Unique Places in West Virginia

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    Qunicy Hill overlook during an October...
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Most Viewed Off The Beaten Path in West Virginia

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    Cranberry Glades Botanical Area

    by traveldave Updated Jun 26, 2013

    Located within the Monongahela National Forest in east-central West Virginia, Cranberry Glades Botanical Area is comprised of five open bogs nestled in a natural bowl in the mountains at an elevation of about 3,400 feet (1,036 meters). Totaling 750 acres (304 hectares), Cranberry Glades Botanical Area contains the largest area of bogs in the state. The bogs are mainly made up of sphagnum moss, but also contain wild cranberries, two species of carnivorous plants, and many other species of grasses, shrubs, and flowers. The surrounding wooded sections are dominated by red spruce, hemlock, and yellow birch.

    The botanical area was established in 1965 to protect the unique boreal ecosystem, as well as more than 60 species of endangered plants, many of which are at the southernmost limit of their ranges here. Many of the plants now found in the bogs descended from seeds that took root here more than 10,000 years ago, toward the end of the last ice age.

    The bogs, sometimes called acidic wetlands, resemble the muskeg bogs of the northern forests, or even Arctic tundra, and contain many of the same plants that can be found in the far north, including reindeer moss. Many of the botanical area's mammals and birds are also species that are more commonly found at more northern latitudes. Especially noteworthy are two species of carnivorous plants, the purple pitcher plant and the sundew, which thrive in the nutrient-poor acidic soil. These plants have evolved to attract, trap, and digest insects in order to take in nutrients that the soil cannot provide.

    The botanical area features a one-half-mile (one-kilometer) boardwalk that skirts the edge of one of the bogs, passes through a small wooded section, and crosses a small stream. It allows visitors to get close observations of the bog's unique plants without getting wet. And with patience, many birds can be watched and, with luck, a bear may also make an appearance.

    Cranberry Glades Botanical Area has been designated a National Natural Landmark.

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    The Palace of Gold

    by traveldave Updated Aug 27, 2012

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    It was a surreal experience seeing the Palace of Gold for the first time. It is located four miles (six kilometers) off a main state route on a narrow, twisting country road with typical farms and rural homes, but as I turned a corner I saw a magnificent palace that should belong in India rather than in the hills of West Virginia.

    The Palace of Gold is the centerpiece of the 1,204-acre (487-hectare) New Vrindaban Community that was established in rural West Virginia in 1968 by Srila Prabhupada, the founder of the controversial Hare Krishna movement. It is the first, and most ornate, of seven palaces eventually constructed across the United States which were based on seven Hindu temples in Vrindhavan, India.

    Work began on what would become the Palace of Gold in 1972. The building was originally supposed to have been the residence of Srila Prabhupada, but when he died in 1977, the plans changed to construct instead a palace of gold, marble, and teakwood as a memorial shrine to him. The work was done by devotees who donated their time. Most had no skills as carpenters, but they learned as they went. The palace finally opened in 1979.

    Nowadays, about 50,000 tourists and Hindu pilgrims visit the community each year. In addition to the palace, the community consists of several building complexes, homes, apartment buildings, and businesses. One of the attractions on the palace grounds is the Rose Garden. It contains hundreds of rose bushes of different varieties, and has been named "Outstanding Rose Garden in North America" by All-America Rose Selections.

    The Palace of Gold is located about 12 miles (19 kilometers) east of Moundsville in the panhandle of northwestern West Virginia.

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    The Anna Jarvis House

    by traveldave Updated Aug 8, 2012

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    Built in 1854, the Anna Jarvis House was the birthplace of Anna Jarvis, the founder of Mother's Day, and also served as the field headquarters of General George McClelland during his 1861 western Virginia campaign during the American Civil War. His troops were encamped across the road in what is now known as the Ocean Pearl Felton Historic Park. During the time General McClelland occupied the house, it remained the focal point of the entire civil war.

    The two-story frame house was built by Granville Jarvis, the father of Anna Jarvis, and was occupied by the family for 11 years until they moved to nearby Grafton. Anna Jarvis was born in the house in 1864.

    Anna's mother, Ann Jarvis, had established Mother's Day Work Clubs in five cities. The purpose of these clubs was to improve sanitary and health conditions for women who were mothers. During the American Civil War, the clubs remained neutral and also treated wounds and fed and clothed both Union and Confederate soldiers.

    On May 12, 1907, two years after her mother's death, Anna Jarvis held a memorial service for her mother and launched a campaign to make Mother's Day a recognized national holiday. Her hopes were realized in 1914 as Mother's Day was established as a holiday to be celebrated on the second Sunday in May. Nowadays, Mother's Day is celebrated in many countries around the world.

    By 1920, however, Anna Jarvis had become disillusioned by the commercialization that she felt ruined the spirit of Mother's Day. She was especially against the sending of greeting cards and candy and said: "A printed card means nothing except that you are too lazy to write to the woman who has done more for you than anyone in the world. And candy! You take a box to mother--and then eat most of it yourself. A pretty sentiment."

    Anna Jarvis spent her inheritance campaigning against what Mother's Day had become. When she died, she was penniless and had done nothing to prevent the commercialization of the holiday.

    Nowadays, the Anna Jarvis House is preserved by a nonprofit organization that runs the Anna Jarvis Birthplace Museum. The house and museum are located in the tiny unincorporated village of Webster, about four miles (six kilometers) south of Grafton on U.S. Route 119/250.

    The Anna Jarvis House has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

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    The Adaland Mansion

    by traveldave Written Aug 8, 2012

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    Located a few miles northwest of Philippi in Barbour County, the Adaland Mansion is a former farmhouse that has been restored with strict attention to authenticity. The building features homemade bricks and walnut woodwork. The grounds contain extensive flower gardens, an herb garden, and a barn dating from the 1850s that has displays of antique farming equipment and tools.

    The house was built by in 1870 by a prosperous farmer, Augustus Modisett, to replace a double log cabin in which three generations of Modisetts had lived. The construction work was done by emancipated slaves who had stayed on the farm after slavery was abolished. The mansion acquired its current name in 1920 when Judge Ira Robinson, the Chief Justice of the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals, bought the house and named it and the grounds after his wife, Ada Sinsel Robinson.

    Nowadays the mansion is open for tours and special events throughout the year. Especially popular are its Christmas tours in which every room is richly decorated in Victorian and Edwardian Christmas decorations. Four types of formal tea events are also well attended. Sunday afternoon teas feature fresh-baked scones, assorted sandwiches, and desserts. Buffet teas offer finger sandwiches, fruit, sweets, and desserts. High teas feature individual selections and formal presentations of tea menu items. And royal teas consist of a four-course menu of finger sandwiches, scones, sweets, desserts, and a large selection of teas. Royal teas also include a presentation of tea history, etiquette, and brewing techniques, and are concluded with a glass of champagne.

    The Adaland Mansion has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

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    The Hamilton Round Barn

    by traveldave Updated Aug 1, 2012

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    Located in the small town of Mannington in Marion County, the Hamilton Round Barn is only one of five round and polygonal barns in West Virginia. It was built between 1911 and 1912, and served as a dairy barn on the Hamilton farm, which was the first farm in the county to use electric milking machines. The barn accommodated from 20 to 25 cows on the ground floor, and up to seven tons (6,350 kilograms) of hay could be stored on the upper floor.

    The wooden barn is 66 feet (20 meters) in diameter and its cupola is 75 feet (23 meters) tall. It features a slate gambrel roof topped by a six-sided cupola.

    Nowadays, the barn is operated as a museum by the West Augusta Historical Society. The museum contains a collection of antique farming equipment, a carriage, a sleigh, early mining tools, and other farm-related artifacts.

    The Hamilton Round Barn has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

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    The Barrackville Covered Bridge

    by traveldave Updated Aug 1, 2012

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    Located in the small town of Barrackville in Marion County, the Barrackville Covered Bridge is a 146-foot (45-meter) single-span modified Burr truss bridge that crosses Buffalo Creek just north of the town. The bridge was built in 1853 by local bridge builder Lemuel Chenoweth. Siding was added 20 years after its completion.

    The bridge was saved from destruction during the Jones-Imboden Raid by the Ice family and nearby mill owners. The Jones-Imboden Raid was a campaign led by Confederate generals William Jones and John Imboden to destroy bridges and other infrastructure in western Virginia (now West Virginia) during the American Civil War.

    A permanent bypass bridge was constructed in 1991 next to the Barrackville Covered Bridge, which was retired at that time. The new bridge was needed to preserve the covered bridge, and because the old bridge had become inadequate for modern traffic needs.

    The Barrackville Covered Bridge has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

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    Pricketts Fort State Park

    by traveldave Updated Jul 27, 2012

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    Located near Fairmont in northern West Virginia, Pricketts Fort State Park was established in 1975 to preserve the site of an eighteenth-century fort that had been built to protect nearby settlers from attacks by American Indians.

    The 22-acre (nine-hectare) park features a visitors' center with a museum shop, an outdoor 400-seat amphitheater, a picnic area, nature trails, and a boat ramp on the Monongahela River.

    The centerpiece of the park, however, is a historically accurate reconstruction of the original Prickett's Fort. Prickett's Fort was built in 1774 on a small rise overlooking the confluence of Prickett's Creek and the Monongahela River to serve as a refuge from American Indian war parties. At the first sign of a threat, up to 80 families from the surrounding area would converge on the fort to take refuge within its walls until the danger passed.

    The recreated fort was built in 1976. Each of the four walls is 100 feet (30 meters) in length and 12 feet (four meters) in height, and there is a blockhouse on each corner. Sixteen small cabins, some with earthen floors, line the inner walls, and a meeting house and storehouse fill the common area in the center.

    The fort serves as a living history site, where interpreters recreate life of the late eighteenth century through period costumes and demonstrations of a variety of colonial crafts. Visitors can watch blacksmiths, spinners making cloth, weavers, and a gunsmith, the state's only public demonstration of the gunsmith's craft as carried out in the eighteenth century.

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    The Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum

    by traveldave Updated Jul 5, 2012

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    Originally called the Weston State Hospital, the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum was built to house and treat the mentally ill from throughout the region. The building was designed by architect Richard Andrews, who followed the Kirkbride plan for mental institutions. This plan called for long wings in staggered formation which assured an abundant supply of therapeutic light and fresh air. The building is the largest hand-cut stone masonry building in the United States, and the second-largest in the world, after the Kremlin in Moscow.

    Construction began in 1858 and was completed in 1881. However, patients were first admitted into finished sections of the building in 1864.

    During the American Civil War, Weston was seized by Union troops. The unfinished asylum was converted to Camp Tyler, an important military post which controlled the roads in the area. The completed south wing was used as barracks, and the main foundation served as stables.

    Originally designed to house 250 patients, by the 1950s the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum had over 2,400 patients, who lived in overcrowded and terrible conditions. By the 1990s, advances in the treatment of the mentally ill made the asylum obsolete, and it was closed in 1994. The closure of the asylum seriously affected the economy of Weston, since most of the small town's inhabitants worked there or otherwise relied on it economically in some way.

    Nowadays, the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum is becoming a tourist attraction. Historic tours are offered, but the most popular tours by far are nighttime ghost tours and hunts. Since the building closed, there have been numerous sightings of apparitions and reports of unexplained voices and sounds. This prompted four popular televisions programs, Ghost Hunters, Ghost Adventures, Paranormal Challenge, and Ghost Stories to film episodes here, making the asylum a must-see destination for those interested in the paranormal.

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    The Dolly Sods Wilderness

    by traveldave Updated Jul 5, 2012

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    Located in the Allegheny Mountains of Grant, Randolph, and Tucker counties in eastern West Virginia, the Dolly Sods Wilderness consists of a high-altitude plateau characterized by ecosystems more commonly found farther north in Canada. The plateau is the largest of its kind east of the Rocky Mountains. Elevations within the wilderness area range from about 2,700 feet (820 meters) to 4,770 feet (1,454 meters). Its name originates from a corruption of Dahles, the name of an eighteenth-century German family who homesteaded in the area, and "sods", a term used in the Appalachian region that means a mountaintop meadow.

    The Dolly Sods Wilderness is part of the larger and older Monongahela National Forest. It was created in 1975 as part of the National Wilderness Preservation System. Over the years, more acreage was added to the original protected area so that it now totals 17,371 acres (7,030 hectares). It protects unique ecosystems that include stunted spruce forests, rocky cliffs and boulder-strewn ground, heath barrens, grassy meadows (created during the nineteenth century by logging and fires), and sphagnum bogs. Lower elevations are made up of hardwood deciduous forests.

    Because the Dolly Sods Wilderness is a protected wilderness area, any human activities have to impact the land as little as possible. Outside of the camping areas, camping is allowed, but all traces of the campsite must be removed. Hunting and fishing are also allowed, but off-road vehicles are prohibited. Although it is possible to hike anywhere through the forests and meadows, visitors are encouraged to stay on the wilderness area's 19 hiking trails that total 47 miles (76 kilometers) and pass through the various ecosystems. Many of the trails follow old logging roads or railroad grades. Another popular summertime activity is picking blueberries and huckleberries that grow in abundance in the heath barrens.

    The high altitude of the Dolly Sods Wilderness means that it receives a lot of snow from late autumn through early spring. The roads are not maintained in the winter, so the area is closed for the season whenever the roads become impassable.

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    The Cranesville Swamp Preserve

    by traveldave Updated Jun 19, 2012

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    The 1,174-acre (475-hectare) Cranesville Swamp Preserve is mostly located in eastern Preston County in northeastern West Virginia. However, a small portion of the bog and preserve is also situated in Garrett County, Maryland. (The "swamp" is technically a bog). The land was purchased by the Nature Conservancy in 1960 to protect the bog's unique environment. In 1964, the Cranesville Swamp Preserve became one of the first National Natural Landmarks in the nation.

    The Cranesville Swamp Preserve contains one of the few boreal muskeg bogs in the southern United States, a habitat type that is more generally found in northern New England and southern Canada. The muskeg bog can only exist in such southern latitudes because of what is called a "frost pocket." The area's topography and weather combine to create a microclimate similar to that found much farther north. The bog sits in a natural "bowl", or valley, that collects moisture and cooler temperatures. The surrounding hills channel the prevailing westerly winds into the bowl which deposit a great deal of precipitation, making the bog one of the wettest and coolest places in West Virginia.

    A muskeg bog is mostly made up of peat, which is formed as sphagnum moss (a type of plant abundant in muskeg bogs) dies and decays. Peat forms an acidic, nutrient-poor soil that can only support acid-tolerant trees such as eastern hemlock, red spruce, and tamarack (also called larch). In fact, the Cranseville Swamp Preserve is home to the world's southernmost stand of tamarack. Other plants commonly found in the preserve include alders, various sedges, cranberry, and round-leafed sundew, a type of carniverous plant that thrives in acidic soil.

    Many species of birds and animals that are generally found farther north can be seen in the bog, including northern saw-whet owl, nashville warbler, black bear, porkupine, and snowshoe hare.

    Visitors to the Cranesville Swamp Preserve can take a self-guided tour along the preserve's five miles (eight kilometers) of trails that pass through upland deciduous and evergreen forests, and closely examine the muskeg bog from the 1,500-foot (457-meter) boardwalk.

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    The Old Stone Tavern

    by traveldave Updated Jun 19, 2012

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    The historic stone building that houses the Old Stone Tavern was built between 1825 and 1827. The building was designed by Henry Grimes and was constructed of rubble stone. The ground floor consists of one large open room. There are three rooms on the second floor with an attic above. It originally served as a private residence, but in 1841 it was opened to the public as an inn and tavern, serving travelers along the Northwestern Turnpike. (The Northwestern Turnpike is a historic West Virginia road and is notable as being one of the first roads to cross the Appalachian Mountains). The Old Stone Tavern was kept by George Houser, Hiram Hanshaw, and William Grimes. It was the first tavern in the Union District on the Northwestern Turnpike.

    Also known as the Brookside Inn and the Red Horse Tavern, the Old Stone Tavern has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

    Nowadays, the building is occupied by the Red Horse Tavern, a privately owned night spot that is open to the public.

    The Old Stone Tavern is located about one mile (1.6 kilometers) east of Aurora on U.S. Route 50.

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    Our Lady of the Pines

    by traveldave Updated Jun 18, 2012

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    With exterior dimensions of 12 by 24 feet (four by seven meters) and two pews with seating for only 12 parishioners, Our Lady of the Pines bills itself as the "Smallest Church in 48 States." This slogan for the tiny Roman Catholic church was coined in 1958, the year in which the church was consecrated. At that time, there were 48 states, so it is probably the smallest church in all 50 states, including Alaska and Hawaii which were admitted to the union in 1959.

    Our Lady of the Pines is situated on beautifully manicured grounds which include a small pond, and is surrounded by pine trees. It was built by Lithuanian immigrant Peter Milkint with the hope that the world would come to see his church. Although the world did not come, it still attracts over 30,000 visitors per year, and is a popular roadside attraction.

    Our Lady of the Pines is located in the tiny village of Silver Lake in eastern Preston County.

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    Cathedral State Park

    by traveldave Updated Jun 18, 2012

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    Located about one mile (1.6 kilometers) east of the tiny village of Aurora in eastern Preston County, 133-acre (54-hectare) Cathedral State Park protects the only remaining stand of virgin timber left in West Virginia. Although West Virginia is covered by extensive second-growth forest (more than any other state east of the Mississippi River), to visit the park today is to experience what most of the Appalachian Mountains were like prior to extensive logging carried out from the early 1800s to the early 1900s.

    Most of Cathedral State Park is made up of ancient hemlock forest, and many of the trees attain heights of 90 feet (27 meters) and circumferences of 21 feet (six meters). Clumps of these enormous hemlocks (which are a type of fir tree) form cathedral-like cloisters throughout the forest, hence the name of the park. Although hemlocks are the dominant species of tree, over 170 species of plants have been identified in the park, including more than 30 other species of trees, (17 types of which are deciduous), nine species of ferns, three species of club moss, and more than 50 species of wildflowers.

    The land that now makes up Cathedral State Park was purchased by Branson Haas in 1922 in order to protect the giant trees from the logging that was going on at the time. He sold the land to the state in 1942 with the provision that it perpetually remain untouched by ax or saw. Due to the importance and rarity of trees of the size found in the park, Cathedral State Park was designated a National Registry for Natural Historic Landmarks by the United States National Park Service.

    Visitors to the park can hike along the numerous trails to experience the cathedral-like atmosphere under the trees, enjoy the two rocky streams that flow through the park, picnic in the designated areas, try to identify the different types of plants, view wildlife (which includes many kinds of birds and mammals such as squirrels, raccoons, deer, and an occasional bear), or participate in planned activities

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    Isn't This A Beautiful Spot?

    by lmkluque Updated Oct 29, 2011

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    Those of us who know something of the history of this country will recognize that The Potomac River, The Shenandoah River and The Blue Ridge Mountains have historical connections to our development. We may have a vague sense of their importance, but until they are seen, the majesty is not known.

    Just outside of the town area at Harpers Ferry all three of these come together and the result is nothing short of awesome. The photois of The Potomac River at Harper's Ferry. Added to the natrual charm of this area are the beautiful rivers flowing through it.

    Fishing and canoeing come to mind here. These rivers are within walking distance of the the town. Even if hiking or other sports are not your thing, a walk though this place will be wonderful for the senses.

    Related to:
    • Adventure Travel
    • Hiking and Walking
    • Mountain Climbing

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    Rural West Virginia -- don't be scared...

    by Ewingjr98 Written Aug 22, 2011

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    Driving on the dirt roads of rural West Virginia, and all I can think about is the movie "Deliverance" or perhaps the much worse movie about the hillbilly mutants that set traps on a seldom used road so out of towners get trapped... then eaten. Is it called "The Hills Have Eyes?" Maybe it's "Resurrection County" or "Wrong Turn." If rural West Virginians were their own race, these movies were certainly be prejudiced and probably very racist.

    So during my last trip through West Virginia, I got off the highway during a rain storm and there was no entrance back on the highway except in the other direction. I never like to backtrack, so I followed the GPS away from the highway in what looked like a 10-mile loop on some smaller roads. It started out OK with a cool covered bridge, then it got spooky. The small paved road became a dirt road, and soon there were small branches lying along parts of the road (remember that storm I mentioned?). As I slowly went up a small hill on a tiny dirt road I had to slam on the brakes.... what the!!??? A tree blocking the road? Creepy! I had to slowly back down the narrow road until I finally saw a small pull off... I had to be careful backing in to stay out of the ditch. Luckily, once I got turned around, the rest of my journey was uneventful back to the highway. Whew!

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West Virginia Off The Beaten Path

Reviews and photos of West Virginia off the beaten path posted by real travelers and locals. The best tips for West Virginia sightseeing.
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