Guide to Historic Sites in West Virginia

American Heritage, Fall 2010 | Go to article overview

Guide to Historic Sites in West Virginia


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Northern Panhandle

Grave Creek Archaeological Complex

Around 250 B.C. the Adena people constructed this 62-foot-high, multiple-level burial mound, which visitors can walk atop. On the two-acre grounds is the Delf Norona Museum, which contains exhibits about this pre-Columbian people that lived in northern West Virginia between 250 B.C. and 150 B.C. (304) 843-4128 or www.wvculture.org/museum/GraveCreekmod.html

Wellsburg Historic District

Founded in 1791, this Ohio River town became a major port complex during the War of 1812, then emerged as a center for shipbuilding, papermaking, and glassblowing. The Wellsburg Wharf, a 1790s industrial site along the river, is open for sell-guided tours. The adjacent 1794 inn, Miller's Tavern, now operates as the Brooke County Museum and features tools, newspapers, and books. (304) 737-4060 or www.brookecountywvgenealogy.org/walkingtour.html

West Virginia Independence Hall

Formerly the Wheeling Custom House and headquarters of western Virginia's federal district court, this building was the scene of many heated debates over money customs, slavery, and the 1861 vote to secede from the Confederate state of Virginia and remain with the Union as West Virginia. Three floors contain exhibits including 13 original Civil War battle flags, Gov. Francis H. Pierpont's desk, and the original 1859 courtroom. (304) 238-1300 or www.wvculture.org/museum/WVIHmod.html

West Virginia Penitentiary

For more than 150 years the state incarcerated its most dangerous criminals in this 1876 Gothic prison. Ninety-minute guided tours wind through the first floor cellblock, cafeteria, recreation yard, and solitary confinement quarters. The 600-square-foot museum contains artifacts such as officer batons and the electric chair used to execute serial killer Harry Powers in 1932. (304) 845-6200 or www.wvpentours.com

Wheeling National Heritage Area

Since its founding in 1769, this town served as a hub of three major transportation routes: the Ohio River, the National Road, and the B&O Railroad. Visitors can take self-guided tours of the 1846 Mansion Museum, the artisan center that contains exhibits on 19th-century manufacturing life, as well as a 30-minute guided tour of the 1892 Victorian Eckhart House, which are all located inside the 1,650-acre Oglebay Park. The visitors center, located six miles to the southwest, features interactive displays such as a talking map of the 18th-century town and a model steamboat. (304) 232-3087 or www.nps.gov/whee

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Mid-Ohio Valley

Blennerhassett Island Historical State Park

This 511-acre island off the coast of Parkersburg features a Civil-War-era log cabin and the 1802 Putnam House, which can be seen on a 30-minute, two-mile narrated wagon fide. Costumed interpreters provide 45-minute guided tours through the reconstructed 7,000-square-foot Blennerhassett Mansion, once home to a wealthy Irish emigre family; which contains 18th-century Parisian oil paintings and porcelain china. Three miles east of the island is the Blennerhassett Museum, which features three floors of exhibits and contains a 1913 Model T Ford, Indian jewelry, Parkersburg landscape paintings, and 19th-century Ohio Valley maps. (304) 420-4800 or www.blennerhassettislandstatepark.com

Campbell Mansion

Jefferson Davis, James Garfield, Henry Clay; and other luminaries dined at this 1795 home of Alexander Campbell, the founder of Bethany College and Church of Christ leader. A 90-minute guided tour leads through the estate's 18 rooms and outbuildings such as the hexagonal study, schoolroom, and springhouse. (304) 829-4258 or www.bethanywv.edu/about-bethany/historic/campbell-mansion

Fort Boreman Historical Park

This 1864 fort, named after Arthur Boreman, West Virginia's first governor, is strategically situated between the Little Kanawha and Ohio rivers and once served as an encampment for the Union Army's 11th West Virginia Infantry during the Civil War.

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Guide to Historic Sites in West Virginia
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