Wheeling, West Virginia – North Main Street

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With some 70 historic buildings dating as far back as 1839, North Main Street embodies the vintage heyday of 19th century Wheeling, when this city on both the Ohio River and major railroad lines became a thriving center for industry and manufacturing.

North Main is part of the North Wheeling Historic District, and its streetscape recalls the long-ago contributions of the city’s workers and its business leaders. The heirloom architecture includes onetime taverns, liveries and blacksmith shops, along with fine homes in the Italianate, Queen Anne, Romanesque and Greek Revival styles, many with original iron fences and stone retaining walls. Spots along North Main offer sweeping views of the river and of the Wheeling Suspension Bridge, a city landmark since 1849.

Mostly residential today, the North Wheeling neighborhood is a close-knit community, with corner markets, schools, restaurants and local taverns all within a close walk of North Main Street. The Victorian Old Town Association, a group of neighborhood landowners, organizes events and activities along North Main, and advocates for ongoing improvements to the streetscape.

The Historic District runs from Main Street Terrace at the north end to the access ramps for Interstate 70. Running behind the buildings on North Main is the Wheeling Heritage Trail, which parallels the river and connects the North Main neighborhood to the Wheeling Heritage Port and its lively schedule of public events.

Among North Main’s landmarks is the Eckhart House, a Queen Anne home in the heart of Victorian Old Town that was built by wealthy banker George Eckhart Jr. in 1892. The house is often called the crown jewel of Victorian-era Wheeling.

A different history distinguishes the Capitol Theatre, just a block below I-70 on Main and the largest theatre in West Virginia. From 1933 to 2007, this was the home venue for Jamboree USA, a radio show on WWVA AM that was second only to the Grand Ole Opry as America’s longest-running radio program. Two years after the deteriorating theater was shut down in 2007, a coalition of local groups bought it and undertook an $8 million restoration.

Now owned and run by the Greater Wheeling Sports and Entertainment Authority, the beautifully revitalized Capitol Theatre is home to the Wheeling Symphony, and throughout the year, it presents a lively, diverse schedule of live music and theater performances.

All photos courtesy of Joanne Sullivan

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Buckhannon, West Virginia – Main Street

2015 Blast from the Past Annual Dinner Photo-min
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2015 Festival Fridays Annual Dinner Photo-min

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

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