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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.

Doddridge County

By: S. Allen Chambers Jr.

Named for Philip Doddridge, U.S. congressman from Virginia, this county was created in 1845. According to the 1860 census, it had a population of 5,203. In 1900, thanks to growth fueled by the oil and natural gas boom, Doddridge County had a population of 13,689. With little...

West Union

By: S. Allen Chambers Jr.

West Union was settled in the first decade of the nineteenth century and became an important stop on the Northwestern Turnpike in the late 1830s. When Doddridge County was formed, the town was designated the county seat. West Union grew as a regional transportation and supply...

St. Clara

By: S. Allen Chambers Jr.

This is West Virginia at its loveliest—and loneliest. Located at the extreme southern tip of Doddridge County, this remote and now all but vanished settlement was founded in the midnineteenth century as part of a conscious effort to attract immigrants to western Virginia. Joseph...

Tyler County

By: S. Allen Chambers Jr.

Tyler County, formed from Ohio County in 1814, is named for John Tyler, Virginia's governor from 1808 to 1811 and father of the U.S. president of the same name. Along with neighboring counties, Tyler participated fully in the growth caused by development of its oil and natural gas...

Middlebourne

By: S. Allen Chambers Jr.

The Virginia legislature established Middlebourne in 1813, a year before creating Tyler County. The name, so it is said, derives from the fact that the community was midway between Pennsylvania and the then-important Kanawha River saltworks. Over the years, growth has been...

Sistersville

By: S. Allen Chambers Jr.

The name Wells occurs time and again in any discussion of Sistersville. Charles Wells was one of the first settlers in the area and a major progenitor. In 1815 sisters Sarah and Delilah Wells, eighteenth and nineteenth of his twenty-two children, had a town platted on land...

Wetzel County

By: S. Allen Chambers Jr.

Wetzel County, formed in 1846, was named for pioneer Lewis Wetzel. Except for the alternatingly broad and narrow Ohio River plain, the topography is hilly and rough. The economy was largely agricultural until the discovery and development of oil and gas deposits in the late 1880s...

New Martinsville

By: S. Allen Chambers Jr.

Although first settled in the late eighteenth century, the town officially came into being only in 1838. At that time, the Virginia General Assembly approved Presley Martin's petition to establish a town on his property where Fishing Creek flows into the Ohio River. In...

Northern Panhandle

By: S. Allen Chambers Jr.

A sixty-four-mile-long finger pointing due north, the Northern Panhandle is only sixteen miles wide at its broadest point. Though small in geographic terms, it looms large in West Virginia's history and contains some of the state's most significant architectural resources. It is...

Marshall County

By: S. Allen Chambers Jr.

Marshall County, named for Chief Justice John Marshall, was formed in 1835 from the southern portion of Ohio County. Five years later, its population was 6,937, of whom 46 were slaves and 37 freedmen. For the most part, twentieth-century growth was slow and steady. The 1980...

Moundsville

By: S. Allen Chambers Jr.

The act establishing Marshall County decreed that “the place for holding courts and erecting public buildings … shall be … Elizabeth.” Joseph Tomlinson, discoverer and first owner of the Grave Creek Mound, platted the town in 1798, naming it for his wife. In 1830, after his...

Wheeling and Ohio County

By: S. Allen Chambers Jr.

At the time of its establishment in 1776, Ohio County occupied the entire Northern Panhandle and extended southward as well. The formation of later counties reduced its boundaries, and now, with only 106 square miles, Ohio County is West Virginia's third smallest....

Wheeling

By: S. Allen Chambers Jr.

Wheeling's architecture has a long-established cosmopolitan, urban character, with a more pronounced flair than most West Virginia cities display. Statistics help explain why. As early as 1830, even before it was incorporated as a city, Wheeling was Virginia's fourth-largest...

Downtown

By: S. Allen Chambers Jr.

When the Wheeling Historic District, essentially the entire downtown area, was entered on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979, 27 of the approximately 260 buildings included were listed as being of pivotal significance, and 176 were considered contributing...

Center Wheeling

By: S. Allen Chambers Jr.

In 1871, writing in The Health and Wealth of the City of Wheeling, JamesE. Reeves lauded a part of the city that was “occupied by hundreds of fine dwellings, several costly church edifices [and] broad and busy streets [that] present all the signs of the ease...

North Wheeling

By: S. Allen Chambers Jr.

This compact, densely built residential area occupies a plain both higher and narrower than downtown, which is immediately to the south. To the north, the plain narrows beyond 1st Street, where the Ohio River on one side and the steep bluffs of Wheeling Hill on the...

Wheeling Island

By: S. Allen Chambers Jr.

Originally called Zane's Island, after its first proprietor, Ebenezer Zane, this tear-shaped island in the Ohio River is approximately one and three-quarters mile long and one-half mile wide at its broadest point. Wheeling Downs, a greyhound racetrack, occupies the...

National Road

By: S. Allen Chambers Jr.

In 1859 an astute, if overly romantic, observer hoped that Wheeling would expand beyond its constricted Ohio River site: “Its suburban capabilities are unequalled. Close behind the town, divided from it only by the high hills which form the bank of the Ohio, is a deep-...

West Liberty

By: S. Allen Chambers Jr.

Before Wheeling became the county seat in 1798, Ohio County justices met at West Liberty. At a 1777 session, the year after the county was established, officials decreed the building of a courthouse. Their specifications, quoted in the introduction to this volume, are...

Brooke County

By: S. Allen Chambers Jr.

Brooke County, formed in 1797 from Ohio County, was named for Robert Brooke, who had just completed his term as governor of Virginia. Occupying the narrowest portion of the slender Northern Panhandle, it is West Virginia's second smallest county, containing only eighty-nine...

Bethany

By: S. Allen Chambers Jr.

Bethany is a special place—a small nineteenthcentury college town far removed from the madding crowd and almost totally unspoiled by twentieth-century intrusions or encroachments. Buffalo Creek's meandering course defines the boundaries south and east, while rolling, forested...

Wellsburg

By: S. Allen Chambers Jr.

Brooke County's seat of justice predates the county's formation by several years. First chartered as Charles Town, and just as often referred to as Buffalo in its early days, the settlement was officially named Wellsburg in 1816 to avoid confusion with Charles Town in Jefferson...

Hancock County

By: S. Allen Chambers Jr.

Named for John Hancock, West Virginia's smallest, northernmost, and most industrial county occupies 86 square miles at the tip of the Northern Panhandle. Squeezed between Ohio to the west and north and Pennsylvania to the east, it is connected to West Virginia only by the five-...

Weirton

By: S. Allen Chambers Jr.

Touted in the 1941 WPA guide to West Virginia as “the largest unincorporated town in the country” and the “‘Topsy’ of West Virginia industry,” Weirton was founded in 1909 as the company town of the Weirton Steel Company. According to the guide, it was not a typical company town,...

New Cumberland

By: S. Allen Chambers Jr.

This riverside community was established in 1839 but became the county's seat of justice only in 1884 after wresting the honor from the inland community of New Manchester. The “land” side of Ridge Avenue (West Virginia 2) has several impressive houses attesting to former...

Northern West Virginia

By: S. Allen Chambers Jr.

This six-county area is as diverse as any in the state. Both mountains and flatlands provide the topographic background, and both agriculture and industry form the economic base. No easily identifiable architectural images characterize northern West Virginia, but it is home...

Monongalia County

By: S. Allen Chambers Jr.

The Virginia General Assembly created Monongalia County from portions of the district of West Augusta in October 1776, the first year of the Commonwealth of Virginia. Like Ohio County, which was established by the same act, the county was named for the river that flows...

Morgantown

By: S. Allen Chambers Jr.

Morgantown's 2000 population of 26,809 makes it West Virginia's fifth-largest city. West Virginia University's two main campuses are here, and with a student body of 22,000, the school's population is almost as large as the city's. Morgantown's academic face is only one side of...

Downtown Morgantown

By: S. Allen Chambers Jr.

Morgantown's commercial core, immediately southeast of the university's downtown campus, is remarkably intact and well defined. Although many structures show numerous alterations at street level, lessening the integrity of their original design, they prove that...

South Park

By: S. Allen Chambers Jr.

By the turn of the twentieth century, Morgantown had outgrown the constricted original townsite and was ready to expand. Decker's Creek and its deep ravine had halted extension to the south, but soon after the South Park Bridge (now the Pleasant Street Bridge) was...

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