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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.

Potomac Highlands

By: S. Allen Chambers Jr.

Even in a state known as the Mountain State, the Potomac Highlands have more than their share. This eight-county region contains the highest peaks in West Virginia, and the Potomac is only one of many rivers that starts its journey to the sea here. Four of the eight counties were...

Pocahontas County

By: S. Allen Chambers Jr.

Established in 1821, the county was named for the Indian princess credited with aiding the earliest Virginia colonists at Jamestown. Thomas Mann Randolph, Thomas Jefferson's son-in-law, governor of Virginia, and descendant of Pocahontas, selected the name. Its 942 square...

Marlinton

By: S. Allen Chambers Jr.

Marlinton, occupying the site previously known as Marlin's Bottom, wrested the honor of becoming the county seat from Huntersville in 1891, just as the timber boom was beginning. The Pocahontas Development Company, incorporated for the express purpose of boosting Marlinton,...

Pendleton County

By: S. Allen Chambers Jr.

Pendleton County, a rough parallelogram bordered by Virginia on two sides, was created in 1788 and named for Edmund Pendleton, president of the 1775 Virginia Convention and member of the first U.S. Congress. The extremely rugged terrain embraces West Virginia's highest peak,...

Franklin

By: S. Allen Chambers Jr.

Soon after the county was established, the first courthouse was built on land owned by Francis Evick, who soon platted forty-six and one-half acres as a town. The settlement was first called Frankford, but in December 1794, it was established as Franklin to honor Benjamin...

Upper Tract Vicinity

By: S. Allen Chambers Jr.

Between Franklin and Upper Tract, U.S. 220 traverses a pleasant rural landscape where prosperous farmsteads with numerous barns of various types and dates give evidence of fertile soil and traditional agricultural pursuits. Upper Tract was the site of one of the forts...

Randolph County

By: S. Allen Chambers Jr.

Established in 1787 and named for Edmund Randolph, then governor of Virginia, this 1,040-square-mile jurisdiction is West Virginia's largest county. Since prehistoric times settlement has centered in the area that early white settlers named Tygart (or Tygart's) Valley, for...

Elkins

By: S. Allen Chambers Jr.

Elkins had a propitious—and preposterous—beginning. In the summer of 1888, two buckboards carried former U.S. Senator and Mrs. Henry Gassaway Davis, along with their son-in-law and daughter, Mr. and Mrs. Stephen Benton Elkins, several children, and two coachmen to the site of the...

Beverly

By: S. Allen Chambers Jr.

Beverly, Tygart Valley's oldest settlement, dates from 1787, when officials of the newly established Randolph County authorized James Westfall to plat a town. The town was first named Edmundton to further honor Edmund Randolph, for whom the county was named. In December 1790, the...

Helvetia

By: S. Allen Chambers Jr.

This small, isolated mountain village represents a singular chapter in the settlement of West Virginia's rugged hinterlands. Soon after the state was created, officials appointed Swiss native J. H. Diss Debar commissioner of immigration to attract European homesteaders. Among...

Tucker County

By: S. Allen Chambers Jr.

Tucker County, created in 1856 from northern Randolph County, was named to honor Virginia jurist Henry St. George Tucker. The first county seat, St. George, bears his middle name. The 1860 census counted a population of only 1,428, the smallest in any of the counties that would...

Parsons

By: S. Allen Chambers Jr.

Built on a low plain near the point where the Shavers Fork and Black Fork rivers converge to form Cheat River, Parsons has been subjected to floods throughout its history. Those that ravaged West Virginia in the autumn of 1985 were particularly devastating, damaging or destroying...

Thomas

By: S. Allen Chambers Jr.

Named for Thomas Beall Davis, brother of Henry Gassaway, this community once boasted “more than one thousand [coke] ovens … constantly emitting smoke and flame.” A disastrous fire in 1901 destroyed much of the mostly wood-frame commercial area, but it was quickly rebuilt in...

Davis

By: S. Allen Chambers Jr.

The highest incorporated town in West Virginia was founded in 1883 on the route of the West Virginia Central and Pittsburgh Railroad, then under construction. Henry Gassaway Davis, town founder, sited it near the confluence of Beaver Creek and the Blackwater River, both capable...

Grant County

By: S. Allen Chambers Jr.

Grant County, created in 1866 from Hardy County to the east and named for Ulysses S. Grant, is one of five counties formed after West Virginia became a state. The 1870 census counted a population of 4,467. With increases and an occasional decrease in intervening decades, the...

Hardy County

By: S. Allen Chambers Jr.

Hardy County, constituted in 1786, was named for Samuel Hardy of eastern Virginia. According to Henry Howe, writing in 1845, little is known about Hardy, “a young man of promising talents, who died suddenly,” except that he served in the Continental Congress from 1783 to 1785....

Moorefield

By: S. Allen Chambers Jr.

Moorefield, named for Charles Moore, who owned the townsite, is one of the oldest towns in the state. Its 1777 act of establishment required purchasers of lots to build a house measuring at least 18 feet by 18 feet, with a brick or stone chimney, within three years. Charles...

Mineral County

By: S. Allen Chambers Jr.

Mineral County, one of five formed after West Virginia was created, was established in 1866. At the time, coal mining was rapidly expanding, and the county was named as an allusion to its chief mineral. Settlement in what was originally Hampshire County came much earlier. Fort...

Keyser

By: S. Allen Chambers Jr.

On October 30, 1811, a post office named Paddytown was established on the east bank of New Creek in Hampshire County, Virginia. Patrick McCarty, whose brother was the first postmaster and whose father built the town's most imposing house several years later, provided the name....

Piedmont

By: S. Allen Chambers Jr.

Piedmont owes its existence to the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, which reached the townsite on its way westward in June 1851. David Hunter Strother, writing for the April 1857 issue of Harper's New Monthly Magazine, described what Piedmont was all about: “This remote...

Burlington

By: S. Allen Chambers Jr.

This small crossroads town was pivotally located where the Northwestern Turnpike and the Patterson Creek Turnpike, traversing a fertile valley between Knobbly and Patterson Creek mountains, intersected. Main Street (Patterson Creek Road, Mineral County 11), south of U.S. 50/220...

Hampshire County

By: S. Allen Chambers Jr.

West Virginia's oldest county was formed in 1754 by partitioning portions of Frederick and Augusta counties, which remain in Virginia. Subsequently, its area was reduced as other counties were formed from it. Hampshire County's rolling hills are particularly suitable for...

Romney

By: S. Allen Chambers Jr.

Romney, established eight years after Hampshire County, shares honors with Shepherdstown as West Virginia's oldest town, inasmuch as the Virginia General Assembly created both on December 23, 1762. In both cases, settlement had already begun. Romney's act of establishment noted...

Eastern Panhandle

By: S. Allen Chambers Jr.

From colonial times this gently rolling area provided easy passage for explorers and pioneers. Of its three counties, Jefferson and Berkeley constitute the lower, or northern, limits of the Valley of Virginia, one of the nation's major paths of early migration. Morgan County, to...

Berkeley Springs

By: S. Allen Chambers Jr.

Long before Morgan County was established, the town that would become its seat was a mecca. Many came for a cure, more to see and be seen, most simply to have fun. One of America's oldest resorts, Berkeley Springs contains the majority of the county's buildings of...

Berkeley County

By: S. Allen Chambers Jr.

Berkeley County, formed in 1772 from Frederick County, Virginia, once encompassed the entire Eastern Panhandle. Named for Norborne Berkeley, Baron de Botetourt, colonial governor from 1768 to 1770, it was the second county formed in what is now West Virginia. In 1792 John Pope...

Martinsburg

By: S. Allen Chambers Jr.

Major General Adam Stephen platted a town on Tuscarora Creek in 1773, the year after Berkeley County was formed, and named it for Thomas Martin, nephew of Lord Fairfax. Stephen planned the town to be the county seat, donating the acre of land on which the courthouse was built...

Gerrardstown

By: S. Allen Chambers Jr.

Originally known as Middletown, this small crossroads settlement was established southeast of Mills Gap, an important early crossing of North Mountain. David Gerrard laid out forty lots in 1784, and the Virginia General Assembly incorporated the town three years later. The...

Hedgesville

By: S. Allen Chambers Jr.

In 1832 Josiah Hedges platted the town that bears his name. Strategically sited on the Warm Springs Road (West Virginia 9), Hedgesville served as a welcome way station for travelers on their way to and from Berkeley Springs. Incorporated in 1854, Hedgesville still maintains a...

Jefferson County

By: S. Allen Chambers Jr.

West Virginia's easternmost county is closer to five other state capitals than to Charleston and closest of all to the nation's capital. Washington, D.C., is only fifty miles southeast, a distance that figuratively becomes ever shorter as more and more of Jefferson County's...

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