An ode to West Virginia’s antebellum ties, the historic springs represent much of the state’s Southern influences. These springs are a reminder of another era when people of the Tidewater lowlands flocked to enjoy the springs’ rejuvenating powers. Eventually their popularity diminished and people no longer took stock in the waters’ medicinal values. However, a visit to these springs today could recharge anyone’s love of architecture harmoniously linked to nature.
Presented at the Cockayne House, 1111 Wheeling Avenue, Glen Dale, “Women of the House” is open until Labor Day. Admission to the exhibit is included with a tour of the ca. 1850 farmhouse. Admission is $5.00 for adults; admission for students (grades 1—12) and senior citizens is $3.00; pre-school children are admitted for free. The Cockayne Farmstead is open for tours daily, Monday through Friday, between 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m., and tours begin on the hour. Weekend and group tours are by reservation; credit cards are accepted. Free off-street parking is available adjacent to the Cockayne Farmstead office at 1105 Wheeling Avenue.
Please call Caitlin Hucik or Tom Tarowsky at 304-845-1411 for group or weekend reservations, or with questions.
The Cockayne Farmstead is a site project for the Preserve WV AmeriCorps, a service initiative administered by Preservation Alliance of WV. For more information, visit our Preserve WV Program page.
When envisioning a courthouse most people conjure the image of a blindfolded allegorical statue standing in front of an imposing neoclassical temple of justice – much like the one Cass Gilbert designed for the U.S. Supreme Court. However, courthouses come in all shapes and sizes. With fifty-five counties, each one with a current – and often former – seat of power there are many courthouses across the state to explore. Below are just a few examples of the diverse architectural styles of the many historic courthouses of West Virginia
Go out and do these historic courthouses justice! Make these temples to jurisprudence your excuse for an excursion!
By Danielle, Executive Director
We at PAWV have partnered with the New River Gorge Regional Development Authority for a five-locale special program in the New River area: Bridges to the Past. Part of this partnership includes the display of our traveling exhibit, Preserving West Virginia: Saving Communities, giving special presentations about historic preservation, and touring historic sites in the region. Summersville in Nicholas County was the first stop on our five-month tour.
We were lucky to have Ray Moeller, West Virginia State University (WVSU) Extension Agent in Nicholas County, be our tour guide of Summersville’s historic hot spots. Ray was a great host. He picked us up at our hotel and drove us around to the Old Main School, Carnifex Ferry Park, Hawks Nest Workers Memorial and Grave Site, Summersville Lake, and more. Of all the sites, the Old Main School left the greatest impression on us. Old Main was the Nicholas County High School from 1913-1978. It is a three-story structure constructed of stone quarried not too far from where the building stands.
PAWV has focused its energies on highlighting dilapidated and vacant schools on the West Virginia Endangered Properties List (two were added to the list this year!). Recently, we’ve seen success stories for adaptive re-use of schools for housing in Clendenin, Charleston, and Elkins. These success stories are worth noting, but it’s important to understand that not every school building can be turned into affordable housing. The folks at the Old Main Foundation showed us a unique approach to making historic schools viable again.
It appears that the Old Main School project has evolved naturally over the years. The group formed in 1990 with the goal to turn the school into a regional cultural arts center. Fast forward twenty-four years, and we see first-hand what can be accomplished when a dedicated group of volunteers put their minds to something. The group has attained its goal, and the school now functions as a cultural arts center. Additionally, it houses a few offices for local organizations and businesses, demonstrating that the group has not limited itself to a certain scope, but that it has learned how to generate income to keep the building functioning and pristine. There are several rooms devoted to museum displays for veterans’ history, local history, and wild game, among other topics.
There is also a grand stage and auditorium that has been restored and is used for community performances. Groups can rent out spaces in the school for special events too. What’s remarkable about this project is that it is cutting edge compared to other school projects in West Virginia – many are in a stage of infancy. The Old Main Foundation found an approach that worked and ran with it. It may not work for every school building, but this project shows that there are endless options for preserving and re-using historic schools. All you really need is a dedicated group of volunteers with creative minds.
Old Main School is a historic preservation gem in the Nicholas County, and it is worth a visit on your summer trips to the New River. You can contact Jim Fitzwater at the Old Main Foundation for special tours and events by calling 304-872-5020. For more information, you can contact Ray Moeller at
Churches follow a standard form: nave, pews, altar… Yet there are unique features that make these architectural religious relics praiseworthy. All over West Virginia houses of worship symbolize a community’s history and values. Though the use of the structure may have changed or the building has sustained severe structural damage, the historic churches across the state merit a visit. This is why historic churches are this month’s focus for an Excuse for an Excursion.
All over West Virginia, there are historic houses of worship worth visiting. So let the majesty of these architectural relics be your excuse for an excursion!
When President Gerald Ford officially recognized Black History Month in 1976, he asked the public to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.” Bearing this in mind, PAWV chose this edition of Excuse for an Excursion to bring African-American Heritage in West Virginia to the forefront.
The African-American community has had a presence in West Virginia as early as the eighteenth century. In the twenty-first century, the West Virginia Department of Commerce created the African-American Heritage Trail, demonstrating how a once enslaved population could contribute to a state created during the Civil War. This trail features thirty-one sites spread over West Virginia, but concentrated along the I-64 and I-77 corridors, and around the tip of the Eastern Panhandle. Some of these sites include John Brown’s Fort in Harpers Ferry, Booker T. Washington’s boyhood home in Malden, and the African-American Heritage Family Tree Museum in Ansted. Also, in Hinton, the statue of John Henry, the legendary railroad worker, stands tall near Big Bend Tunnel. For more information on West Virginia’s African-American Heritage Trail please click here.
More than just John Henry’s ties to the railroad, West Virginia was home to a line of another kind, the Underground Railroad. Several routes ran through the state including some along the National Road, the Northwestern Turnpike, the Parkersburg Staunton Turnpike, and many of the rivers. One such site believed to be part of the Underground Railroad is in Doddridge County. Luke Jaco used a cave near his Inn to help transport slaves along the Northwestern Turnpike from Winchester, Virginia to Parkersburg and the Ohio River. There are names and dates in the Jaco Cave carved by the people who took shelter there. For more information on the Underground Railroad trail through Doddridge County, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Noticing the mark the African-American community left on West Virginia, it makes it harder to ignore the history that has been lost forever, like the Colored Children’s Home that once stood outside Huntington. This building was on PAWV’s 2011 Endangered Properties list; it was demolished later that same year. By cherishing the history that remains, we can preserve and protect it for the future. So embrace the African-American heritage of West Virginia and let that be your excuse for an excursion – not just during Black History Month, but any month.
North, South, East, or West there is a Main Street or On TRAC community near you! Each of these locations offers a unique small town experience. Never has the phrase ‘So much to do and so much to see’ been more aptly applied. I can only cover a handful of the highlights of these quintessential West Virginia towns, but there’s plenty more of them to explore!
The Charleston East End Main Street website features a list of the funkiest and most popular bars and eateries around. Afterwards, you walk it off on a self-guided tour of the district. Further north, you can drive into Fairmont via the Million Dollar Bridge. Spanning the Monongahela River, this route frames the townscape against the rolling hills. Once in the historic Downtown District, you can enjoy the seamless blend of revival styles ranging from Beaux Arts to Colonial to Italian Renaissance and Neo-Classical Revival. After stopping in Fairmont, continue on scenic Route 250 to Mannington and enjoy the Historic Home Tour or visit the Miniature Railroad Museum. In the Eastern Panhandle, Martinsburg boasts blocks upon blocks of local small businesses, ideal for a day of shopping.
Another possibility is a trip to Wheeling and West Virginia’s Independence Hall via the nation’s first roadway, historic U.S. Route 40. Or take a ride around the Potomac Highlands on one of the Mountain Rail Adventures departing from Elkin’s historic rail depot or from nearby Durbin. Another possible outing is to Sutton, where you can step in to history. This town is a part of three trails promoted by the state’s tourism bureau – The Historic Theatre Trail, Civil War Trail, and the Historic New Deal/CCC Trail. All of these trails will be featured in later Excuse for an Excursion postings.
Why just visit either Main Streets or On TRAC communities? These towns are bundled all around the state, and traveling from one town to the next makes for a great day trip! And each of these locations has events scheduled year-round so be sure to look-up upcoming events when planning your visit.
So stopping making excuses to stay at home this weekend, instead make an excuse for an excursion!
Looking for an engaging and uncomplicated weekend trip around West Virginia? The Preservation Alliance of West Virginia is here to provide you with the simple solution. PAWV’s new blog series, Excuse for an Excursion, is filled with suggestions of easy ways to explore West Virginia’s built heritage and enjoy successful preservation efforts around the state.
Each month there will be a new theme and suggested itineraries of how to fit in all the fun and culture West Virginia has to offer. The posts cover a wide range of interests – Main Streets communities to historic springs, churches to railroads – there’s something for everyone! So stop justifying reasons to stay home, and make an excuse for an excursion around wild and wonderful West Virginia!
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