- Historic Sites
Travel Guide to Historic Sites in West Virginia
Fort Edwards at Capon Bridge
British colonial settlers during the early 18th century often found haven from Indian raids at this fort, built by Joseph Edwards in the Cacapon River Valley. During the French and Indian War, it became a pivotal British post on the western frontier. Today the 23-acre-site features a colonial kitchen, archaeological site display, and visitors center with exhibits on the war’s history.
Grave Creek Archaeological Complex
Around 250 B.C. the Adena people built 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 the pre-Columbian people that lived in northern West Virginia between 250 B.C. and 150 B.C.
For centuries Native Americans harvested flint from the walls and ceilings of this cave to make arrowheads and cutting tools. During the Civil War, 1,100 Confederate soldiers mined the cave for nitre, a key constituent of gunpowder. A 90-minute tour leads through 2.2 miles of the passageways and past the 90-foot calcite formation resembling a pipe organ.
Prickett’s Fort State Park
Reconstructed from the original 1774 fort that protected Virginia settlers from Indian attacks, this 10,000-square-foot stockade contains a meeting house, gun shop, 14 small cabins, and a center common. From April to October, living history interpreters demonstrate blacksmithing, looming, and the use of 18th-century firearms.
Built by Irish immigrant Augustus Modisett in 1868, this two-story Greek- revival house is the oldest structure in Philippi. Guided tours include the restored house and basement, landscaped gardens, and the 1850 barn that hosts regular demonstrations of 19th-century crafts such as spinning, carding, weaving, and candle-making.
Barbour County Historical Museum
This former railroad station contains Civil War rifles and swords, photographs, and local artifacts, including the mummified remains of two mental patients from 1888. Just up the street lies the 285-foot-long Philippi Covered Bridge, the only remaining two-lane covered bridge to serve a U.S. highway.
Historic Charles Town
Established in 1786 by George Wash- ington’s younger brother, Charles, this town was the setting for the trial and execution of abolitionist John Brown. Visitors to the Jefferson County Court- house on East Washington Street can see the room where Brown was tried. One block to the northeast, the Jefferson County Museum includes artifacts, such as John Brown’s cot on which he awaited the verdict of his trial and the wagon he rode to his execution. Other highlights include restored historic 18th- and 19th-century buildings such as the Webb House on North Street, one of the earliest stone structures built and owned by free African Americans.
Historic Shepherdstown & Museum
This three-floor, 2,000-square-foot museum, housed within the 1786 Entler Hotel, features the hotel's original dining rooms, sitting chambers, and bedrooms. Self-guided tours lead through display areas that examine the early history of hte city and include artifacts such a a 1905 mail wagon, Sheetz rifles, and a Conrad Schindler copper kettle.
Museum of the Berkeley Springs
Located inside the 1815 Roman Bath House, this museum focuses on the history of the area’s warm mineral springs and local inventor James Rumsey, who built one of the first operating steamboats. Visitors can take a self-guided tour of the two exhibit floors, which contain displays on Cacapon River arrowheads, a diagram explaining the natural formation of the bath, and H. H. Hunter furniture.
Tu-Endie-Wei Point Pleasant Battle Monument State Park
This four-acre park, located where the Kanawha and Ohio rivers meet, contains an 84-foot monument dedicated to the 1774 battle in which the British colonists defeated Shawnee Indians under Chief Cornstalk. Visitors can take a self-guided tour through a 1796 log house with period antiques as well as see the burial site of Chief Cornstalk. Across Main Street is the Point Pleasant River Museum, which features interactive exhibits about the riverboat industry that thrived during the 1800s. Visitors can see shanty boats and a working model of a pilot house.
Wellsburg Historic District
Founded in 1791, this Ohio River town served as a major port during the War of 1812, later emerging as a shipbuilding, papermaking, and glassblowing center. Federal, Italianate, Greek Revival, and Victorian houses crowd downtown. Visitors can explore the Wellsburg Wharf, a 1790s industrial site on the river’s banks along with the adjacent 1794 inn, Miller’s Tavern.
Anna Jarvis Birthplace Museum
This 1854 wooden house was the home of Anna Jarvis, the founder of Mother’s Day, which became a national holiday in 1914. It served as Gen. George McClellan’s headquarters during the Civil War. The museum features displays about Jarvis’s mother, Ann Marie, who worked as a teaching nurse during the war, as well as exhibits on the Jarvis family and a room focusing on McClellan and his role in the Civil War.
Bulltown Historic Area
On October 13, 1863, 800 Confederate soldiers stormed a makeshift Union fort located on this site on the banks of the Little Kanawha River in an unsuccessful attempt to sever the Union’s access to the Greenbrier Valley. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers maintains the battlefield, fort, and one-mile line of trenches. Ninety-minute tours explore the early 19th-century homesteads, including the dog-trot style Cunningham farmhouse and a pre-fort granary. The interpretive center located 300 yards from the battlefield contains a Civil War howitzer, rifles, and a timeline of the battle.
Carnifex Ferry Battlefield State Park
When a federal army repelled Confederate troops at this 156-acre battlefield on September 10, 1861, they secured the western portion of Virginia, which severed ties with the state and entered the Union as West Virginia on June 20, 1863. Located on the northeast section of the park is the Patterson House Museum, a converted 19th-century farmhouse that contains Civil War artifacts and period antiques.
Fayetteville Historic District
This 1818 town, named for the Marquis de Lafayette, a French officer who served with distinction under George Washington during the Revolution, became the county seat in 1873. A self-guided walking tour leads past Colonial Revival homes. One and a half miles to the north is the Canyon Rim Visitor Center, which offers views of the 3,030-foot New River Gorge Bridge.
Harpers Ferry National Historical Park
This town, a major federal arsenal before the Civil War, was the site of a raid by abolitionist John Brown, who tried to spark a slave revolt in 1859. The 3,647-acre park encompasses 24 restored 19th-century buildings, such as John Brown’s Fort, the 1848 armory firehouse that was the site of his standoff against federal forces led by Robert E. Lee. Shuttle bus tours leave from the visitors center and travel to the Lower Town Historic District, site of the best preserved structures in the city. A Place in Time Museum highlights the city’s history; the Industry Museum features exhibits on interchangeable manufacturing techniques.
Jackson’s Mill Historic Area
Confederate Gen. Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson grew up in a log cabin farmstead on this site. In the 1930s the U.S. Navy converted the grounds into an aviation training base. The complex, now owned by West Virginia University, includes the original mill, two cabins, and a barn where costumed interpreters demonstrate candle dipping, paper marbling, and blacksmithing.
Martinsburg Historic District
In 1773, Maj. Gen. Adam Stephen founded this town, which became an important shipping point for the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad during the mid-19th century. Steamboat innovator James Rumsey is memorialized with a monument, museum, and replica of his first craft. Stephen’s two-story limestone house, the nearby Triple Brick Museum to 19th- and 20th-century local history, and the Belle Boyd House, home to a Confederate spy during the Civil War, are open for guided tours.
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.
Beckley Exhibition Coal Mine
Located 1,500 feet beneath the New River Park, this preserved early-20th- century coal mine is reached by an elevator ride down a mine shaft. Veteran coal miners lead visitors on 40-minute guided tours through the former opera- tional sections of the mine. Topside the 14,000-square-foot visitors center and coal museum features early mining tools and photographs.
Henderson Hall Plantation
This 1859 Victorian Italianate mansion, owned by oil magnate George Washington Henderson, served as a manor house of a plantation along the Ohio River. A 60-minute guided tour leads through the mansion’s 21 rooms, which are filled with original antiques, such as a rosewood piano, a 12-foot gilt mirror, and documents that include letters from Gen. Robert E. Lee.
Hinton Historic District
This former coal and railroad boom-town overlooking the New River Gorge contains more than 200 historic build- ings in its 24-block district, including C. B. Mahon General Store, McCreery Hotel, C&O passenger depot, and Hinton Historic Manor. The Veterans Memorial Museum of Southern West Virginia contains artifacts from the Revolutionary, Civil, and Korean Wars. The Hinton Railroad Museum displays conductor uniforms and wood carvings of John Henry racing steamboats.
Morgantown Glass Museum
Endowed with rich deposits of lime, sand, and natural gas, Morgantown became a major glassmaking center in the late 19th century. This 1,600-foot museum contains more than 2,000 glassware pieces, including items created by Morgantown’s first glass company, Seneca, which was renowned for its intricate hand-etched patterns and platinum- trimmed stemware.
Morgantown History Museum
This 5,000 square-foot museum, located in the town’s 1931 post office, contains exhibits on Morgantown’s early industrial history. Collections feature artifacts and interpretive panels on major early 20th- century businesses in the region, including General Woodworking, the foremost lumber supplier in the area, and Morgan- town Shirt Company, which produced World War II military uniforms and then supplied stores such as Brooks Brothers and Saks Fifth Avenue.
Wheeling National Heritage Area
Since its founding in 1769, this town has served as a hub of three major transporta- tion 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 manufac- turing 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.
The Bunker at Greenbrier
This once top-secret 112,000-square-foot underground facility was built in 1961 to harbor every member of Congress in case Washington, DC, came under nuclear attack during the Cold War. Ninety-minute guided tours lead through an emergency television studio, House of Representatives chamber, cafeteria, water power plant, and decontamination areas.
Cass Scenic Railroad State Park and Museum
For more than a decade this 1902 rail- way hauled 1.5 million feet of lumber weekly from the West Virginia Pulp and Lumber Mill in Cass to the river town of Spruce. Visitors can take a two-hour ride on an original Shay #4 logging flatcar for 11 miles up to Whittaker Station at the summit of Bald Knob Mountain, eat lunch, and tour a recreated 1940s logging camp.
Pearl S. Buck Birthplace Museum
Home to the Nobel Prize-winning author Pearl S. Buck, this 1892 estate contains artifacts of Buck and her family, including original furnishings and her childhood clothing. Forty-five-minute guided tours lead through the dining area, living room, and bedrooms. Located on the 13-acre grounds are the carpentry shop, barn, and the boyhood home of Buck’s father, Absalom Sydenstricker.
West Virginia Museum of American Glass
This 12,000-square-foot museum focuses on West Virginia’s glass-making boom in the early 20th century. Highlights include decorative Tiffany tiles, hand- painted tumblers, telegraph insulators, and Seneca goblets. The museum also houses the archives for the American Flint Glass Workers Union.
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.
West Virginia State Capitol Complex
Cass Gilbert, architect of the U.S. Supreme Court building, also designed this 545,000-square-foot buff limestone structure, which has been home to the West Virginia Legislature since its completion in 1932. Its 293-foot-tall dome soars five feet higher than the U.S. Capitol building and is gilded with 14-karat gold leaf. Thirty-minute guided tours lead around the 16-acre capitol complex, which includes the 1925 30- room governor’s mansion, the veterans memorial, and the 24,000-square-foot West Virginia State Museum. The latter contains many exhibits, including one that simulates the experience of walking through a coal mine.
West Virginia University
This state university, which opened in 1867 with 124 students, now boasts more than 22,000 undergraduate students and a campus of more than 1,000 acres. Famous graduates include Don Knotts of the Andy Griffith Show and NFL Hall of Famer Sam Huff. Located in downtown Morgantown, the WVU Visitor Resource Center features interpretive displays on campus history and culture. Other campus highlights include the university's historic Woodburn Circle, comprised of three 19th-century Victorian brick buidlings surrounding a grass common; the Cook-Hayman Pharmacy Museum, featuring a reconstructed 19th-century pharmacy inside the WVU Medical Center; and Mountaineer Field, the largest on-campus facility in the Big East Conference.