You are here

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.

Downtown

By: S. Allen Chambers Jr.

Downtown Huntington, between 3rd and 6th avenues from north to south, and extending between 7th and 10th streets east and west, contains a solid concentration of civic and commercial structures. The almost imperceptible widening of 5th Avenue between 8th and 9th streets is a...

5th Avenue East and Marshall University

By: S. Allen Chambers Jr.

When the city of Huntington was only two years old, an observer noted that it had eight churches, a fact made even more impressive by his second observation: that it had more railroad cars than houses. Over the years, Huntington has continued its...

West Huntington

By: S. Allen Chambers Jr.

West of 1st Street, north-south streets in Huntington are numbered with the suffix West, while east-west avenues, though generally continuing lines established by downtown's numbered avenues, are named after American presidents. Now known as West Huntington, the area...

South Huntington

By: S. Allen Chambers Jr.

Huntington's domestic architectural identity is best seen in the solid residential sections of the city south of the CSX Railroad tracks. Tenth, 11th, and 12th avenues, for the most part still paved with bricks, are lined with early-twentiethcentury brick houses, mostly...

Guyandotte

By: S. Allen Chambers Jr.

Guyandotte, east of the Guyandotte River from Huntington, was formerly an independent town, having been established in 1810 when it became the Cabell County seat of justice. It was also the western terminus of Virginia's James River and Kanawha Turnpike, which reached the Ohio...

Putnam County

By: S. Allen Chambers Jr.

Putnam County straddles the Kanawha River between Kanawha County to its southeast and Mason County to its northwest. Traces of large-scale Native American settlement have been found in the fertile bottomlands that broaden as the river courses downstream.

Patenting of the...

Winfield

By: S. Allen Chambers Jr.

A settlement existed here before Putnam County was formed, but it was not named until it was designated as the county seat. The courthouse, the county's second, surveys the town from an acropolis and stands on axis with Main Street, overlooking the tiny commercial district below...

Hurricane

By: S. Allen Chambers Jr.

When George Washington and his surveying party came through what is now the western portion of Putnam County in the 1770s, they observed that the area had been ravaged by a severe storm and named one of the streams they crossed Hurricane Creek. The name stuck and was taken by a...

Mason County

By: S. Allen Chambers Jr.

Mason County, formed by an act of the Virginia General Assembly on January 2, 1804, in the first of several divisions of Kanawha County, was named for Virginia patriot and statesman George Mason. The 1804 act directed the county court to “proceed to erect the necessary public...

Point Pleasant

By: S. Allen Chambers Jr.

Point Pleasant occupies a level promontory extending northward from the Kanawha River's confluence with the Ohio. The site was important commercially from the earliest days of exploration because it provided a natural transfer point for pioneers and goods. When Fort Blair...

Southeast of Point Pleasant

By: S. Allen Chambers Jr.

From its intersection with West Virginia 2, just south of Point Pleasant at Henderson, U.S. 35 parallels the southern shore of the Kanawha River as it meanders southeast toward Charleston. Here architecture still evokes the plantation economy that once...

The Great Bend

By: S. Allen Chambers Jr.

The northernmost portion of Mason County is located within the “Great Bend” of the Ohio River. The area encompasses the largest of the ten pre-Revolutionary land grants that George Washington surveyed and patented in accord with Virginia's promise to provide 200,000 acres...

Jackson County

By: S. Allen Chambers Jr.

Jackson County, formed in 1831, was named for Andrew Jackson, then president of the United States. The county grew slowly but steadily throughout the nineteenth century. Its economy was largely agricultural, though coal and natural gas deposits also played their part. From 1900...

Ripley

By: S. Allen Chambers Jr.

Ripley, established in 1832, was named for a minister who had drowned nearby. In 1835 Joseph Martin called it “a flourishing village” and noted that in addition to the county buildings “substantially built of brick,” it contained twelve dwelling houses and a population of about 120...

Oil Country (Mid-Ohio Valley)

By: S. Allen Chambers Jr.

Oil and West Virginia are seldom thought of together, yet at the beginning of the twentieth century, the area along the Ohio River between the Kanawha River and the Northern Panhandle was one of America's leading producers of petroleum, natural gas, and related...

Roane County

By: S. Allen Chambers Jr.

Roane County and Spencer, its seat of government, together commemorate Spencer Roane, Virginia Supreme Court judge and Patrick Henry's son-in-law. The county was formed in 1856 and had a population of 5,381 when the 1860 census was taken. Roane County participated in the area's...

Spencer

By: S. Allen Chambers Jr.

The largest building ever erected in Spencer, not to mention all of Roane County, no longer exists. By the 1880s, the West Virginia Hospital for the Insane at Weston ( LW1) had become hopelessly overcrowded. In 1887 the state...

Calhoun County

By: S. Allen Chambers Jr.

Calhoun County has an idiosyncratic distinction: it was named for one of the greatest proponents of the southern cause, South Carolinian John C. Calhoun, while its county seat, Grantsville, was named for Ulysses S. Grant. Dates help explain the dichotomy. The county was formed...

Wirt County

By: S. Allen Chambers Jr.

Wirt County, one of the state's smallest in area, was created in 1848 and named for William Wirt, noted Virginia jurist and U.S. Attorney General. The county enjoyed its highest population count in 1900, when most of its 10,284 inhabitants were engaged in, or dependent on, the oil...

Elizabeth

By: S. Allen Chambers Jr.

Elizabeth, West Virginia's only county seat named for a woman, honors the wife of David Beauchamp, son of the first settler. The town predates Wirt County's formation by several decades. In 1845 Henry Howe described it as having “one Methodist and 1 Baptist church, a store, some...

Wood County

By: S. Allen Chambers Jr.

By the end of the eighteenth century, settlement had progressed sufficiently in the area surrounding the confluence of the Ohio and Little Kanawha rivers that a new county was deemed necessary. Wood County, formed from Harrison County in 1798, was named for James Wood, governor of...

Parkersburg

By: S. Allen Chambers Jr.

In 1773 Robert Thornton staked a tomahawk claim to land at the juncture of the Little Kanawha and Ohio rivers but sold it ten years later to Alexander Parker. The settlement that grew up at the point was first called Newport, but disputes over land ownership retarded initial...

Downtown Parkersburg

By: S. Allen Chambers Jr.

The Ohio and Little Kanawha rivers provide downtown with firm western and southern boundaries. Other boundaries are less precise, but 9th Street to the north and Avery Street to the east suffice. For the most part, streets follow a regular grid skewed 45 degrees...

Residential Parkersburg

By: S. Allen Chambers Jr.

Although little architectural cohesion remains in downtown Parkersburg, the city's residential areas have retained not only buildings, but also brick sidewalks, cast iron fences and gates, and other accoutrements that help establish a period flavor....

Washington Avenue Neighborhood

By: S. Allen Chambers Jr.

Washington Avenue, centerpiece of a fine residential neighborhood, is actually a grander name for 21st Street. It extends eight blocks from Parkersburg High School at its northwestern end to Park Avenue and City Park at its southeastern terminus....

Pleasants County

By: S. Allen Chambers Jr.

This mid–Ohio Valley county, formed in 1851 from adjoining Wood, Ritchie, and Tyler counties, was named to honor James Pleasants, an early-nineteenth-century governor of Virginia. It is one of the state's smallest counties in area, encompassing only 131 square miles, and one...

St. Marys

By: S. Allen Chambers Jr.

Alexander Creel, so it is said, had an apparition of the Virgin Mary on a trip down the Ohio River. The Virgin pointed toward the Virginia shoreline, where Middle Island Creek flows into the river, and told him the site would one day be a city. Needless to say, when Creel...

Ritchie County

By: S. Allen Chambers Jr.

Ritchie County, established in 1843, was named for Thomas Ritchie, a Richmond newspaperman and politician. Henry Howe, describing the county's terrain two years later, wrote: “The surface is generally hilly and broken, and the soil not fertile, except on the streams, where there...

Harrisville

By: S. Allen Chambers Jr.

Harrisville, first known as Solus, predates the county's formation. When Ritchie County was established, it became the seat of justice. In 1941 writers for the WPA guide reminded readers of Harrisville's oil-boom days, describing it as “a residential town with time to dream of...

Cairo

By: S. Allen Chambers Jr.

Originally called Egypt, the settlement was renamed Cairo when the Baltimore & Ohio (B&O) arrived in 1856. Cairo grew as a regional trading and banking center when surrounding oil fields began production later in the nineteenth century, and the town was incorporated in 1895...

, ,