Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Wheeling, West Virginia

Most appropriately John and I left St.Louis last Thursday during a fierce rain storm.  That is how we  will remember the last stay in our home city- rain and very hot weather.  And it seems that our little traveling companion Lenny the lizard has left us as we have not seen him since.   I know that I will miss seeing his little head sticking out of our exhaust pipe!
Over the past week-end we stayed in an Ohio state park.  It was a very quiet place with no internet access. Sometimes that is good.  On Saturday morning we drove over the Ohio River into Wheeling not sure if the visitor's center would be open to give us the information we needed to tour the town.  All we knew from out-dated tour books was that there is a lot to see and do in Wheeling.
In previous years, while on the road, we have visited this town.  And I did write in one posting about   a suspension bridge which was the longest bridge in the states in 1849, until the Brooklyn Bridge was built two years later.  We followed signs in Wheeling to the visitor's center which fortunately was open.   A small museum there gave us some history of the town, and a staff member directed us to
visit West Virginia Independence Hall nearby in the historic downtown area.  By the way, at this museum we learned how the town got its name.  "Weeling" in a Native American language means "head".  A European adventurer was decapitated and his head hung on a pole as a warning to white settlers, hence the town was named for a murder!

 Independence Hall, pictured above,  was once the Federal Custom House.  It was built in 1859 and   served as the capitol of the "Restored Government of Virginia" for two years prior to the granting of West Virginia statehood on June 20, 1863.  The statehood story is documented in a film we saw in the museum "For Liberty and Union".  We learned that people in this part of Virginia did not desire to be part of eastern section of the state because of the rumors of its secession from the United States in 1861.  West Virginia, although a slave state, wanted to be a part of the Union.  The statue in from of the building is that of  Francis Pierpoint, the first governor of W.Va.  The building in the background is that of First English Lutheran Church, established 1860.
Pictured above is the courtroom where passionate discussions for statehood began in 186l.  The building has been restored and is quite beautiful with tall wooden doors, tiled floors, as well as ironwork and frescos.  There is also a wonderful display of original Civil War Flags.
We had lunch at North Centre Market House where there are antique stores and restaurants.  It was built in 1853.   In the 1800s Wheeling was a boom town with its natural resources of coal and gas.  It also attracted skilled artisans in numerous glass works.  Tobacco and nail factories also sprang up, Wheeling back then was known as the "Nail City".  Beautiful Victorian-styled homes were built, our afternoon in the town was spent on a walking tour of the old homes.  More on that in the next posting.

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