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Cultural Attractions in West Virginia
The Mountain State’s diverse cultural sites document human history stretching back thousands of years – when you are in West Virginia you can walk hallowed Civil War battle sites or stand where prehistoric peoples once lived and hunted.
Today you can walk atop a 62-foot tall burial mound made by the Adena people in 250 B.C. The Grave Creek Archaeological Complex includes the Delf Norona Museum, which explains the pre-Columbian people who lived here. Amateur archeologists working here decades ago tunneled into the mounds and found ornaments and, controversially, what was said to be the remains of a flat sandstone tablet.
At Organ Cave you can see where Native Americans cut flint from stone walls to make arrowheads and cutting tools. Later, during the Civil War, Confederate soldiers mined nitrate from the cave to make gunpowder. Today you can embark on a variety of tours of the caves year-round.
In the early 18th century British colonial settlers took refuge during Indian raids by hunkering down at Fort Edwards. Today, the 23-acre site has been surveyed and visitors can see displays of what was found here – ceramics, pottery, belt buckles, buttons, and more.
At Prickett’s Fort State Park visitors can see a reconstructed fort based on a structure built in 1774 which protected settlers from Indian attacks. During the spring, summer, and fall, living history interpreters demonstrate the use of period firearms, looming, and blacksmithing.
Barbour County’s history is closely tied to the Civil War, and at the county historical museum, which is in a former railroad station, you can see period rifles, swords, photographs, and local artifacts – and the mummified remains of two mental hospital patients. Not far away is the Philippi Covered Bridge – it’s 285 feet long and still serves a major arterial route.
Those who love big old homes will want to check out the Adaland Mansion, which was built by Irish immigrant Augustus Modisett in 1868. This two-story Greek-revival home is the oldest structure in Philippi and tours venture through the restored house, its basement, and around the landscaped gardens and into the barn, which dates to 1850.
The historic settlement of Charles Town is in the far eastern end of the state. The city was established in 1787 and today is chock full of historic sites. Altona is a historic farm which includes a 1793 Federal-style plantation house and a Sears Roebuck “Dream House.” Aspen Hill is an 1840 farm house located nearby and Barleywood is a farm once owned by a brother of George Washington – it has a two-story, three-bay Greek Revival home built in 1842. Belvedere is a Federal-style mansion built in 1807 which now sits at the end of a tree-lined driveway and affords sweeping mountain views. Blakeley is a grand mansion built in 1820 which features a spectacular two-story portico.
Not far from Charles Town, Harpers Ferry is a historic site at the confluence of the Shenandoah and Potomac rivers. Visitors can tour the ruins of St. John’s Episcopal Church, walk Lower Town, visit Arsenal Square, and visit a number of museums. Harpers Ferry was a major arsenal before the Civil War and also the site of a raid by John Brown, who had attempted to initiate a slave revolt in 1859. Today there are 24 restored buildings dating from the 19th century and a shuttle bus tour passes some of the most notable spots.
Officials in historic Shepherdstown have put together a breezy walking tour of some of the town’s most important sites. You can stroll past the Entler Hotel, pop into the Historic Shepherdstown Museum and the Rumsey Steamboat Museum, see the Pendleton house, which built in the early 1800s, and admire grand McMurran Hall.
Near Point Pleasant you’ll find Tu-Endie-Wei State Park, which commemorates the Battle of Point Pleasant – that conflict has been called the first battle of the American Revolutionary War.
At the tippy-top of the state sits historic Wellsburg, which is along the Ohio River and was founded in 1791. This area served as a major port during the War of 1812, and its downtown is crammed full of Federal, Greek Revival, Italianate, and Victorian homes and buildings. A short walking tour takes you past many of the most interesting sites. Another walking tour explores Fayetteville’s historic district. This town, which was settled in 1818, is today marked by several Colonial Revival homes.
Anna Jarvis, who founded Mother’s Day, is honored at the Anna Jarvis Birthplace Museum in Grafton. The museum, in an 1854 house, has displays about Jarvis’ mother, who worked as a teaching nurse during the Civil War. The boyhood home of Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson is honored at Jackson’s Mill Historic Area, which is on the grounds of West Virginia University.
On the banks of the Little Kanawha River, the Bulltown historic area marks the spot where Confederate soldiers stormed a small Union fort. Today you can see the fort, the battlefield, and a one-mile long line of trenches. In 1861, Union troops repelled Confederate soldiers at a spot which today is known at Carnifex Ferry Battlefield State Park. Visitors can also visit the Patterson House Museum, which holds period antiques and Civil War artifacts.
West Virginians have always worked hard, and several historic sites honor the state’s industrial past. Ride an elevator 1,500 feet underground to the Beckley Exhibition Coal Mine, where veteran coal miners lead 40-minute guided tours through an old mine. Hinton was once a coal and railroad boom town, and visitors today can see more than 200 historic buildings in the 24-block historic district, including the Mahon General Store, McCreery Hotel, the C&O passenger depot, and several historic manors.
There are several cultural sites to visit in Morgantown. Start with the Morgantown Glass Museum, which preserves the city’s role as a center of glassmaking, then move on to the Morgantown History Museum, where exhibits showcase the area’s lumber industry, shirt-making factories, and artifacts from the town’s history.
Clay Center for the Arts & Sciences
On your next trek into West Virginia, don't miss a chance to visit the Clay Center for the Arts & Sciences. Featuring a wide range of exhibits and interactive attractions, the Clay Center is part of downtown Charleston – the West Virginia capital where locals come to visit from as far west as Barboursville.
At nearly 240,000 square feet, the Clay Center features permanent art displays from noted artists like Chuck Close, and Joseph Hirsch, and don't miss the 64 ft. tall Hallelujah Sculpture, constructed by artist Albert Paley. Perfect for an afternoon with the kids, don's miss out on the Clay Center Science Galleries, where you'll check out the Gizmo Factory, or Milton Gardern's Earth City.
Heritage Farm Museum & Village
Preserving Appalachian Heritage, the Heritage Farm Museum & Village is located in the city of Huntington – set just west of Barboursville in southern West Virginia. The Heritage Farm features 16 historic structures, and five separate museums.
Onsite museums include the Heritage Museum, the Transportation Museum, the Progress Museum, the Industry Museum, and the Country Store Museum. Visitors enjoy tours of the one-room schoolhouse, the blacksmith shops, and log homes – all in the heart of Colonial America.
Heritage Towers Museum & Culture Center
Get ready for history in Charleston. Set just off the Kanawha River in western West Virginia, the Heritage Towers Museum & Culture Center is one of the premier destinations in all of Charleston. With Barboursville to the west, and Summersville to the east, the area is rich in early American history. Opened to the public in 2005, the Heritage Towers Museum provides detailed perspectives on African American life throughout West Virginia.
A number of different exhibits lines the halls and walls of the Heritage Towers Museum, including topics from Slave Life, to Jim Crow Laws, and even a look at the African American Coal Miners who worked in the Appalachian Moutains of West Virginia. Don't miss the art display of William H. Johnson, known for his clever, yet accurate, displays of African American life.
Morgantown Theatre Co.
You'll have much to see and do on your next trip to Morgantown. In historic downtown Morgantown, make time to visit the Morgantown Theatre Company. Not far from the campus of West Virginia University, Morgantown Theatre Company was established in 1998, and has since become one of the more popular theatre production houses in the West Virginia.
Make the drive in from Bridgeport, or stay in town and check out a rendition of popular plays, and entertaining children's performances. Perfect for traveling families, the Morgantown Theatre Company has a revolving schedule of performances throughout the year – be sure to keep your ear to the ground.
West Virginia Culture Center
Pack your bags and get ready – a look at West Virginia culture is on the horizon. Set in Charleston, the West Virginia Culture Center opened in 1976, and has since been a showcase of heritage and cultural art. Nearby cities include Barboursville, and Summersville. Large in size, the West Virginia Culture Center is home to the WV Offices of the Commission on Arts, the WV State Historic Preservation Office, the WV State Museum, and the WV State Archives.