Main Streets 2016: West Virginia
If you’re looking for small-town charm, history and quality of life, Main Street in Buckhannon, West Virginia is worth a visit — maybe even more. This handsome street is lined with historic buildings, with portions of East and West Main Street included in the Downtown Buckhannon Historic District, which has several buildings on the National Register of Historic Places.
The area that’s now Buckhannon has been settled since the late 1500s, when several thousand members of the now-lost Huron tribe occupied what’s now West Virginia. The Hurons were driven from the region in the 1600s by the more warlike Iroquois Confederacy. What’s now Upshur County was not settled by Europeans until the late 1760s, when several English families put down roots in the Buckhannon area after the end of the French and Indian War. Largely loyal to the Union cause in the Civil War, Buckhannon became a staging ground for the Union Army, and several skirmishes were fought nearby. Confederate troops captured the city twice, and caused heavy damage.
Buckhannon’s modern history largely began with the 1890 founding of a seminary that became today’s West Virginia Wesleyan College. East Main Street today leads right to the college’s stately, tree-shaded main campus, which students and alumni often call their “home among the hills.” The college contributes much to the progressive yet small-town atmosphere of Buckhannon, whose full-time residents total just over 5,000.
West Main Street is home to the Civil War site “Destruction at the Courthouse,” where the Confederate cavalry, after capturing Buckhannon, made Union prisoners burn weapons and ammunition at the county courthouse. The street also has the Upshur County Historical Society and Museum, whose building dates to 1856 and is the oldest structure on Main Street.
During the summer months locals can enjoy Festival Fridays at Jawbone Park, not far from East Main. Buckhannon is also home to the West Virginia Strawberry Festival, an annual week-long tradition that features pageants, music, arts and crafts, and of course strawberries. Festival-goers celebrate the evening away with a block party on Main Street Friday and Saturday nights.
Photos courtesy of Robbie Skinner – Mountain State Photography