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Place-based Essays

Essays in SAH Archipedia are broadly grouped as either place-based or thematic. Place-based essays include overviews of architecture in specific U.S. states and cities. Thematic essays examine architectural and urban issues within and across state and regional boundaries. Like individual building entries, essays are accompanied by rich subject metadata, so you can browse them by style, type, and period. SAH Archipedia essays are comprised of peer-reviewed scholarship (born-digital and print-based) contributed by architectural historians nationwide.

Pratt

By: S. Allen Chambers Jr.

Pratt lies on a promontory formed by the Kanawha River to its north and east; the CSX Railroad bounds it on the south, and Paint Creek defines its western limit. Within this tightly circumscribed area is a small grid pattern of streets and alleys platted in 1851 and named Clifton....

South Charleston

By: S. Allen Chambers Jr.

This geographically challenged industrial community (it is actually located west-northwest of Charleston rather than to its south) is West Virginia's eleventh-largest city, with a 2000 population of 13,390. It dates from 1906, when former governor William MacCorkle and...

St. Albans

By: S. Allen Chambers Jr.

St. Albans is near the western edge of Kanawha County, where the Coal River flows into the Kanawha and where the hills begin to recede from the broadening river valley. George Washington, knowing fertile bottomland when he saw it, laid claim to the site in the late eighteenth...

Clay County

By: S. Allen Chambers Jr.

Clay County, formed in 1858, was named for Henry Clay. Its 1860 population was 1,787, and after gradual increases, a peak of 15,206 was realized in 1940. By 2000, after intervening decades of modest ups and downs, the figure had declined to 10,330. The county's rough terrain...

Widen

By: S. Allen Chambers Jr.

Widen, a coal camp near the easternmost edge of the county, was known as a model company town. Its owners, the Elk River Coal Company, provided a swimming pool, hospital, and ice cream parlor for workers and their families. During the zenith of the Mine Wars of 1913–1914, life in...

Nicholas County

By: S. Allen Chambers Jr.

Nicholas County, formed in 1818 from the three surrounding counties of Kanawha, Greenbrier, and Randolph, was named for Wilson Cary Nicholas, governor of Virginia from 1814 to 1816. Its 1820 population numbered 1,853. The lumber industry spurred the county's rapid growth in the...

Fayette County

By: S. Allen Chambers Jr.

With a land area of 667 square miles, Fayette ranks as the sixth largest of West Virginia's fifty-five counties. It was formed in 1831 from portions of adjoining Kanawha, Greenbrier, Nicholas, and Logan counties and was named to honor the Marquis de Lafayette. Four years later,...

Fayetteville

By: S. Allen Chambers Jr.

Fayetteville, located near the center of the county and first known as Vandalia, has been its seat of justice since 1837. Completion of the Giles, Fayette and Kanawha Turnpike in 1848 soon spurred growth. Fayetteville was occupied by both forces at various times during the...

Mount Hope

By: S. Allen Chambers Jr.

As headquarters for the New River Company, one of the state's largest coal operations, Mount Hope prospered in the early twentieth century. The majority of stone and brick structures were built soon after a disastrous 1910 fire destroyed what had been largely a wooden town. The...

Glen Jean

By: S. Allen Chambers Jr.

Glen Jean, a former coal mining center and railroad junction, was named after the wife of its founder and leading citizen, T. G. McKell. During its boom years, it had an opera house, designed by architect Frank L. Packard, of Columbus, Ohio, and a company store identical to the...

Thurmond

By: S. Allen Chambers Jr.

Thurmond lies deep in the New River Gorge on the main line of the C&O (now CSX) Railroad, in the heart of Fayette County's once fabled coalfields. With just enough level land for necessary tracks and switching operations, coal cars from surrounding mines were assembled here...

Oak Hill

By: S. Allen Chambers Jr.

Oak Hill developed in the early twentieth century as a regional trading center because of its close proximity to three of Fayette County's largest coal operations. The 1941 WPAsponsored West Virginia: A Guide to the Mountain Statestated that Oak Hill was a “merchant's...

Montgomery

By: S. Allen Chambers Jr.

Montgomery is strategically located on a narrow plain wedged between the southern bank of the Kanawha River and mountains behind. A small antebellum settlement here, first known as Montgomery's Landing, served as a shipping point for merchandise distributed throughout the area...

Boomer, Alloy, Falls View, Glen Ferris

By: S. Allen Chambers Jr.

These small, early-twentieth-century communities, strung out along U.S. 60 and the northern bank of the Kanawha River near its falls, all relate now to Elkem Metals, which operates the world's largest silicon metal plant at Alloy. Elkem's predecessor...

Gauley Bridge

By: S. Allen Chambers Jr.

Here the Gauley River, flowing from the north, joins the New River, flowing from southeast. From this point for the rest of its course, the waterway is named the Kanawha River. Members of the Kincaid family settled near here in 1812, choosing a hollow sycamore tree as their...

Ansted

By: S. Allen Chambers Jr.

Settlement began in this vicinity, near an early trail, at the end of the eighteenth century. When Fayette County was formed in 1831, the community, then known as New Haven, became the first county seat, but it held that honor for only six years. Major growth began in 1873 with the...

The Springs

By: S. Allen Chambers Jr.

This three-county region presents West Virginia in its most “southern” guise. The character, outlook, and architecture of the springs region recall the Old Dominion, and two of its three counties—Greenbrier and Monroe—share long boundaries with the parent state. Only Summers, a post–...

Greenbrier County

By: S. Allen Chambers Jr.

West Virginia's fifth-oldest county was formed in 1778 as a Virginia county, with land taken from Montgomery and Botetourt counties to the east. Even though its area has subsequently been reduced as new jurisdictions have been carved from its territory, Greenbrier County...

Lewisburg

By: S. Allen Chambers Jr.

Settlement in the “Big Levels,” as this gently rolling bluegrass area was called, began several decades before Lewisburg was established. In 1751 Andrew Lewis, surveying for a land company, found the spring that was later named for him, and Fort Savannah was built nearby some...

Ronceverte

By: S. Allen Chambers Jr.

Ronceverte (French for green brier) came into being with the C&O Railway. Jed Hotchkiss, a civil engineer from Staunton, Virginia, platted the town in 1871 on a tract formerly known as Edgar's Mill. As its founders intended, Ronceverte became the county's chief railroad...

Town of White Sulphur Springs

By: S. Allen Chambers Jr.

The town of White Sulphur Springs stretches along U.S. 60 (Main Street) northeast of The Greenbrier Resort. U.S. 60, also known as the Midland Trail, follows the route of the old James River and Kanawha Turnpike. Incorporated in 1909 and now classified as a...

Monroe County

By: S. Allen Chambers Jr.

Monroe County, formed in 1799 from Greenbrier County, was named for James Monroe, governor of Virginia at the time. From the beginning its economy has been based on agriculture; its gently rolling hills, underlain with limestone, have always provided rich pastureland and afforded...

Union

By: S. Allen Chambers Jr.

Established to serve as Monroe County's seat of justice, Union was initially governed, as was typical in early Virginia towns, by a board of trustees authorized “to make such rules and orders for the regular building of houses therein, as to them shall seem best.” Union's trustees...

Alderson

By: S. Allen Chambers Jr.

(Although a portion of the town of Alderson lies within the bounds of Greenbrier County, for the sake of convenience and clarity, all of its entries are included herein under Monroe.)

Alderson exudes a sense of spaciousness and well-being, traits that characterize the...

Summers County

By: S. Allen Chambers Jr.

Summers County, named for George W. Summers, a jurist and legislator from Kanawha County, was established in 1871 as the fourth county of the new state of West Virginia. It was formed in part from adjacent Greenbrier and Monroe counties and, like them, has resources associated...

Hinton

By: S. Allen Chambers Jr.

Situated on a level, curving terrace high above the New River, just downstream from its confluence with the Greenbrier, Hinton has an urbanity that contrasts sharply with the steep, forested mountains surrounding it. It is compact in the manner of European towns, containing solid...

Coal Country

By: S. Allen Chambers Jr.

Coal deposits have been found in at least forty-nine of West Virginia's fifty-five counties and have been mined commercially in as many as thirty-nine. With statistics like that, identifying any particular region of the state as “coal country” is obviously subjective. Even so, the...

Mercer County

By: S. Allen Chambers Jr.

Mercer County, formed in 1837, was named for Hugh Mercer, the Revolutionary War hero who fell at Princeton, New Jersey. Continuing the association with Hugh Mercer, the county seat was named Princeton.

The U.S. Census of 1840, the first taken after Mercer County's...

Princeton

By: S. Allen Chambers Jr.

Princeton was chartered in 1837, and by 1845 contained about a dozen houses. Retreating Confederate troops burned the village during the Civil War, leaving only a few vestiges of its earliest history. During the latter part of the nineteenth century other towns vied for the...

Bluefield

By: S. Allen Chambers Jr.

Coal and the Norfolk & Western Railroad gave birth to Bluefield, once the metropolis of southern West Virginia. As coal production increased in the Pocahontas field in the 1880s, the railroad began to need space for shops and a freight yard—the first to repair engines, the...

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