The History of Morgantown’s Mysterious Bartlett Sisters: Bartlett House Namesake

Bartlett House is on the cusp of a catastrophic financial collapse. WVMAD has been investigating the financial troubles.

Not much is known about Bartlett’s history, except that a mysterious “Bartlett sisters” were involved and the original location was somewhere on Grant Avenue.

No one even seems to know the sisters’ first names. Until now.

Ethel Bartlett and Pauline Bartlett were born in the late 1800s. Ethel, the older sister by 9 years, was born in 1889. In true big sister fashion, she outlived Pauline by 1 year, passing away in 1984.

They resided at 263 Grant Avenue, the sunnyside street now infamous for WVU student block parties. Property records indicate that the 4,062 sqft. brick house was built in 1913. Although renovations have been made to the original structure, it now features 8 bedrooms, 3 full baths, and a total of 16 rooms.

The sisters’ listed the value as $3,000 on the 1940 U.S. Census; its current tax assessment is over $173,000. The home became the original "Bartlett House" nonprofit shelter in the mid-1980s following the Bartlett sisters’ death. Bartlett House relocated to University Avenue in the 1990s after outgrowing the home.

Pauline Bartlett was a registered nurse, according to U.S. Census data. She reported working in ‘private duty’ for 40 hours per week in 1940, which increased to 70 hours per week by 1950. Ethel never listed an occupation.

Both sisters declared having a 4-year high school education. This was rare, as just 9% of U.S. youths had high school diplomas in 1910, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research.

Neither sister ever married. However, Pauline adopted a son named Kenneth, who lived with the sisters and eventually married Margaret Bartlett. Kenneth worked as a glass worker. They had at least 2 children: a daughter named Cassandra and a son named Kenneth Jr.

It appears Ethel also adopted a daughter. Ethel Bartlett, aged 50, reported having a 2-year-old daughter named Mary Lou Bartlett. The 1940 census says Mary is a “lodger” but by 1950 she is Ethel’s daughter.

Both Ethel and Pauline are buried with their mother at Oak Grove Cemetery off Dorsey Avenue. All this time, no one knew that the generous founders of the Bartlett House namesake were resting less than a mile away from the iconic University Avenue location—now at risk of bank seizure.

After 40 years of being “the place" Morgantown’s vulnerable could always rely on in times of need, the Bartlett House name is now at risk of being lost forever.

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