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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.

Preston County

By: S. Allen Chambers Jr.

In 1817 John Scanland traveled through the area that become Preston County and recorded his impressions in his journal:

Through a mountainous and broken country, very little prospect here, to invite the industrious farmer, to settle in this lonesome part of the...

Kingwood

By: S. Allen Chambers Jr.

Settlement began here in the first decade of the nineteenth century, and the town was incorporated in 1811. Although it became the county seat, it remained a small community until 1888, when a short-line railroad connected it to the main line of the B&O at Tunnelton, four...

Terra Alta

By: S. Allen Chambers Jr.

Earlier known as Cranberry, Terra Alta received its present name in 1883 when the community sought to become a summer resort, attracting vacationers from humid, low lying urban areas to the “high land.” The B&O cooperated by erecting a handsome Shingle Style station, and a...

Aurora

By: S. Allen Chambers Jr.

Pennsylvania German settlers established a colony here on the summit of Cheat Mountain in 1787. Nothing remains of the community's first years, but the Red Horse Tavern attests to their building traditions. Later in the nineteenth century, the area developed as a summer resort....

Arthurdale

By: S. Allen Chambers Jr.

On August 18, 1933, during Franklin Delano Roosevelt's first year as president, a “tall, slender woman in a dark blue skirt and white blouse, with a white bandeau around her head,” as her friend Lorena Hickock described her, arrived in a roadster at Scotts Run, a series of...

Taylor County

By: S. Allen Chambers Jr.

West Virginia's fifth smallest county comprises only 174 square miles. Named for Virginia statesman John Taylor, it was established in 1844. Pruntytown, on the Northwestern Turnpike near the crossing of Tygart Valley River, was the first seat of justice. The Baltimore & Ohio...

Grafton

By: S. Allen Chambers Jr.

Almost everything about Grafton and its architecture revolves around the railroad. John Grafton, an engineer with the B&O, provided the name, but the story persists that it was named because so many branch lines converged with the main line here that crews called it the “...

Marion County

By: S. Allen Chambers Jr.

Marion County, formed in 1842, was named for Revolutionary War hero General Francis Marion. The county began to enjoy a boom at the turn of the twentieth century when mining of its rich coal deposits began. In December 1907, a series of explosions and ensuing fires killed 361...

Fairmont

By: S. Allen Chambers Jr.

Fairmont, strategically situated on the Monongahela River, was established by the Virginia General Assembly on January 19, 1820, as Middletown. The name reflected its location between Clarksburg to the south and Morgantown to the north. The community had grown sufficiently to be...

Downtown Fairmont

By: S. Allen Chambers Jr.

Downtown's grid, which extends only two or three blocks in each direction from the central intersection of Jefferson and Adams streets, has been termed the President's Grid, as most of its streets are named to honor U.S. presidents. In April 1876, a fire virtually...

Residential Fairmont

By: S. Allen Chambers Jr.

At the turn of the twentieth century, Fairmont Avenue could hold its own with the great residential streets of America. In 1941 the WPA guide to West Virginia described it as a street of “elaborate mansions in landscaped grounds, built by coal barons in the...

Mannington

By: S. Allen Chambers Jr.

Mannington, first named Koontown after landowner Samuel Koon, prospered in the midnineteenth century as a trading center for surrounding farmers and lumbermen. The B&O arrived in 1852, and the town was incorporated in 1856 as Mannington, its new name honoring one of the...

Harrison County

By: S. Allen Chambers Jr.

Harrison County, created in 1784 from Monongalia County, is named for Benjamin Harrison V, a Virginia signer of the Declaration of Independence, governor, and father of U.S. president William Henry Harrison. Early observers commented on its varied topography and timbered hills...

Clarksburg

By: S. Allen Chambers Jr.

Clarksburg, settled soon after the Revolution, honors George Rogers Clark in its name. It became the Harrison County seat in 1785, a year after the county was created. Only two years later, Randolph Academy became the first officially chartered Virginia school west of the...

Downtown

By: S. Allen Chambers Jr.

Clarksburg's compact downtown consists of two parallel east-west streets, Pike and Main, connected by one-block streets going north-south. Traffic on Pike is one way east to west, while it flows in the opposite direction on Main. Listings begin on Pike near the municipal...

Quality Hill

By: S. Allen Chambers Jr.

East of Elk Creek, Main Street ascends to an eminence that became Clarksburg's choice residential neighborhood. Most development occurred here from c. 1890 to c. 1920, although earlier houses helped establish the area's caliber. According to the form nominating the...

Bridgeport

By: S. Allen Chambers Jr.

Burgeoning Bridgeport, mostly east of Interstate 79 and north of U.S. 50, has become the center of chaotic commercial development usually associated with major highway interchanges. Future generations may decipher the architectural significance of places such as Eastpointe I,...

Salem

By: S. Allen Chambers Jr.

Established in 1790 by Seventh Day Baptists from New Jersey, who built a stockaded fort and called the settlement New Salem, the town became a stop on both the Northwestern Turnpike and the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad in the nineteenth century. At the turn of the twentieth century...

Philippi

By: S. Allen Chambers Jr.

Although settled earlier as Boothe's Ferry, Philippi was not officially established until 1844, a year after Barbour County was created. It is said to have been named, like the county, for Philip Pendleton Barbour, but the name may refer to the Philippi of the New Testament. The...

Central West Virginia

By: S. Allen Chambers Jr.

As a recent state-sponsored publication noted, this part of West Virginia “is short on bright lights and big-city thrills.” One reason is that no city in the five-county region has a population exceeding 6,000. Buckhannon, the Upshur County seat, comes closest, with a 2000...

Upshur County

By: S. Allen Chambers Jr.

The Virginia General Assembly established Upshur County in 1851, appropriating land from adjoining Randolph, Barbour, and Lewis counties. Abel Parker Upshur, President John Tyler's secretary of state, provided the name. Nine years later, the 1860 U.S. Census counted a population...

Buckhannon

By: S. Allen Chambers Jr.

Buckhannon and its river were named for a Delaware chieftain who lived in the vicinity. Joseph Martin wrote in his 1835 gazetteer that Buckhannon, then in Lewis County, “cannot be called a village, but rather a small settlement, having about 330 scattered dwelling houses...

Lewis County

By: S. Allen Chambers Jr.

Lewis County, named for Colonel Charles Lewis, a western Virginia pioneer killed at the Battle of Point Pleasant, was established in 1816 from territory formerly in Harrison County. A good idea of pioneer life is gleaned from a letter, postmarked Lewis County, Virginia, that...

Weston

By: S. Allen Chambers Jr.

Weston was established in 1818 as the seat of justice for Lewis County. Colonel Edward Jackson, “Stonewall's” grandfather, platted the townsite. Construction of the StauntonParkersburg Turnpike brought a number of Irish laborers in the 1830s and 1840s, and the town became a major...

Gilmer County

By: S. Allen Chambers Jr.

Gilmer County was formed in 1845 and named for Thomas Walker Gilmer, a governor of Virginia. Farming and lumbering were the economic mainstays until oil and gas were discovered in the 1890s. Coal production became important in the early twentieth century, but is now of little...

Braxton County

By: S. Allen Chambers Jr.

Braxton County was formed in 1836 and named for Carter Braxton, a Virginia signer of the Declaration of Independence. In 1848 Virginia chartered the Weston and Gauley Bridge Turnpike Company, largely at the instigation of Kanawha Valley salt producers who sought a convenient...

Sutton

By: S. Allen Chambers Jr.

Sutton was named for John D. Sutton, who arrived in 1809 as one of the area's first settlers. When the town was established and named several decades later, Sutton donated the town square. When the Weston and Gauley Bridge Turnpike came through, the village began to grow. A...

Gassaway

By: S. Allen Chambers Jr.

Gassaway, a quintessential railroad town, was established on an 1,100-acre site in 1904 to house shops for the just-completed Coal and Coke Railroad. Henry Gassaway Davis commissioned engineer James A. Paterson to plat Gassaway, which is sited on a broad, sloping peninsula of the...

Webster County

By: S. Allen Chambers Jr.

Webster, the last county Virginia created before West Virginia became a state, dates from 1860 and honors Daniel Webster. According to the census taken that year, the county had a population of 1,555. The 2000 census counted 9,719, a significant decline from the 1940 peak of 18,...

Webster Springs

By: S. Allen Chambers Jr.

The official name of Webster's county seat is Addison, after Addison McLaughlin, who owned the townsite. At one time Addison, nestled in a deep valley, had aspirations of becoming a mineral spa, and the name of the post office, but not the town itself, was changed to...

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