Capitol Street, the city's traditional “main street,” extends in a northeast-southwest direction from Kanawha Boulevard, East, to Washington Street, with cross streets generally paralleling the northwestward flow of the Kanawha River. Arranged in an informal grid pattern, the streets seldom align with cardinal compass points.
As would be expected in a state's capital and financial center, many of downtown Charleston's important structures were built as banks. Designed largely by well-known out-of-state architects, these buildings are among the district's most impressive. Though many now serve new uses, most remain relatively unaltered, their original names still writ in stone.
With suburban growth in the 1960s and 1970s, downtown Charleston's traditional role as the Kanawha valley's commercial center began to decline. Efforts to reclaim Capitol Street as a viable commercial hub began in 1984 with the creation of the Downtown Village District. This project has focused on restoring existing building stock and replicating period flavor with brick sidewalks, “Victorian” streetlights, street furniture, and landscaping.
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