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Built in 1853-1854 for use as a theater, warehouse, and office space, it was the largest building in Wheeling at the time. During the Civil War, it became a Union military prison, mostly for transitory holding of POWs and Southern sympathizers, earning the foreboding moniker of "Lincoln's Bastille." A prison until 1865, it was destroyed by fire in 1868.


In 2011 and 2012, Archives and History received $256,000 in grants to create 160 new highway historical markers on the Civil War in West Virginia and the creation of the Mountain State. Funding was provided by the United States Department of Transportation, the West Virginia Division of Highways, and the West Virginia State Legislature. Each county will receive at least two markers. Staff members and interns have worked to determine topics, conduct research, and write the marker texts, calling upon historians and local historical societies for insight when needed. Local groups and regional DOH offices, particularly the district sign shops, have greatly aided Archives and History in placing the new markers in locations that are both appropriate and accessible. 

Accessed March 13th 2020. http://www.wvculture.org/history/markers/sesqui/theathenaeum.html.