Favorite thing: Credit it to TV shows like the Beverly Hillibillies or whatever, but many uninformed outsiders seem to to think of all West Virginians as backward hicks. To those with that misconception, taking a stroll down Capitol Street in Charleston just may be a real eye-opener. Along this beautiful tree-lined street you will witness a West Virginia that is cosmopolitan and cultured. It is a neighborhood of sophisticated shops, trendy restaurants, parks, and an upscale urban flair. For the true Charleston experience no trip is complete without going to Capitol Street.
Site of Historic Fort Lee
Favorite thing: What is today downtown Charleston was originally the site of Fort Lee, a western frontier outpost guarding settlers against the Indians. It was built on the banks of the Kanawha River in 1788, and named for General Lighthorse Harry Lee, one of George Washington's most trusted officers. Later Lee became the governor of Virginia, of which West Virginia was then a part.
Fondest memory: In this photo you will notice the paved hike/bike trail on two levels, both above and below the levee. My favorite memory on two different trips to Charleston is taking a long walk along this pathway, which stretches for miles beside the beautiful Charleston riverfront.
- Hiking and Walking
- Historical Travel
The Mansions on Kanawha Boulevard, East
Favorite thing: It's well worth taking a walk along Kanawha Boulevard, East just to see the architecture of the scores of impressive mansions along the riverfront. These were built primarily with the wealth that came from harvesting (exploiting) West Virginia's rich fossil-fuel resources: coal, oil and natural gas.
Most of the mansions today have been converted into offices, and the rich folk have moved out to more secluded mountaintop hideaways. The stately white-columned home pictured here is now the headquarters of the United Mine Workers, which is a powerful force in West Virginia politics and life.
The Kanawha River
Favorite thing: Charleston is situated at the confluence of the Kanawha and the Elk Rivers and is very much a river city. While the Elk is relatively small, the Kanawha is a hard working river, meandering through the valley and mountains of West Virginia's coal country, and carrying barges heavy laden with the black gold. The Kanawha flows into the Ohio River, and hence to the Mississippi and the Gulf of Mexico.
The Kanawha is also popular with rowers, pleasure boaters, and provides a venue for Charleston's annual sternwheel regatta.
Charleston Sternwheel Regatta
Harry M. Brawley Walkway & Slack Plaza
Favorite thing: The Harry M. Brawley Walkway, named for a Charleston historian, is a landscaped linier city park, about 3 blocks long, running from Capitol Street to Court Street, and connecting the main downtown area with Charleston Town Center Mall. It broadens between Summer & Laidley Streets to become Slack Plaza, named for a former West Virginia Congressman. This is obviously a popular local gathering place as I saw numerous Charlestonians out enjoying the beautiful springtime weather here.
Kanawha County Public Library
Favorite thing: Here's a great place to get your VT fix. I took advantage of the free internet access provided by the library to check my e-mail, and also was able to find some free visitor brochures here which helped me discover things to see and do in West Virginia's Capitol City. Most public libraries in America now offer free internet access to the public, and are a good alternative to an internet cafe.
123 Capitol Street, Charleston, West Virginia 25301
Kanawha Public Library
- Budget Travel
West Virginia Zero Milestone
Favorite thing: Directly across Kanawha Boulevard from the State Capitol, and overlooking the Kanawha River, is this stone marker designating Mile Zero, the spot from which mileposts along West Virginia highways are marked throughout the state. The marker was first set in 1934, then removed from the capitol grounds in 1938 due to municipal street construction. It was reset at its present location in 1956.
- Road Trip
West Virginia's Moving Capitol
Favorite thing: For political reasons, West Virginia's Capitol was moved four times between 1861 and 1885, from Wheeling to Charleston then back to Wheeling and back again to Charleston. This historical marker, in a small downtown park at the corner of Capitol and Lee Streets, marks the site of the West Virginia Capitol Building from 1885 until it burned in 1921. Following the fire, the current Capitol was built along the river two miles to the east.
- Historical Travel
West Virginia's First Natural Gas Well
Favorite thing: Charleston became the site of West Virginia's first natural gas well in 1815, when Captain James Wilson was drilling here for salt brine. Wilson vowed he would drill to Hell if necessary. He struck a large flow of natural gas which exploded into a huge ball of flame, apparently fulfilling the captain's vow.
Gas, oil, and especially coal all have been vital parts of West Virginia's economy. Although oil is not as abundant as it once was, West Virginia still produces 15% of the nation's coal.
Favorite thing: There are many places of worship in the Charleston area but if noone tells you where they are you may not find them. So here is a list of some of the churches and worship services in Charleston. (use the phone number to ask when the services are held).
Baha'i Faith.... 166 Sunset Drive.... 304-346-9346
Baptist Church.... 4500 Venable Avenue
Blessed Sacrament Church.... 305 East Street.... 304-744-5523
B'Nai Jacob.... 1599 Virginia Street East.... 304-346-4722
Sacred Heart (Catholic).... 1032 Virginia Street East.... 304-342-8175
Church of Christ.... 5101 Chesterfield Avenue.... 304-925-7435
All Saints Episcopal Church.... 4032 Maccorkle Avenue.... 304-768-6542
Islamic Center.... 1 Valley Road.... 304-744-1031
Kingdom Hall.... 805 Bigley Avenue.... 304-343-1961
Lutheran.... 1423 Lee Street East.... 304-343-1647
Nazarene.... 606 Lakewood Drive.... 304-984-9854
Elk Hills Presbyterian.... 109 Church Road.... 304-346-4013
Seventh-Day Adventist.... 304-746-7779
United Methodist.... 401 Roane Street.... 304-342-6553
Unitarian.... 520 Kanawha Blvd West.... 304-345-5042
- Religious Travel
- Road Trip
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