Henry Theodore Elden, Biography                   date last edited 06/08/2017    notes by his son Ted Elden


Introduction     More Detail    Youth YMCA Camp     Carnegie Tech College    moved to Charleston  Marriage   Navy  Developing Architect      Walter Martens   

H Elden & Associates - Design Team  Architectural Projects    Top O Rock Trips to Europe   Abodia Slide Cabinet    Sports Skiing            to top index --- ^



Henry T. Elden, born 28 May, 1914 died 17 January, 2009 at home,

Graduate 1937, Bach of Architect, Carnegie Tech, Pittsburgh, W.Va. Board of Architect 13 years, AIA, NCARB, structural engineer


I have listed more about him, his life and achievements at this web site.

www.abodia.com/h    H for Henry


Henry's grandfather Frank was a mere infant with his parents when they immigrated over from England on ship - a great danger in those days.  Henry is of English heritage.  (Henry's wife Evelyn Carskadon is Scottish) The Elden family came penniless to Ellis Island, NYC, America, land of opportunity, and borrowed money to get inland to Pennsylvania.


To me, it seems stellar Henry's rise in life.  His father, Frank Elden, died when Henry was only 8 years old. 

In winter, 1922 ?, Frank stopped to help a stranded motorist get his car moving.  Frank caught pneumonia and died a few days later.   Frank was an industrious and civic minded businessman. He built several homes in prospering coal town Boswell, Penna. and built a movie theater.  They would show a double feature each night, with news trailer to start the evening.  New movies would come to town by train about every three days.  Henry use to sit below the open wood steps going up to the movie theater and collect small coins that patrons might drop.  Once his uncle Frank had an argument with his son, and socked him so hard he flew up in the air and landed at the bottom of the steps of the theater.  Frank was a barber at his barber shop during the day.  He was a community leader.  He had built several homes on speculation that he sold.  The movie admission price was 2 bits, or 2 quarter dollars, for a double feature and newsreal.  The newsreels at the theater was the primary way that peopel then learned of news, of war, etc.


Henry spent much of his youth at a YMCA Camp, learning practical skills, building things, managing & charging the batteries at camp, and learning carving, boating, and many crafts.  Annetta, his sister, was four years older.  They all lived in Boswell until Henry was in his teams, then for better schools, spinster (widowed Grace Morrison Elden - Henry's mother), moved them into Johnstown, Penna.  They shared a home with their relatives the Morrisons, so Bee (Morrison) later Mrs. Woods was a close relative living with him.


Henry had an interest to draw. Friends suggested Henry become an architect, so he studied architecture at Carnegie Tech, Pittsburgh.  On graduation, he came to Charlesotn, W. Va. as he got a job here with Kuhn Construction.


In Charleston, he undertook about 800 projects, whose total construction value was nearly $ ˝ billion dollars.

Many of his project were stunning in design, radical, innovative, practical and much appreciated.  He served on the W. Va. (governor’s appointment) and was a member of the National Council of Architectural Registration Board


He also developed a wide full range in life, water and snow skiing around the country, and into Europe, where he developed an import business that eventually achieved sales around the world.


He was an avid photographer, starting at his days at Carnegie Tech. getting his works published and displayed in prominent publications.


He crossed the county alone by train twice and even crossed up thru Canada when he was 90+ years old.


He was very independent, strong, happy, optimistic and dedicated, focused worker.


I believe that Henry achieved far more than most people.

Was his humble youth (born in Boswell) raised by widow Grace Morrison Elden in Johnston some how the clue or the impetus to all his achievements ?


More detail                                                to top index --- ^

Henry was born 28 May, 1914 in Boswell, Pennsylvania. 

As a teenager, his family moved to 343 Vine St. in Johnstown, Penna.


His grandfather crossed the ocean from England, with his Dad, Frank Elden, who was then just a mere infant.

His father Frank Elden had a barber shop and eventually owed a movie theater in Boswell, a prosperous coal town.  Henry would gather dropped coins under the steps below theater entrance which were dropped by movie patrons.  .  New movies came by train every few days.  Newsreels were a prominent part of the showing.


Henry's father Frank Elden aided a motorist stranded in winter snow, then caught pneumonia and died a few days later when Henry was just 8 years old.  He and his older sister Annetta insisted that their mother never remarry.  They shared a home in Johnstown with the Morrison family relatives.


Henry lived with older sister Annetta and mother Grace Morrison Elden in Johnstown.  He spent many summers at YMCA camp, with boyish mischief, tending to the batteries which exploded as he was trying to charge them.


He dated a girl that lived at the top of the hill in Johnstown, accessible by the incline. 
He did not call on her for a while so she mailed him a token to ride up the incline to visit her.


Idle time after school he hung around a guy that had a pool table. He must have spent hours at pool.  When Henry's college age son Ted took Henry to a pool hall one time, Henry successively broke the pool balls, then one by one, sank each in a pocket, clearing the table without Ted ever getting a shot. 
Ted was 20+ so Henry was 50+ and had not shot pool for 30 ? years.


Henry liked to draw when he was young, people suggested that he be an architect, so he went to Carnegie Tech to study Architecture.                                          to top index --- ^


After graduating with degree in Architecture from Carnegie Tech in Pittsburgh, Henry left Johnston, moved to Charleston, West Virginia where he took his first job in with Kuhn Construction.  Henry's Dad, Frank, started a saving account for the kids, although he died early.  There was enough money held by the county court to fund Henry's education and still leave him $ 500 ? which he used to buy a motor car on graduating - he got the one with the larger 40 ? HP engine.


Here in Charleston, he built an architectural firm that gathered national attention, awards, publication, particularly with the many national TV broadcasts on his home and studio, Top O Rock, on Home & Garden TV on the Dream Builder program on TOR, his stellar Round Glass Home / studio built above and overlooking the Charleston, Capitol City – River City Skyline.


Henry worked for Kuhn Construction in the Kanawha Valley Bank Building in Charleston.  He was the estimator, calculating how much it would cost to build a project so they could bid and get the construction work.  Their office was on the top floor of KVB.  Riding the elevator, he met Evelyn Carskadon on the elevator frequently.  They talked, grew in friendship and dated (for years). He marrier here in 1942, then promptly enlisted and went to war.  On returning 2 years later he first met his daughter Barbara Elden.


Henry would meet Evelyn and travel on a street car, then walk home after the date (he had little money),

Evelyn, always the night owl, would often have a date after her date with Henry.


Evelyn had a greater salary than Henry, and probably kidded Henry about that.

Evelyn's father was Edward Blackburn Carskadon, of Fairmont, where Evelyn grew up.

He moved his family to Charleston when he was appointed to be the first Commissioner of the W. Va. Department of Highways, building roads around the state.

After graduating from W. Va. University as English Major, Evelyn came to Charleston, working for lawyers as a stenographers, typing on a curious type of typewriter that would accept several (phonetic) keystrokes at one time.  Evelyn was very fast.  One of her bosses did not think or dictate very fast, so Evelyn would even do the stenography or typed recording with just one hand.  (This made her boss mad.)


They had a social group, Harry & Haas Stansbury, Felix & Fannie Lilly, and others.  They would go on weekend trips to W. Va. State Parks.  The Lillies were their supposed escort, chaperones, as they were married, but the other couples were not married.


Meredith Persinger eventually proposed to Evelyn Carskadon, and she accepted.

Henry was pretty jealous, so he proposed to Evelyn (or Evelyn proposed to Henry) and they decided to get married before her planned wedding to Persinger.


October 22, 1942 - Their wedding was just 5 people.  Henry & Evelyn each had one witness and met for the wedding ceremony.  Pete Kuhn was Dad's witness & best man.  Eleanor, Evelyn's sister, was her witness.                              to top index --- ^


They went to Cincinnati over the weekend for their honeymoon.  Evelyn insisted on returning to Charleston to work Monday morning.  Marriage might be nice, but she was not going to risk losing her job for a man.


After Henry worked at Kuhn Construction, he got a job with celebrated Charleston Architect, Walter Martens - who designed several important commissions, like the Governor's Mansion on the Boulevard.  Martens promised Henry a raise after some time with him.  When it came time for the raise, the boss said he could not pay more, so Henry quit and started working for (Union) Carbide Chemicals in the structural division.  They would design 3 dimensional steel grid structure to hold piping for the chemical productions at the plant.  They often changed the designs before they were built.  The boss told Henry, whether you are drawing or erasing, the pay is the same.  Henry found it frustrating, continually erasing or destroying the design work that he did to do new design work. His work at Carbide exempted him from being required to enlist in the war.                                                             to top index --- ^


After Pearl Harbor attack, Henry enlisted as an officer in the Navy.  He trained at Harvard Yard Boston, then was stationed in San Diego, waiting his call to go to sea.  All communications were closed, so Henry could not tell Evelyn at the base when he was called to sea, but they worked out signals.  When Henry did not come home to the apartment one day, Evelyn knew that Henry had gone to sea.  Pregnant with Barbara, Evelyn took a train back east.  She stopped in Chicago to visit her brother Edwin Carskadon and wife Gretchen.  Although Evelyn was destined to return to Charleston, her brother Edwin insisted that she stay with them until she had her child at the Army hospital.  She did, then returned (possibly with Gretchen & her 3 kids to Charleston).


Henry served several years with the Navy fleet in the Pacific Ocean near the Philippines.  He only occasionally got back to the states.  When he first met his first child, Barbara Ann Elden, she was nearly 2 years old.  Barbara did not like this new man, taking the attention of her mother and was initially jealous, and unfriendly to Henry.


Back in Charleston, W. Va., eventually Evelyn Elden, Gretchen Carskadon and their kids rented a little log cabin in Kanawha City (Charleston).  One day, Evelyn accidentally locked herself outside of the cabin and asked the kids (Edward the oldest) to let her back in.  The kids would not unlock the door, so someone (a neighbor ?) had to climb in a 2nd floor window to reunite mother and kids.


In the Navy, Henry was a communication officer.  He would get communication messages from the Captain of his ship and send them in code from a typewriter across the radio.  He would receive codes and type them into a special typewriter which would uncode the messages which he would give to his Captain.


The codes were kept very carefully and secretly.  Henry never shot a weapon or engaged in any combat.  Their ship carried troops to foreign shores.  They were not well armed, as other ships in their fleet were responsible for defense.


Once on returning from shore to his ship, his small launch was raised 80 feet up from the ocean to the deck of his large ship. As Henry stepped from the small launch to the deck of the ship, at that instant, the ropes broke, and the launch plunged 80 feet to the sea below.  Had Henry delayed even a second, he would have fallen to his death in that accident.


Once, when on his ship, the USS Harris, he went to another ship to picked up the mail for his ship.

While there, he also picked up mail for another ship in their fleet, near his ship.

When he returned to his ship, he sent a message to the Captain of another ship.  "I have your mail, come and get it."  He was tired and went to sleep.  His Captain awakened him in the middle of the night. "Henry - do you have the mail for another ship ?"  Henry did.  The Captain was shocked that Henry would tell a superior officer, the Captain of another ship to "come get his mail."  Henry responded quickly, dragging out a crew to take him on a launch (small boat) to the other ship in the middle of the night to deliver their mail.  (Don't talk to superiors - at least not telling them what to do !)


Henry was present at a surrender ceremony where Japanese Officers, at war's end, walked forward and placed their swords in a pile.  When the ceremony was over, people scattered.  Henry walked over and grabbed one of the Japanese swords, which he kept and brought home.  That fine crafted sword was proudly displayed at TOR..


Henry brought back a side arm, a Lugar pistol from his duty in the Navy, but did not like to have a gun in his home with children, so he traded it for a pair of binoculars (Barbara Elden Scavullo has those).


When Henry returned home from the Navy, he retuned to Carbide, where he had been working.

His boss gave Henry special privileges since he was the only one in their crew that had volunteered to serve in the military.


When their work load was light, his boss would excuse Henry (with pay) to slip away in the afternoons to work on building his own first home at 807 Churchill Dr., Charleston.


Henry Elden, Architect - On completing the home, Henry quit working at Carbide and began to do architectural projects from his home's basement.  He eventually hired Dallas Ferrell to help him and later expanded to build an architectural office next door at 809 Churchill Dr.  They built many projects all over the state, some homes, but many school buildings.  Henry Elden was the leading W. Va. school architect for decades.                        to top index --- ^


Haworth, in his own firm, did the structural work for HE & Associates.

In the beginning, Dad was unsure that he could keep his firm (1 helper) going.  He paid Haworth money, and Haworth kept Dallas Ferrell on Haworth's payroll.  Eventually Henry got Dallas on his own direct payroll.


Henry Elden & Associates - Design Team: These are some of the people Henry hired as he expanded his office at Churchill Dr.  Joe Deem, Dick (Richard) Smith, Margaret Wiseman, Russ, Clint Bryan, Uner Gokcen (an architectural gradate from Turkey), George Holderby (HVAC), Bob Simms (electrical & lighting), Jack Handloser, Margo ... from Spencer area. later adding Gerald Lamb, Lloyd Miller, Tom Potts, Ted Shriver, ...  At first Hayworth did Henry's structural engineering, then Jack Hofmann did the structural designs. Henry later did large government projects as joint ventures with George S. Rider from Cleveland, also worked with Perkins & Will of Chicago on a school building.


Numerous part time and short term people also aided Henry.  His wife Evelyn designed painting color schemes & picked furnishings.  His daughter Barbara later did furnishings adn color schemes for the HEA office.  Barbara Elden Scavullo, a graduate of Wellsley College, Mass. established her own large interior design firm in San Francisco - Barbara Scavullo Designs.


Henry Elden & Associates developed & promoted school work throughout the state, and displayed at meetings and conventions, even traveling out of state, like to Atlantic City to national School Conventions.

He expanded to government commissions; post offices, hospitals, GSA projects, courthouse & other renovations.


Henry eventually acquired many honor, awards and much publication in local papers, national organizations & publications.


In the 1950's Henry, wife & family traveled around West Virginia, checking on the construction of his many projects, like schools in most W. Va. counties.  After checking the buildings, they would go on to wild, wonderful W. Va. state parks for the weekend.  From his youth and to his family, Henry was the genesis that spurred a love of nature, the wilderness and travel.  They would hike, swim, and take photographs.

On some outings, Henry taught son Ted how to make a whistle out of the new shoot of a maple tree, how to fold the long leaf of a bull rush, and tuck it in to make a floating sail boat.  They once decorated the lake at Watoga St. Park with their little bull rush sail boats. 


In the 1960's Henry & Evelyn took many trips to Europe with their young teen age children traveling to Sweden, Germany, Italy, France, Copenhagen, Rotterdam, Austria, Norway, Finland, Holland, sometimes with the Charleston Show Plane, often on their own literary.  Daughter Barbara Ann Elden once travel for a summer (from college) to live with French family in rural France.  On one family trip, they purchased a Volkswagen to travel with and to ship home to America.  In Holland, Henry bought a large diamond ring for wife Evelyn.  They toured up and down on river while they considered the purchase.  Son Ted got very sick for a few days, delaying their traveling.  A conscientious local doctor saved Ted's life, and they resumed travel.                                                      to top index --- ^


While delayed in Holland, Henry found a wooden storage cabinet that held slides on racks with a light panel inside.  You could store 4,000 slides and quickly see any 100 slides illuminated at once.  Henry purchase and shipped this Abodia Slide Cabinet to America.


He had 1,000s of slides from his travel, his architectural work, and of his family.  The Abodia Slide Cabinet made the work of organizing and showing slides much easier.


Using the cabinet, he liked it and wrote back to the manufacture, Artur Bonacker, in Bremen Germany.  "Thanks - Abodia is good product." 

Bonacker replied, "Why don't you sell them in America ?"

Henry replied "I am a busy architect, but maybe my wife will"


Evelyn got information, more cabinets, took photos, built a catalog, scheduled and attended conventions cross the nation and advertised the Abodia Slide Storage System.


Initially, Henry & Evelyn would travel to national conventions showing the Abodia Cabinets. They sold maybe 20 a years initially, breaking even on their costs, but enjoying the travel to US cities to show the cabinets.


At age 80 or older, Henry traveled back to Germany, to Scandinavia, across France and in the Baltic Sea to go on month long cruises with Arthur Bonacker (owner - inventor of Abodia Cabinets) www.abodia.com/slidesolutions  Those great trips are recorded in Henry's writings and photos albums.

WW II Arthur was Germany Submarine U Boat captain & Henry was Navy code communication officer in Pacific Fleet).  Although they fought on opposites of the war, Arthur quipped, "He would have never shot Henry" (although neither met nor knew each other for another 20 years after the war in about 1966.


Henry received much acclaim and honors for the stunning Top O Rock, home and office that he built surrounding a cliff, over looking the Capitol and river city skyline.  He was called to NYC to be honored by the American Steel institute for recognition not only for his design but for being owner - builder of the project.  There in the Broadway type spot lights before the gala crowd, including the likes of Edward Durell Stone (famous contemporary architect) he stepped forward to receive his award.  Shy son Ted, a mere teen, took a long distant photo of Henry getting the award.  Photography, among other things take bravadaro to step forth when needs be to get the best shot.  It took years for Ted to gain his world of confidence that his father had.  Ted was sorry that he was not born bold like his undaunted sister.


When Ted Elden (Henrys son) graduated from Carnegie Mellon University in 1971, with his degree in Architecture, he eventually returned to work with his Dad Henry and the HEA architectural office.   Besides the architecture work, Ted grabbed the Abodia Slide Storage System idea.  He made many drawings of existing and future designs, did photography, developed a full color catalog and market to millions, expanding the business from 20 sales annually to 100s or more.  The Elden's successfully sold the Abodia cabinets to architects, college professors, doctors around the US and even to foreign countries for about 30 years, 1964 - 1993.  Ted added these members to our abodia staff: Lee Weber, Cindy Beecher (Bowman) Elaine White, Georgia Warren, Randy McDaniel, Shirlie Beth Wooten, Beckley - for graphics & design, Velice Byrd, Anne Croizer, ...


Henry Elden's architectural work evolved. 

He did many special projects, with excellence, economy and innovation.


Here are some of Elden's architectural projects:                                        to top index --- ^

- Chief Logan State Park Lodge - interior furnishings and tapestry designed by daughter Barbara Elden Scavullo.

- Firing Range for the W. Va. State Police Academy

- Enchanting little chapel, built by volunteer Methodist Men at Jackson Mills Camp

- Calvary Methodist Church in Wheeling

- Dilly's Mill Boy Scout Camp, layout and dining hall, chapel

- Martinsburg Regional Jail, first multi country jail built in the nation.

- at WV Inst. of Tech, Montgomery, for their president Leonard Nelson,

The stellar Vining Library, best, most beautiful and functional library in the state for 20+ years.

Community Tech, Co Op Dorms, with aid of new insight of CMU graduate, Ted Elden, the design left the conventional tower concept to more humane and current thinking of building small groups of rooms, like for fraternities, sharing kitchen and baths, instead of long corridor of bedrooms and one gang shower.  This dorm always filled more quickly then the other dorms on the campus, indicating that the students preferred this design layout over the traditional dorm designs.

- added wing to Andrew S. Rowan Memorial Home (original may have been designed or adapted from Thomas Jefferson's design) Elden's design included classic colonnade and detailing aided by Paul Vaugh fine art Charleston Architect.

- Morgantown & Huntington Post Offices (large projects)

- VA Hospital addition in Huntington with innovative solar roof panels for heating domestic hot water.

HE & Assoc. completed over 800 projects.


Henry worked with Perkins and Will from Chicago on some school projects and the George S. Rider Co. for some large federal projects.


Beyond his work, Henry Elden was great adventurer, photographer and family man.  He and his wife Evelyn traveled about the country visiting family over holidays and affording much travel, sight seeing to their children.


Athletics - Sports Henry started jogging and then rode his bike daily since he was 45 years old until about age 92 - a 6 mile loop. along MacCorkle Ave. across the Kanawha City Bridge (dangerous - could fall off bike into the river) , thru downtown Charleston to get his Post Office Box mail and pedaled home.                                  to top index --- ^


He enjoyed water skiing with his son Ted, family & friends, skiing the Kanawha River & Summersville Lake on a single slalom ski (at age 70 to 89).  He snow skied at Winterplace, Snowshoe, Whisper (Vancouver), Vail, Breckenridge, Cortina Italy, Switzerland: Zermat, Arosa, ...


Henry & Evelyn entertained many in his illustrious Top O Rock home & studio.  Beverly Sills -  Opera Singer, Ed Neuman from Today Show, W. Va. governors, city leaders & business people, Community Music Assoc. members, W. Va. Symphony conductor & patrons.  Ted once served a dinner part (Lobster and Sushi) to Governor Cecil Underwood and his daughters and their husbands, and his neighbor, Publisher Lyle Clay at Top O Rock.

Henry and Ted were members of the prestigious Anvil Club, where a member gives a talk and the members comment abou that subject while they enjoy dinner at the University of Charleston.  Prestigious members were doctors, attorneys, college presidents, and business men.  Once when Ted gave his presentation Governor Underwood attended (the only time a governor came to Anvil Club)  Later the members asked Ted, why did Governor Underwood attend ?  Ted said "because I sent a post card to him inviting him." Ted mails to many and some respond.


Henry's Top O Rock home & studio receive much local and national recognition.

Henry traveled to NYC ceremony to receive with famed architect Edward Durall Stone, an award from the US Steel Inst. for his Top o Rock design & construction.          to top index --- ^


TOR was featured in Parade Magazine, 15 million national circulation, Dwell Magazine, Home & Garden TV - the Dream Builders, rebroadcast many times including Ted Elden's Little Rock, 10 hyperbolic parabolas home & studio perched on mountainside above TOR.


He was a member of the Charleston Anvil Club, giving articulate and detailed presentations of heart warming stories, like his wife's cancer battle, treatment & cure, and later her congestive heart failure - & recovery.


With his slides of European Architecture he lectured at Carnegie Mellon University - to Architecture Department students.


Henry was known, admired & loved by many people.

He was conscientious to see and recognize the work, achievements of others, openly complimenting them on their achievements.  He inspired many to become architects and designers.                                                 to top index --- ^


This web site has much more information and photos of the famous Top O Rock home/ studio Henry Built.

www.TopORock.net        Also see www.abodia.com  to learn of the work, discoveries, inspiration, and curiosities of of Ted Elden.  To see more of the abodia slide storage cabinets see here: www.abodia.com/slidesolutions


an evolving story - updated and expanded when I can - notes by his son - Ted Elden