kid was about to erupt, finally, into full-scale realization.

“That’s when it hit me, ” she said.

“That’s when I knew we were really going to do this.”

What she was going to do, was put up a house like no other in Fairmont.

A house like no other in West Virginia, really.

This time, McWilliams, a contractor who was creating homes and residential developments for others to live, was going to build something she and her daughters could occupy.

A home as iconic as she was (even if she didn’t say that part out loud), as she was running her successful company in a field then dominated by men.

She was going to use volcanic rock from Hawaii for the exteriors and fireplaces of her home.

The eruptive bounty was purchased on the Big Island, which took a lot of phone calls—no small feat in those rotary-dial days.

Then, the payload was shipped across the Pacific to California and loaded into railroad cars bound for Pittsburgh.

Once there, it was then off-loaded to the aforementioned trucks for the haul to Fairmont.

With its porous surfaces and flat blacks and grays, McWilliams adored the texture and aesthetic of the rock.

It was perfect, she said, for the subtle Egyptian theme of the home, that would evolve into more than 4, 000 square feet of living space by the time she was through.

Two years later, she and her girls moved in.

If Fairmont was known architecturally for anything back then, it was by way of the mansions built by its former coal barons.

Those were the crumbling, once-showplaces since segmented into apartments, for better or worse.

Then came that hip, funky dwelling that couldn’t have been more unique for its time.

People called it “The Lava Rock House ” or “the Carol McWilliams house, ” both apt identifiers for the woman who turned an image into a fixed address.

Drive up today, 56 years later, and it’s still there, with its evolutionary stone and low-slung lines echoing Frank Lloyd Wright and Robert Venturi.

It’s still there, occupying a parcel that’s a little more than an acre, in a cul-de-sac off Fairmont Avenue and U.S. 250.

Alethea Moody Wise was there this past Wednesday and opened the door with a smile.

“Let me show you what we’ve done with it, ” she said.

And yes, it’s for sale. Even the custom furnishings. More on that.

Hoping people will flip for it, all over again Alethea and her husband, Ed Wise, bought the house last spring and set about re-imagining it.

Both have backgrounds in real estate, design and contracting.

Aletha, a Fairmont native, graduated with a marketing degree from WVU, and was an All-American track and field athlete at the school in Morgantown.

Ed is a former CONSOL engineer who grew up in Ohio and Pennsylvania.

His mining job brought him to the Morgantown area. Real estate was how he and Alethea met.

She was a Realtor and he had just started buying rental properties and old houses he could flip for profit.

That’s what they do with their Trebor Fael Management Services company.

They’re known for their historical renovations and design work in Morgantown’s South Park neighborhood and other locales across north-central West Virginia.

When the dwelling they’ve since rebranded as “The Lava House ” went back on the market last spring, they leapt.

Revamping the vision The interiors of such homes for their time don’t always age well.

Carpets, countertops, wood paneling and the like.

The Lava House wasn’t a gut.

It was more of a revisioning-rearranging kind of thing, as Alethea said.

Wall-to-wall carpet gave way to tile and high-end vinyl planking for the floor.

A modern kitchen was installed with an island—and that look was completed with contemporary light fixtures throughout an open design transitioning from the dining room to living room and a caf é-styled seating area.

That famous lava rock fireplace installed by McWilliams’ father, Paul Lewis, a celebrated stone mason and homebuilder in Fairmont, still commands the living room.

Ed designed and built the coffee table and other furnishings, which are custom to the house.

Understated grays run throughout, along with the black accents that dominated in the original design.

In ancient Egypt that hue didn’t just mean death. It also meant life and fertility.

The Nile would flood every year, and the black, nutrient-rich sediment it bestowed during the runoff made for agricultural innovations still in use today, which is what resonated with McWilliams.

“Of course, we were going to respect what Carol did, ” Ed said.

Newer elements in the house carry Japanese themes, given the famous architect Wright’s love of that Asian country’s art and aesthetic.

The stained-glass panels created by McWilliams for the kitchen stayed—and were also echoed into a design feature for the swimming pool and outdoor entertaining area.

Maple accents were added to the exterior and new landscaping completed the deal.

“A lot of Carol is still in this house, ” Alethea said.

McWilliams herself was in the house this past December.

“She wanted to see it, ” Alethea said. “She loves what we did, and that’s so important.”

Dive in, and make an offer The house officially hits the market this Thursday.

It’s listed at $729, 000 through Morgantown’s Compass Realty Group, where Alethea also works a Realtor.

The Lava House is her listing. Call her at 304-844-6395 for all the particulars.

Alethea and Ed, meanwhile, have gotten to do something over the past months they’ve never done in 30 years of flipping houses.

They moved into the Lava House, temporarily.

That was during Christmas.

They wanted to experience it for themselves, while they could.

Now, they want a family to experience it—with memories, and whatever else it may be that will turn the place into a legend.

After all, every good house has to have at least one legend attached.

The one at the Lava House involves the late Hot Rod Hundley, the beloved WVU basketball star known for his impulsive high jinks on the court and off it, too.

According to Lava lore, Hundley, who was there at a party in the 1970s, made a running leap from the house’s flat roof—in order to pull off a flailing, movie stuntman-styled dive into the pool.

While just clearing (of course) the concrete patio, in the process.

Might Alethea, a fellow WVU athlete who still holds the NCAA Women’s High Jump record, do the same when a sale is made ?

“I don’t know, ” she laughed. “Maybe ?”

“I’m just glad we were able take Carol’s vision from 1968 and expand it out to 2024. And this is a great house.”

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